The Korea Herald


Korea toughens punishment for illegal filming, porn distribution

By Park Ju-young

Published : Dec. 26, 2018 - 15:37

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A person who illegally films or distributes sexually explicit content faces harsher punishment from this month, and online platforms must take measures to prevent the circulation of such content from next year, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said Wednesday.

According to the ministry, such changes will take effect following the National Assembly’s approval of revisions of four related laws aimed at cracking down on digital sex crimes. 

(Ministry of Gender Equality and Family - Yonhap) (Ministry of Gender Equality and Family - Yonhap)

In the past, a person found to have filmed or distributed sexually explicit videos or images without consent faced up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 10 million won ($8,893). A person who filmed a sexually explicit video with the victim’s consent but secretly distributed it afterward could be sentenced to up to three years in prison or fined up to 5 million won.

Under Korean law, sexually explicit content refers to images and videos showing body parts produced for sexual gratification or to cause sexual humiliation, without consent.

Starting from Dec. 18, however, these sex offenders could face up to five years in jail or a fine of 30 million won. In addition, a person who distributes such videos online to make a profit could be sentenced up to seven years in prison, as the law was revised to no longer include a fine as a punishment.

The revised law expanded the range of punishable offences as well.

If a person distributes a photo or video that was taken by a victim featuring his or her own body, without the victim’s consent, the offender could be punished under the revised law. For example, it is illegal for a boyfriend to secretly upload his partner’s lewd selfie photos online. In the past, there was no related law to punish such crimes.

Furthermore, sharing a copy of a body image or video is considered a crime according to the revised law, even if the distributor did not take it in person at the scene. Before the law was revised, a person who took a video of a monitor playing a video recording of sexual activity had been found not guilty.

Companies providing search or cloud services, such as portal sites, must remove illegal content from their platforms or temporarily block distribution if they receive a request to delete such content. If they fail to do so, the Korea Communications Commission could impose a fine of up to 20 million won or issue a correction order to the operator, starting from June 2019.

Meanwhile, the revised Public Health Control Act bans the installment of spycams in accommodations or public baths. If the law takes effect from June 2019, a local government would be allowed to inspect such places and impose administrative measures if spycams are found.

The government has revised a total of six laws to combat digital sex crimes so far, but revisions to three laws are still pending at the National Assembly, according to the Gender Ministry. Via the three laws, the government has been pushing to forfeit profit generated from illegal distribution; implement a registration system for purchases of spycams; and regulate the circulation of private videos.

“To allow the public to feel the effects of the revised laws, the related ministries will work together on implementing the policies,” said Choi Chang-haeng from the Gender Ministry.

By Park Ju-young (