South Korean authorities reportedly have taken the rare measure of publicly identifying a man who authorities say sexually exploited 74 women, including 16 minors, into producing graphic and dehumanizing videos of themselves that were then shared with paying members of private chatrooms on Telegram.
Cho Ju-bin, the 24-year-old suspect identified by South Korean authorities as being behind the blackmail ring, allegedly ran a chatroom with roughly 10,000 members under the name “The Doctor,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday. As part of his scheme to manipulate women and young girls to produce sexually explicit imagery—which the news service reported in some cases involved rape and other violence—he allegedly targeted the women with fake job posts before blackmailing them into creating the explicit imagery.
Cho reportedly used fake job postings and the promise of large sums of money to coerce the women and girls into creating explicit videos. With the threat of then sharing those explicit videos with family and friends, Cho was allegedly able to continue to blackmail the women into creating more violent and extreme imagery. According to the Associated Press as well as South Korean news outlets cited by the Washington Post, it’s believed that Cho may have secured private information about the women through accomplices within local government offices.
During his arrest last week, police seized roughly 130 million won (about $106,000) in cash from Cho’s home. Members of the chatroom seeking videos of the women in sexual slavery paid as high as 1.5 million won (about $1,300) in cryptocurrency to access the videos, multiple outlets reported.
It is reportedly exceptionally rare that Korean authorities identify suspects, out of respect for their privacy and those of the accused’s family. But exceptions are evidently made in cases involving public figures or especially gruesome crimes. Government officials reportedly faced increased public pressure to reveal the suspect following his arrest last week. The New York Times reported a dozen other people who worked in government offices were also arrested in connection to the crimes.
As Cho was presented before journalists Wednesday in front of a police station in Seoul, Cho reportedly said, “Thank you for stopping the life of a devil (I) couldn’t stop.”
President Moon Jae-in has called for an investigation into Cho’s case as well as into others associated with the chatrooms, including members. According to the Associated Press, prosecutors are reviewing whether to charge Cho over the alleged conduct.
“The Doctor chat room incident is a cruel and shocking crime that dealt a shattering blow to the lives of children, teenagers, and women,” Min Gap-ryong, the commissioner general of the Korean National Police Agency said, per the Post. “Through stringent investigation, we will put an end to the social apathy toward online sex abuse and uproot such crime from gaining a foothold in our society.”