HONG KONG — Two men have been arrested over the online streaming of the “intimate private activities” of 1,600 unsuspecting motel guests across South Korea, the latest instance of illicit electronic spying in a country where thousands of cases were reported last year.
The men — who are 48 and 50, but whose names were not released — are accused of setting up hidden cameras in 30 motels across 10 cities, the police said in a statement on Wednesday. The video was shown online for profit.
Tiny cameras with one-milimeter lenses were hidden in hair dryer holders, satellite boxes and closed electrical sockets, the police said. More than 800 intimate videos were then shown on a website that charged some viewers for a monthly subscription.
Overseas servers were used to conceal the camera users’ real IP address and evade detection. “This is the first time that livestreamed videos on overseas websites were detected” in a South Korean spycam case, the police said.
In three months, the scheme brought in 7 million won, or $6,200.
The arrests come as the country grapples with waves of voyeuristic spycam crimes, known as molka, in which people are surreptitiously filmed in private places like changing rooms and public restrooms.
About 6,800 cases of illicit filming were reported to the South Korean police in 2018, according to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office of the Republic of Korea. Many others go unreported or undetected.
The video is often widely distributed online without the knowledge or consent of those who are shown.
One of the arrested men in the latest case is accused of planting cameras in the southern provinces of Yeongnam and Chungcheong, while the other is accused of operating cameras remotely and managing the overseas servers that served as hosts to the illicit images. The police believe the men had two accomplices; two other men were named as suspects but have not been arrested.
Under South Korean laws targeting online crimes of a sexual nature, anyone found guilty of making intimate videos without the subject’s consent can face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 30 million won, or $26,500.
Even if the subject agrees to being recorded, distributing intimate video without consent can lead to the same maximum punishment.
Spycams present a persistent, hidden threat that leaves many people wary, in particular women, who are the most common targets. In an effort to identify and remove hidden cameras in restrooms in Seoul, the capital, government officials announced in September that they had assigned 8,000 employees to inspect each of the city’s 20,554 public restrooms, a move that critics said would not fix the root of the problem.