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Ex-Kakao head cleared of negligence

Feb 21,2019
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Sirgoo Lee
Sirgoo Lee, a former head of IT giant Kakao, was acquitted Tuesday on charges of criminal negligence related to the distribution of child pornography via the company’s popular messenger service.

Judge Oh Taek-won of the Seongnam Branch of Suwon District Court said Tuesday that Lee was not guilty of violating the Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles from Sexual Abuse. “Lee was responsible for the company’s legal affairs and public relations divisions at the time,” Judge Oh said. “He didn’t seem to be involved in the internal decision-making process regarding this child porn case.”

Lee was indicted in 2015 on charges of negligence.

The prosecution said at the time that Lee failed to stop the distribution of 745 pieces of child pornography from spreading to 7,000 Kakaotalk users from June 14 until Aug. 12, 2014. The prosecution asked the court to punish him with a 10 million won ($8,904) fine.

The judge also said Lee is not criminally responsible because he was unaware of the measures against pornography in the Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles from Sexual Abuse. The act states that an online service provider must immediately delete any child pornography and take action to prevent its transmission.

Lee’s trial was the first case in Korea of an executive at an IT company being prosecuted for failing to remove pornography. The indictment effectively forced him to resign from his post in 2015.

Some believe that the investigation against Lee was revenge by the prosecution. In 2014, Kakao announced it would no longer accept the prosecution’s requests to spy on users’ messages.

BY LEE HAE-SUN [lee.haesun@joongang.co.kr]