Many Korean celebrities are now speaking up about what is — besides COVID-19 — the trending story in Korea at the moment. It’s being called the Telegram Nth Room case, and it involves blackmail, sexual exploitation, and sexual assault of women and children.
It made mainstream news recently after an individual connected to the operation was arrested for sexually exploiting 74 victims, 16 of whom were children. Police say the scheme started with the operators tricking the women into sending nudes for money, which they would then sell illegally to an extensive network of chat rooms, and follow it up by blackmailing the victims in order to keep the content coming.
According to police, Cho tricked victims into sending him nude photos that included their face, saying it was part of a high-paying part-time job. Cho then used the nude pictures to blackmail victims, whom he referred to as “slaves,” to obtain videos of a sexual nature, and distributed them across Telegram chat rooms. Cho is believed to have run three types of paid chat rooms, charging between 200,000 won and 250,000 won ($160-$200) in cryptocurrency for level 1 chatroom, 700,000 won for level 2 and 1.5 million won for level 3.
According to the police, the suspect victimized women and minors between December 2018 and earlier this month. The police confiscated 130 million won ($104,430) from the suspect’s home and are currently tracking the assets he is alleged to have gained through criminal activities. Cho is also suspected of securing private information about the victims and chat room members through administrative aides at local government offices to blackmail the users and victims.
It is believed that the leaking of private information to some users led to victims being sexually assaulted, perhaps as a part of forcing them to comply with their demands.
Cho also recruited some of the users for criminal activities including money laundering, police said, and some of his alleged accomplices sexually assaulted some of the victims.
It’s not exactly a small scale thing either, as over 200,000 people are thought to have used the chat rooms. Fortunately, police appear to be making progress in this case, at least in terms of those who ran it.
Cho’s chat rooms and others of a similar nature are thought to have been used by more than 200,000 people. So far, 13 of Cho’s alleged accomplices have been apprehended, and four have been arrested and referred to the prosecution. The suspects, whose average age is around 24 or 25, include a number of minors, the police said. According to the police, Cho kept his identity hidden from his accomplices. Cho had denied the allegations, but has since confessed to his crimes, they said. The police are also tracking users of the chat rooms in question, and plan to bring charges against them.
There are two main petitions (here and here) going around currently regarding the case. One is to reveal the suspect’s identity…
The police said they will decide sometime next week whether to disclose Cho’s full identity. Nearly 300,000 people signed a petition in less than two days urging them to do so.
…the other is to reveal all of the users of the chat rooms.
“There is no doubt this crime against minors is appalling and repulsive, and should never recur. But this crime will recur in South Korea, if 260,000 customers face no penalties. There is no use in punishing the operators and suppliers only, not that they will be properly punished,” the petition reads. “Users who were in the Telegram chatroom are all sex offenders. … I must know. Please reveal the full identity of all the users so that if the state will not protect children from child sex offenders we can do so ourselves.”
That’s where celebrities come into play, as many have spoken up to implore their followers on social media to sign the petition. They include, but are in no way limited to, Girl’s Day‘s Hyeri and Sojin, Baek Yerin, actress Moon Ga Young, VIXX‘s Ravi, KARD‘s BM, VAV‘s Baron, ex-MOMOLAND‘s Yeonwoo, ex-INFINITE‘s Hoya, ex-STELLAR‘s Gayoung, ex-Wonder Girls‘ Hyelim, ex-15&‘s Park Jimin, ex-SECRET‘s Hyosung, 2PM‘s Junho, 2AM‘s Jo Kwon, EXO‘s Baekhyun and Chanyeol, EXID‘s LE, actor Ahn Bo Hyun, CNBLUE‘s Jung Yonghwa, Lady Jane, Simon D, Huckleberry P, Giriboy, Paloalto, Hash Swan, Rhythm Power, Geegooin, and Don Spike.
One alleged example of the type of threats the victims were subjected to involved threats of sending their sexual videos to their school and family unless they did what they were told.
“Hello, seems like you’re still alive? I sent a USB drive to your school, but judging from the way you act, it seems like you still haven’t fully gotten my message yet. I’m sure I’ve said this clearly before. If you don’t listen to me, I will fuck up your life. Reply to this message as soon as you receive it. If you don’t then I’m gonna send your father videos of you masturbating with a dildo in the bathroom, along with the sex slavery contract that you wrote. I’m also going to share all of your videos on Twitter. … Don’t ever think you can get out of this, I won’t be saying this twice. I’m going to send something to your house. I hope you’ll live with this fear for the rest of your life.”
There’s no actual upside to any of this, but perhaps because this doesn’t yet involve celebrities/companies (perhaps just low-level government officials), at least maybe we won’t have to waste time arguing about asinine details with delulu stans and getting frustrated with blatant police corruption, and hopefully that can lead to a focus on bringing the people involved in this to justice instead.