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Online pedophile communities operate unchecked

The recent kidnapping and rape of a 7-year-old girl has highlighted the danger of online communities of possible pedophiles running unchecked on the Internet.

On Aug. 30, a 23-year-old man kidnapped and raped a 7-year-old girl in Naju, Jeolla Province. During the police interrogation, the man revealed that he was in the habit of watching pornographic material involving children and that he developed a desire to engage in similar acts.

There are more than 10 online communities of people who claim to have tendencies toward pedophilia, with the number of members ranging from nearly 3,000 to about 10.
Women’s rights activists stage a rally in Seoul on Monday demanding tougher measures against sex crimes. (Yonhap News)
Women’s rights activists stage a rally in Seoul on Monday demanding tougher measures against sex crimes. (Yonhap News)

There are also online communities specializing in images and other materials related to what is referred to online as Lolitas.

The majority of such communities appear to be run by and for young women who follow a specific dress code and mannerisms pertaining to a Japanese fashion trend based on victorian-era clothing.

However, the term Lolita is often used to refer to pornographic materials involving children, and an Internet search on the word “Lolita” turns up numerous Web pages containing inappropriate images of children.

According to the U.K.-based charity Internet Watch Foundation, Korea was one of the five countries in the world where child pornography was most prevalent in 2009.

Some have blamed the lax execution of related laws for the prevalence of child pornography in Korea.

The Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles from Sexual Abuse states that those found guilty of producing, importing or exporting child pornography will be subjected to prison terms of no less than five years.

The act also stipulates that those circulating such materials will be imprisoned for up to seven years, and that possessing child pornography will incur fines of up to 20 million won ($17,700). However, cases in which individuals have been punished according to the act have been rare.

Images of children and pedophilia-related comments and materials are not limited to specific types of online communities.

In addition to online communities of pedophiles, images of children and posts defending pedophilia, as well as recounts of incidents of sexual harassment of children, and of adults gaining sexual pleasure from ordinary contract with minors can easily be found on popular Internet sites that are otherwise unrelated to pedophilia.

While the majority of postings concerning pedophilia found on such websites condemn the actions of the pedophiles, comments from people who argue that pedophilia and related actions are not criminal and those who claim to share pedophilic sentiments are not uncommon.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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