SEOUL, Sept. 27 (Korea Bizwire) — From a water bottle, a pair of glasses, to a watch, hidden cameras that enable criminal voyeurism now come in all shapes and forms, threatening the safety of victims, who are mostly women in South Korea.
South Korea has been at war with criminal voyeurism for years, as hidden camera crimes continue to rise despite the country’s continuous effort to grapple with the issue.
Last month, President Moon Jae-in called for additional efforts for protection of women from the growing threat of hidden camera offenses, and pledged to provide support for victims.
The number of sexual offenses involving hidden cameras has grown by 212.2 percent on average every year over the last five years, according to data released by the Korean National Police Agency.
Compared to 2012 when 2,400 cases of hidden camera crimes were reported, the figure nearly tripled in 2014.
As of the end of July, the number of hidden camera offenses stood at 3,286, up 26.7 percent from the same time last year.
The consequences of hidden camera crimes go even further, as a significant portion of illegally captured camera footage ends up on the Internet, in many cases without the knowledge of the victims.
What makes it more frightening is the fact that there are many more cases that go unreported to police, as many victims instead directly contact the Korea Communications Standards Commission to avoid giving statements, which can be another traumatic experience for victims.
What frightens women is the ubiquitous nature of the crime that leaves victims vulnerable wherever they are, be it trains or public bathrooms.
Equally alarming is the technological advancements of hidden cameras that now come in the shape of innocuous objects not traditionally associated with sexual crimes, as reported by customs authorities last month. These include glasses, buttons, pens, and watches, spreading fear and paranoia.
In May, one man was arrested for sneaking into a woman’s apartment after finding out the door code through a hidden camera in the shape of a fire alarm.
The growing threat from voyeurism in the country has also reached the celebrity-sphere, as described by a number of K-pop girl groups.
Yerin, who is a member of GirlFriend, made headlines earlier this year, after catching a fan in the act of wearing hidden cameras in the form of glasses.
Son Na-Eun, a member of the group A Pink, shocked the panel of JTBC’s hit show Non Summit when she shared stories she heard about some of the gifts from fans being equipped with hidden cameras and wiretap devices.
Experts say comprehensive reform must take place to introduce stricter punishments to root out the cause of criminal voyeurism, where adult websites encourage the uploading of illegally filmed footage of women.
Amid growing calls for countermeasures, new regulatory legislation concerning the production, importation, and sale of hidden cameras was finally proposed at the National Assembly last month in a belated manner.
During a briefing held on Tuesday, members of the Democratic Party of Korea also addressed the growing calls to regulate illegal hidden cameras and ramp up the effort to crack down on criminal voyeurism in public spaces.
However, along with the rise of dating violence including revenge porn, psychologists believe the worrying criminal trend in South Korea targeting women mainly stems from deeply entrenched misogyny in South Korean society.
As the government is poised to tackle the issue of criminal voyeurism head on through regulations and stricter punishments, South Korea as a whole is urged to take a long-term approach that will deal with the causes of such behavior more effectively, such as misogyny and the lack of education on sexual consent.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)