On May 29, Yeongdeungpo Police Station received a report that a hidden camera was found in a women’s toilet of KBS broadcasting station building. Immediately, Police investigated the camera by checking the video which had been recorded so far to catch the criminal. By his confession, on June 5, the criminal turned out to be one of KBS 20th open recruit comedian. The police could find the image of his face easily because he had filmed himself in hiding the camera. As police closed in on him with the image, he confessed what he had done. This case became a big issue in the sense that it happened in one of the more well-managed buildings in Seoul.
According to a report of the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, there have been about 6,480 cases of illegal photographing crimes annually from 2014 to 2018. Since mobile phones with subminiature camera were generalized in 2000, photographing crimes in women’s toilet have happened frequently. “I think I could be one of the sexual crime victims by hidden cameras these days. It seems there are hidden cameras in every woman’s toilet whenever I hear the news like KBS hidden camera case.”, said Lee, 22, a Catholic University student. Recently, with improvements of new technology, cameras are being released in much smaller sizes, and this made hiding cameras in toilets relatively easy.
Although the Korean government has made lots of efforts to reduce the high hidden camera crime rate by strengthening laws and checking public toilets, women’s anxious voices became louder than before with the recent KBS hidden camera case. This kind of sexual crime can be very dangerous when the criminal releases photos or videos of victims on the internet. The victims of hidden camera are suffering aftereffects like excessive anxiety, panic and depression. Women, in Korea, are struggling to fight against the hidden eyes in toilet today.
CUK is not immune from hidden camera crimes
Shockingly, on September, 2014, there was a hidden camera crime at CUK as well. One CUK student tried to take a photo in the women’s toilet with his mobile camera. According to a news article from CUK Forum at that time, the student who committed the crime was suspended from school for an indefinite period. However, it took 7 months to decide his suspension even though the victim had to suffer severe phobia and received a lifelong emotional scar as a result of the crime.
There are more cases of universities in Korea. There were hidden camera cases similar with CUK in Seoul Hongik University and Myongji University. Last year, a case at Chungnam National University in which a professor took photos in the women’s toilet, became a very big issue. Also, there was a case by staff at the same university. It seems the university is not a safe place from hidden cameras. According to the chart from the National Police Agency below, there are a lot of cases happened in various places like public shower, changing room and hotel room besides university.
Hidden camera crimes can make "secondary damages"
Recently, not only the KBS case, but also the N Room issue showed serious "secondary damages" of illegal filming with hidden cameras. Many illegally filmed videos and photos were spread in N room. Before the N Room issue, in the Burning Sun issue, some famous celebrities were imprisoned for filming women in hotel rooms illegally and sharing the videos in their chat rooms. Like the previous issues, the crimes by hidden camera can make secondary damages when criminals leak the photos or videos of victims.
According to an interview with a chief, Kim Mi-young who is in charge of a counseling center for victims of sexual violence in Yeoju, the hidden camera crimes’ secondary damage lasts for a long time. “When victims found their photos or videos, they try their best to delete them somehow. Police do their best to reduce their secondary damage too. However, it is very hard to delete their photographs completely on the internet because they spread very quickly”, Chief Kim said. “Some of the criminals commit this kind of crime to sell what they filmed with hidden cameras and make money. In this case, the photos are usually released on porno web sites and through those illegal web sites the photos spread quickly” she added.
A secondary damage means a collateral damage that a victim can have after the original crime. When it comes to hidden camera crimes, spreading the victims' photos or making rumors about the victims can be one of secondary damages.
The more hidden camera crimes make the more serious aftereffects and anxiety
In accordance with the secondary damages, the victims’ aftereffects can ruin their life. Chief Kim pointed out the seriousness of the victims’ aftereffects. She stated the fact that lots of females do not even know whether they are victims or not when it comes to hidden camera crimes. According to her, this unpredictability makes the victims suffer long lasting anxiety and fear. As a result, they do not use public toilets or changing rooms anymore, a condition referred to as ‘hidden camera phobia’.
Not even victims, but also other women are becoming more anxious. A CUK student, Lee said, “Whenever I use public toilets in university, I look around and avoid using the one under the ventilation window. I feel uneasy if there is a hidden camera in it somehow.”.
In spite of many efforts, females are still anxious about using public toilets.
To relieve female students, the CUK student council placed red films in women’s toilet once. When the toilet users turn on their mobile camera attached to this red film on it, the hidden camera shows bright light. In this way, they can find the existence of a hidden camera. However, it is not placed in every toilet in university and not available because the films are gone now.
The security system is running in CUK buildings as well. After checking toilets, the building manager attaches a sticker which is meaning a safe toilet from a hidden camera. However, it is not easy to check the toilet almost every second. “I do not use public toilets unless it is urgent. I can see the sticker school attached on the wall, but I’m afraid to trust it completely because it is not attached at the moment when I use the toilet.” Another CUK student, Yun, said. It does not seem easy to assure women there are no hidden cameras all the time.
The Korean government has attached many stickers warning hidden camera crimes too. However, the recent news about this kind of crime and still high crime rate makes people suspicious about the warning’s effect. About this, Chief Kim from the sexual crime counseling center, pointed out what we need for reducing these crimes is not just warnings, but strict enforcement of laws.
According to the data from SBS, 75% of criminals repeat the hidden camera crime. However, only 12.2% of them go to jail and almost a half of them released with probation. Now, in Korea, the hidden camera criminals could go to jail for up to five years or be fined up to 50 million won in accordance with the article 13 of Sexual Offence Special Act. Nevertheless, the data from SBS shows that Korean court does not enforce the law strictly.
Also, a statistical data analyzed by Korean Bar Association shows that 79.97% of hidden camera criminals paid fines less than 3 million won from 2011 to 2019. Chief Kim observed that this is too small fine because 3 million won is even less than the amount of money the criminals can earn when they sell the photos and videos. She pointed out this can be one of the reasons why the graph above, which the National Police Agency made still shows the high numbers of crimes.
In this age of rapid technological advance, a mobile phone with subminiature camera invented as a useful tool became a weapon for ruining one’s life forever. Even though the victims and other women have been dreaming to use public toilets without worrying, still the illegal photographing crimes with hidden camera occur with frequency today. The experts and women say “we need a proper solution to protect ourselves from hidden eyes in toilet.”. It is time to make a practical, helpful and effective way for women to live in a country ensuring their right to safety.