Leader in Online Sexual Blackmail Ring Sentenced to 40 Years in South Korea
November 28, 2020
The South Korean leader of an online sexual blackmail ring that targeted minors and young women was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Thursday, November 26, marking the end of an explosive criminal case that sparked national outrage in South Korea, according to CNN.
25-year-old Cho Joo-bin hosted online rooms on encrypted messaging app Telegram, where users paid to see young girls perform sexual acts under coercion. The victims were blackmailed into uploading explicit images onto the group chats. At least 10,000 people used the chat rooms, with some paying up to $1,200 USD for access. At least 74 victims, 16 of which were minors have been identified.
The investigation began when two university journalism students discovered the Telegram groups last summer. Police soon launched an investigation and arrested Cho in March 2020.
Cho was later indicted under 15 charges of producing and distributing illegal sexual visual material, forced sexual abuse, rape, sexual harassment, blackmailing, recording sexually abusive behaviors, coercion, violation of private information protection, and fraud, according to CNN.
He was also found guilty of “instructing a third party to directly rape a victim, who was a minor,” the judge ruled during sentencing.
Cho’s sentence was passed down in the Seoul Central District Court, which also included him wearing an electronic ankle bracelet for 30 years and a fine of $9,600 USD.
Prosecutors had requested life imprisonment, arguing his crime was “unprecedented in history,” and that Cho had “insulted and abhorred” victims without remorse.
However, after passing the verdict, Judge Lee Hyung-woo explained that Cho had no criminal record and “has made some agreements with some victims.” The judge also took into account Cho “created an organization structure” victimizing women, and profited off their exploitation.
“He revealed the personal information of the victims and by doing so not only caused damage, but by distributing this repeatedly caused recurring damage to victims,” said the judge. “His behaviors caused extreme pain on the victims and they are demanding severe punishment.”
“Considering the seriousness and meticulous plotting of the crimes, the number victims and damage on victims, social harm caused by the crime, and the attitude of the defendant, it is necessary to isolate the defendant from society for a long time.”
Police also arrested more than 120 people connected to the chat groups in March. Several of Cho’s collaborators were also charged and indicted; five others received sentences on Thursday, ranging from seven to 15 years, according to CNN.