Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence that some readers may find disturbing.
On Wednesday, Netflix released its trailer for the Korean documentary “Cyber Hell,” which relays the details of South Korea’s Nth Room case in which dozens of women were coerced into recording gruesome sexual acts to be sold for profit.
The 2019 South Korean case shocked the world with its horrifying details, with at least 74 young women blackmailed into making extremely explicit sexual content. The overwhelming number of men involved, approximately 25,000 users in 30 chat rooms linked to this specific case alone, also garnered public outrage.
The Korea Cyber Sexual Violence Response Center reported that at least 260,000 users across 56 chat rooms were found sharing similar content, including photos taken discreetly of women via spy-cams, in a more broad investigation of cybersex crimes.
Since 2018, a user by the name “Baksa,” meaning “Doctor,” lured in young women looking for work by offering them large payments for photos of their bodies. After getting their personal information, he blackmailed them into performing grotesque acts. He would then sell the images around his “Nth” chat rooms, in which users would pay anywhere from 250,000 ($200) to 1.55 million won ($1,200) for the entrance fee.
In a CBS Radio interview, one anonymous survivor shared how she was desperately looking for a job while in middle school when she was approached by an online user. She was offered a part-time job of 4 million won ($3,200) per month plus a free phone in exchange for photos.
After giving her personal information and bank number to her new employer, he then began to ask for increasingly explicit content.
She details one video in which her abuser instructed her to wear a school uniform and rip her tights with a school supply item, which she was then told to masturbate with, leading to injury.
“I sent the video with me bleeding and told I couldn’t do it and that it hurt too much. He texted me back in 10 minutes. He said to keep doing it anyways and to film myself again, and to cum before taking the item out. It’s still painful. My soul hurt so much. I think the pain was just very severe.”
Over 2.7 people signed a petition to the Blue House demanding that the identity of the Nth Room perpetrator be revealed to the public.
After due pressure, the ring leader was revealed to be Cho Ju-bin, a then 24-year-old former editor of his college newspaper.
He told reporters after his arrest, “Thank you for stopping my life as a devil that I could not stop.” A photo of him in a neckbrace following a suicide attempt circulated around media outlets.
The Supreme Court finalized a 42-year prison sentence for Cho at the end of last year. Other members of the ring, including Moon Hyung-wook, then 24 years old and held responsible for coercing 21 women into sharing 3,800 sexually explicit videos of themselves, was sentenced to 34 years. Then-20-year-old Kang Hun was sentenced to 15 years for coercing 18 women to film pornographic content. Many of the women were underage, further infuriating the public who advocated for heavier sentences for the accomplices.
The incident came just months after the Burning Sun scandal, in which Big Bang member Seungri was found guilty of prostitution, drug trafficking and gambling at his club. A secret group chat of notable K-pop stars, including singer Jung Joon-young, also came to light. In the group, Jung shared videos of himself having sex with at least 10 women, without their consent.
Cybercrimes, especially those using spy-cams, or “molka,” remain an ongoing epidemic in South Korea, with women anxious to use public restrooms or locker rooms for fear they are being recorded. Perpetrators also frequently film up women’s skirts in public, later posting it without the victim’s knowledge.
Netflix’s hit K-drama “Business Proposal” included an episode in which one of the characters accepted a gift from her male neighbor, only for it to turn out to be a spy-camera he used to secretly watch her.
As President-Elect Yoon Seok-yeol retreated on his anti-feminist pledge to abolish South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality, it is unclear how his administration will treat women’s rights issues.
Netflix’s “Cyber Hell” is scheduled to premiere on May 18.