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Naked face of the digital era

Oct 15,2018
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Over 200,000 have signed online petitions to the Blue House demanding strong punishments on so-called “revenge porn” distributors. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
Yang Sung-hee
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Female celebrities are the main prey of illegal videos. Since the “Miss Oh video” stirred Korean society in 1998, similar explicit videos of female celebrities have followed. Most of them were distributed by former boyfriends or managers who were in relationships with the stars. These are the revenge porn videos that are spread with malicious intent after a relationship ends.

Many men watched and shared the Miss Oh video with no sense of guilt. The actress who was on the video was not considered a victim but was criticized for her private life and had to leave the country for a while. In 2001, another victim of an illegally shot and distributed video held a press conference and apologized with tears. She was treated like she had done something wrong — instead of being considered a victim. In retrospect, it is quite absurd.

The recent case of singer Koo Hara shows the changed social atmosphere. At first, the case was known as a mutual assault as the couple parted, but things changed as it was revealed that her ex-boyfriend, Choi, had sent her intimate videos twice and attempted to tip a tabloid. The video was not made public, but many criticize Choi and consider that mentioning the existence of the video to Koo was a threat. More than 220,000 people signed a Blue House petition to punish revenge porn. Recently, the court sentenced a former husband who distributed a sexual video of his divorced wife to three years in jail, a maximum penalty for the crime.

There are growing voices calling for changes to the term “revenge porn.” It sounds as if the victim did something wrong enough to deserve “revenge” and that’s why pornographic video of her is being released. While it is commonly referred to as revenge porn in other countries, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family suggests calling it “private sexual video between individuals.”

In his 2017 book “Revenge: A Short Enquiry into Retribution,” British professor Stephen Fineman wrote that there are about 3,000 revenge porn sites, many of which expose personal information such as name and address of the victims. Also, 35 percent of total online downloads are pornography, and 40 million people regularly log on to porn sites in the United States. “Is Anyone Up?,” a revenge porn site that opened in 2010, used to collect 35,000 pornographic videos or images every week and made $300,000 in income each month. Some sites make money on both ends by a launching revenge porn site and a “digital undertaker” service at the same time for the victims who want their images and videos removed. It is a horrible portrait of the digital era.

A young woman said that she would not feel comfortable dating, as her boyfriend may secretly take photos or videos. She added that women joke it would be safer to date women instead of men. While low birth rate and marriage rate are serious issues in Korea, dating itself is not very safe in reality.

Most of the “domestic porn” that men nonchalantly consume are videos that are secretly taken or revenge porn. Recently, it was found that a camera was hidden at the site where actress Shin Se-kyung and singer Yoon Bo-mi were shooting. From public restrooms to private moments with lovers, women are not safe anywhere. That’s why many young women participated in the protest at Hyehwa Station, condemning the authorities’ biased investigation of illegal video shootings. “My daily life is not your porn!” they shouted.

An activist helping the victims of illegal videos say it is most painful to see the videos where men glance at the camera to check if it was working while the women seemed to be in love, not realizing they were being recorded. The naked face of lost dignity in the digital era is these digital sex crimes. They can only be stopped when they are strictly traced and punished.

JoongAng Sunday, Oct. 13-14, Page 34