South Korean sexual abuse ring investigation to be made public in rare move, East Asia News & Top Stories
SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD / ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Seoul prosecutors have said the investigation into a South Korean man who allegedly ran an online sexual abuse network targeting girls and women will go public.
According to the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office, a committee tasked with examining whether to disclose information on criminal cases decided on Wednesday (March 25) to open the ongoing investigation into Cho Ju-bin.
This is a rare exception to a Department of Justice directive in effect since December that prohibits the release of criminal cases until the investigation is completed and guilt is established.
An official from the prosecutor’s office said on Thursday that the committee had made the decision “in given the seriousness of the allegations, and other considerations of public interest such as the deterrence of recidivism and similar offenses. “
Cho, 24, is accused of blackmailing his victims, many of whom were minors, to commit violent sexual acts and sell images of the acts on the Telegram messaging platform. Reports indicate that up to 260,000 men were members of the online network where the abusive images were exchanged. Membership was purchased with cryptocurrency.
In an apparent admission of guilt, Cho told reporters at a Seoul police station on Wednesday, “I apologize to those who were injured by me.”
Prosecutors on Thursday said they interviewed Cho’s lawyer, who formally dropped the case the day before, citing inconsistencies between his client’s claims and the factual circumstances that later surfaced. A pro bono lawyer will likely be appointed to defend Cho, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors grilled Cho on Thursday after he agreed to undergo questioning in the absence of a lawyer.
In an announcement on the same day, the Justice Department said the Giant Scandal Response Task Force team will be joined by Seo Ji-hyeon, a leading prosecutor who sparked the #MeToo movement. here with televised testimony that she was sexually assaulted by a senior male prosecutor.
The addition of Seo reflects growing public calls to have women in charge of the survey. An online petition from Cheong Wa Dae published Tuesday calling for more female police officers and prosecutors in the case collected more than 169,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae said on Tuesday that the sexual blackmail ring was the result of Korea’s permissive attitude towards sex crimes in cyberspace.
Cho’s case will be referred to court after a 20-day maximum investigation by prosecutors. He is now in a Seoul detention center.
Meanwhile, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said Thursday that a 16-year-old boy was sent to prosecutors for hosting a separate Telegram group chat to share clips of child sexual abuse.
The group, which was reportedly formed in October last year, numbered between 8,000 and 20,000 men among its members, police said. The exact size of the group was difficult to track as users were constantly joining and leaving, police said.