The identity of an 18-year-old suspected of running an online abuse ring that victimized dozens of women and girls was disclosed to the public Friday.
Kang Hun, known by his internet alias “Butta,” is South Korea’s first criminal suspect to have his identity revealed while still a minor. The age of majority is 19 in Korea.
Kang is a key accomplice of 24-year-old Cho Ju-bin who allegedly led a group that blackmailed women and girls into sharing sexual videos of themselves, and sold them.
Cho was indicted on Monday on 14 charges including sexual molestation and violation of child protection law.
Kang has been in pretrial detention since April 9 for allegedly taking part in running the “baksabang” chatrooms on online messaging service Telegram, where photos and videos of violent sex acts, some involving underage girls, were shared.
Kang allegedly recruited and managed paying members of the chatrooms, exchanged the cryptocurrency they received from paying members into cash and delivered it to Cho.
Kang stood before photographers without wearing a mask or a cap Friday morning in front of the Jongno Police Station in Seoul before he was handed over to the prosecution.
“I am sorry. I am truly sorry,” he said, when asked if he has anything to say to the victims.
He did not answer other questions from reporters on whether he acted upon Cho’s instructions, or whether he objects to the police decision to disclose his identity.
Kang is suspected of producing and distributing pornography and a violation of the law on protection of children and youth against sex offenses.
The police decided Thursday to make public Kang’s full name, age and face, saying the disclosure corresponds to the public interest in terms of people’s right to know and prevention of similar crimes.
Kang appealed to the Seoul Administrative Court for cancellation of the public disclosure measure, but was denied.
The court said public interest in this case greatly outweighed Kang’s private interests such as his honor or his future as a minor.
Kang, born in May 2001, will turn 19 this year, and is therefore not a “youth” as defined by the Youth Protection Act.
He was a high school student throughout the time the baksabang chatrooms were active.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org