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[Newsmaker] High court okays 34-year prison term for university student in sexual blackmail case

DAEGU -- An appellate court on Thursday upheld an imprisonment of 34 years for a key member of an online sexual blackmail ring indicted on 12 criminal charges, including the violation of laws on protecting minors from sexual abuse.

The Daegu High Court in this southeastern city approved the hefty prison term after convicting Moon Hyung-wook, a 24-year-old university student, of coercing 21 women and girls into sharing nearly 3,800 sexually explicit videos of themselves for distribution on a Telegram sexual exploitation chatroom called "Nth Room."

Moon, known by his username GodGod, was arrested in May 2020 in the shocking case that sparked public fury and was indicted the following month. Moon was charged with producing and possessing sexually explicit videos of the 21 victims from early 2017 to early 2019 and blackmailing three parents of his victims by threatening to release the videos. He was found to have uploaded 3,762 videos on the messaging app from February 2019 to January 2020.

In a local court trial held in the southeastern city of Andong in April, prosecutors demanded a life sentence for Moon but judges handed out the 34-year prison term.

Dismissing the appeals of both Moon and prosecutors, the Daegu High Court also ordered the defendant to wear an electronic bracelet for 30 years and banned him from working with children and youths for 10 years.

"Moon committed crimes against children and adolescents and his crime methods were unacceptable and violated the dignity and value of human beings," the appellate court said, adding the local court's prison term cannot be seen as too heavy or light. (Yonhap)