Thousands Of Women In South Korea Marched Against Secret 'Spy Cams'

“We are reclaiming our right to challenge existing conditions that aggravate sexual discrimination."

In South Korea earlier this month, more than 22,000 women marched in protest against "spy cams" which are being hidden in restrooms to capture women in their most private moments.

The practice, known as "molka" in South Korea per Vice News, is when people use secret cameras to record women in public restrooms, showers or other vulnerable scenarios, and subsequently to upload the footage to pornographic websites. According to BuzzFeed News, molka has become so common that women often cover their faces when they use a public bathroom for fear of being exposed. 

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While hidden camera videos have been an issue in South Korea for years, protests were sparked this month after a female model allegedly uploaded pictures of a male colleague posing naked without his consent. The police quickly stepped in to prosecute the woman, and critics were surprised at how fast they solved the case when thousands of similar offenses against women go unsolved for months, years or indefinitely. More than 400,000 people signed a petition demanding equal justice. The #MeToo movement also led to many South Korean women into speaking out about harassment earlier this year.

The protests in Seoul, South Korea were the largest women's rally in the country's history, according to BuzzFeed News. Women held signs that read things like "my life is not your porn." Even at the protest, though, many women covered their faces to protect themselves from being harassed online.

In 2014, police said there were 18 hidden camera cases a day reported to police. In 2016, 7,234 requests were made to remove intimate videos from the internet, The Daily Mail reported. That same year, police finally shut down Soranet, one of the most popular websites for hidden camera footage of women. The South China Morning Post says South Korean government officials have taken other steps to try to stop the practice, like requiring all phones to make a loud shutter sound when a photograph is taken. But many of the voyeur shots are captured through hidden cameras in wallets, bathrooms, or shower curtains. 

While the police have taken some action, South Korean women are also taking things into their own hands. In Seoul, a group of "hidden camera-hunting" women have been hired by Seoul police's metro squad to scour bathrooms and other public areas looking for hidden cameras. 90 percent of South Korea's 50 million people have smartphones, the highest rate in the world, and lots of people link apps on their phones to hidden cameras  thatthe hunting squad goes after. 

The group behind the mass protests, Courage to Be Uncomfortable, told BuzzFeed News that the way the public reacts to crimes against females and males is very different, and too often crimes against women are simply taken as porn. One anonymous organizer from the group told Korea Exposé that the march is meant to challenge the status quo in South Korea.

"Korean women are often told that they are simply too sensitive when they question the status quo, and that they are making themselves uncomfortable to be around," the organizer wrote. "We are reclaiming our right to challenge existing conditions that aggravate sexual discrimination. We are raising uncomfortable issues."

Cover image via  WeStudio / Shutterstock.

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