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Thousands of South Korean women are taking a historic stand against spy cam abuse

There's spy cam footage of women relieving themselves in toilets.

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Masked in black, red, and white to conceal their identities, some 22,000 women took to the streets of Seoul to condemn the widespread molka crime culture or spy cam porn that has protected perpetrators who secretly record and upload explicit images of women on phones or camouflaged cameras installed in private spaces. The demonstration is being considered the biggest women-led protest in South Korea.

Led by anonymous collective Courage to Be Uncomfortable, protesters held signs that read “my life is not your porn,” “I’m am not ‘Korean Porn,’” and “Wanna shit with my guard down,” while others shaved their heads in protest of inactive government that fails to convict and prevent the invasive recording of women while sitting, on public transportation, and in public bathrooms. The crimes are so prevalent that an all-female “hidden camera-hunting” have banded together search public restrooms for concealed spy cams.

My life is not your porn. Click To Tweet

“The fear that women feel toward spy cameras isn’t out of proportion; it’s rational,” said Chang Dahye, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Criminology, in an interview with Korea Exposé. “It’s not just footage of sexual intercourse. There [is] spy cam footage of women relieving themselves in toilets; photos of women in bikinis, at home, walking on the street. On a website called Soranet, men would upload photographs of their girlfriends or wives, and ask others to rate the women’s genitals.”

The website has since been removed, but it doesn’t prevent the abusers from posting the images or videos on porn sites nor does it begin to address the problem.

From 2010 to 2014, the number of people arrested for these “molka” crimes increased from 1,100 to 6,600, according to police data published in an AFP report. This increase in spy cam crimes correlates with the rise of high-tech devices like cell phones that have become more accessible but often underregulated. In 2014, South Korea had the largest percentage of smartphone ownership in the world meaning 88 percent of a population of approximately 50 million had access to technology that made filming and sharing content to about seven billion people around the world as convenient as hitting send. While innovation continues to mature, government and laws lag behind in implementing laws that effectively explain and regulate the usage of technology, especially spy wear.

Oftentimes, like in the case of South Korea’s Article 14 of the Sexual Violence Punishment Act, what is considered criminal content is determined on what part of the body was captured and whether or not “that part of another person’s body which can induce sexual desire or humiliation.”

While innovation continues to mature, government and laws lag behind in implementing laws that effectively explain and regulate the usage of technology, especially spy wear. Click To Tweet

Leaving it up to interpretation while dismissing women’s right to privacy? What’s next?

The hidden technology used in this manner is not exclusive to South Korea. Incidents of spy cam pornography are global. According to NBC, in 2014 Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore agreed to pay a $190 million settlement to victims of a doctor who recorded more than 1,200 videos and 140 images of gynecological exams with a concealed pen camera worn around his neck.

At the root, these molka crimes speak to a larger issue pertaining to institutional sexism and the roles women play in society. During the protest, criticism towards a May incident where police swiftly acted on molka revenge porn against a male nude model by his female colleague sparked anger as female victims are often shamed for their trauma.

Though in patriarchal societies where women are reduced to objects of desire and for the disposal of men, it’s hard to see them as victims and not purveyors of their own misfortune.

Dominique Stewart

Dominique Stewart

Dominique Stewart is a creative with a BA in Magazine Media from Ball State University. She's interested in understanding how humans and pop culture relates to one another. In her spare time she enjoys hoarding books, gardening, and going on a deep dive into true crime podcasts. If every Hallmark murder mystery lead transformed into one person and was Afro-Latina, it would be her.

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