A South Korean court is under fire for sentencing the operator of one of the world’s largest child pornography websites to a year and six months in prison.
US and UK authorities announced last week that 337 individuals had been arrested in 38 countries and accused of crimes related to use of the site. They included the US, the UK, Ireland, South Korea, Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic and Canada.
Last year, a 23-year-old South Korean named Son Jong-woo, who operated the “Welcome to Video” site, was arrested and convicted.
Son distributed some 220,000 child porn videos on the site, using a server installed at his home in South Chungcheong Province, from July 2015 to March last year, and collected 415 bitcoins worth around $336,417 from users. The site had videos of adults abusing children as young as 2. It had nearly 4,000 paid users.
Son is set to be released next month.
The US Justice Department has indicted Son on nine counts and is seeking his extradition to the US to face justice there.
Son’s site was part of the dark web, also known as the darknet, referring to encrypted online content that is not indexed by conventional search engines and can only be accessed through special software for anonymity.
An online petition calling for heavier punishment for Son and users of his site was filed on the website of the South Korean presidential office Monday. More than 78,000 people had signed as of 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
The petitioner called for public disclosure of the names and photographs of the people who ran and used the site.
“The fact that the news on ‘Welcome to Video’ is getting attention over a year after it first came out in May last year shows how digital sex crimes are overlooked in Korea,” said Koh Yi-kyung, an activist representing a civic group called Digital Sex Crimes Out.
In the US, a user named Nicholas Stengel was sentenced to 15 years in prison for downloading nearly 2,700 videos from “Welcome to Video,” totaling over 455,000 hours over a six-month period in 2017.
Richard Gratkowski, a former Homeland Security Investigations agent, was sentenced to 70 months in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release.
In the UK, a 26-year-old man named Kyle Fox was sentenced to 22 years for child rape after appearing on “Welcome to Video” sexually abusing a toddler.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com