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Leaked chats cast doubt on model’s story

May 28,2018
After messages between YouTuber Yang Ye-won and a studio owner surnamed Kang, who allegedly coerced her into taking nude photos, went viral on Saturday, doubts about some parts of Yang’s story are growing.

Yang recently came forward with an incident from three years ago in which a studio in Hapjeong-dong, western Seoul, coerced her into taking explicit photos and groped her.

Before his arrest on May 23, Kang, 28, shared a Kakao message between him and Yang with a local newspaper, which allegedly showed that it was Yang who requested the photo shoots even after she had participated in the first one.

“She didn’t do a photo shoot five times, but rather a total of 13 times,” claimed Kang. “She contacted me saying she needed the money and I paid her 100,000 to 150,000 won [$92.79 to $139.19]. She agreed to the photo shoots even though she knew beforehand what the concept was.”

In one message, after agreeing to a time and date, Yang wrote, “I’ll be thankful if you could just prevent the circulation of my photos.”

In a separate interview with SBS News on Saturday, Yang criticized the studio owner, and said they only talked about scheduling over Kakao.

“[Kang] would call us whenever he felt like the discussion could hurt him,” Yang said. “I was having a very difficult time financially. They had already taken sexually explicit photos of me, and I was in a state of despair.”

She added that the most important thing at the time was “to block the dissemination of the photos,” and that the “only way to do that was obeying their words.” But Yang stressed that she told them at the studio that she never gave anyone permission to touch her.

When asked whether she did five photo shoots or 13, Yang said that because she signed a contract to do five photo shoots, she “estimated that that’s how many photo shoots I did.”

Police are criticizing the newspaper for publishing the Kakao messages between Kang and Yang without checking their authenticity.

“They shouldn’t have reported something that wasn’t submitted to the police and that can’t be verified,” said the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency after the messages went viral.

Kang was released from police custody late on Saturday night. Police arrested Kang on Wednesday without a warrant.

Police are allowed to arrest suspects without warrants if they have strong reason to believe that a person committed a crime that is punishable by the death penalty or a prison sentence of more than three years, and the police are also concerned that the suspect may destroy evidence or flee within the time that police wait to receive the warrant.

Mapo Police Precinct in Seoul, which is in charge of investigating the case, said that officers arrested Kang without a warrant because it had “strong reason to believe that he would destroy evidence.”

But Judge Kang Hee-kyung of the Seoul Central District Court ruled that police “did not satisfy conditions to arrest him without a warrant,” because even if Kang was sentenced, he would not receive three years in prison.

Kang was arrested after he distributed one terabyte of nude photos online, including Yang’s, for commercial purposes, but was not arrested on charges related to coercing her to take the photos. He made 3 million won ($2,783) from selling the photos.

BY PARK KWANG-SOO, LAURA SONG [song.hankyul@joongang.co.kr]