NATIONAL

South Korean authorities face backlash over warrant for radical feminist site operator

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Aug 9, 2018 - 14:36
  • Updated : Aug 10, 2018 - 02:51
A warrant for the operator of the radical feminist group has caused an uproar in South Korea, with women critics saying that the authorities have never been this strict in countless cyber sex offense cases involving male suspects.

The warrant to detain the operator of the group, WOMAD,  which is suspected of being complicit in an online sexual harassment case against a male nude model, was issued for the charge of abetting propagation of sexually explicit material.

Following police’s announcement on Wednesday, an online petition was immediately filed to the presidential office, claiming justice is selective and discriminatory in the country. 

Women protesters hold a sign that says, "My life is not your porn," during a mass women`s rights rally condemning South Korea`s rampant spy-cam crimes. (Yonhap)

The petition also demands the government toughen punishments for male offenders of cyber sexual violence, including spycam pornography. As of Thursday morning, more than 50,000 have signed the petition.

“There are so many file sharing sites operated by men where spycam porn is being circulated. The male heads of these sites, such as Ilbe and Todayhumor, also have been complicit with countless illegal activities that have sexually exploited women,” the petition reads.

“Hate speech has always been more severe on sites operated by men, but authorities have never considered this a problem. If this is not a cause of selective justice and misogyny, then what is?”

WOMAD has been a subject of public criticism for its radical tactics and approaches.

It has been openly mobilizing “counter trolling,” a tactic of imitating the rhetoric and online activities of male misogynists and online sexual offenders, as a form of resistance.

While WOMAD’s ethics have come into question, Megalia -- another feminist group that WOMAD used to be a part of -- has been credited for its contribution to the new wave of the Korean feminist movement, especially its activism against “molka,” the rampant spycam crimes in Korea that involve secretly filming women at public toilets and on public transport, among other places, and then circulating the footage without the victims’ knowledge.

It was partly Megalia’s activism, which also involved counter-trolling, which led to the shutdown of SoraNet -- a notorious file-sharing site known for its rampant circulation of spycam porn -- in 2016.

It took more than 15 years for the Korean government to shut down the site, where at least 80,000 pieces of spy-cam pornography have been identified, only after concerns and protests surged against its content by women’s rights activists, including members of Megalia.

A concrete probe was only launched in 2015, more than 10 years after SoraNet was first founded in 1999. Megalia was also launched online in 2015.

It has been reported that a significant number of the female victims of spycam porn have taken their own lives.

After police announced their probe into the WOMAD case, in which one of the group’s members secretly took a photo of a male nude model without his consent, and shared it online, a massive women’s rights rally emerged in May, calling for nonselective justice.

The rally’s fourth edition, which took place near the presidential office in central Seoul on Saturday, drew some 70,000 participants -- becoming the biggest women’s rights rally in South Korean history.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)