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Seoul Will Now Check Public Toilets Daily as Anger Boils Over 'Spycam Porn'

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Amid anger over "spycam porn," authorities in Seoul have pledged to conduct daily checks in public toilets, but campaigners on Monday called for stronger regulations on hidden cameras commonly used to target women.

The Seoul city government announced that the number of workers tasked to uncover hidden cameras at the city's 20,554 public toilets would be boosted from 50 to 8,000, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

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Campaigners have raised doubts that the latest move will be effective in curbing the crime, arguing that it is more crucial to overhaul both the law on hidden cameras and attitudes toward women.

"What is imperative is to regulate the distribution of spy cameras, rather than what is being planned," said You Seung-jin, of the Korea Cyber Sexual Violence Response Centre.

Authorities have in recent years struggled to stop perpetrators from using tiny, hidden cameras to film women in public places, or under their clothing. The videos are commonly shared or sold to illicit porn sites.

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Tens of thousands of women have taken to the streets in recent months to urge authorities to crack down on the crime, which they say traumatises victims.

You, vice-president of the Seoul-based group that offers legal aid to victims of spycam crimes, said the phenomenon shows the country remains deeply patriarchal despite economic progress over the last few decades.

"Misogyny is prevalent here and women are often treated as sexual objects," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. "What we need is to educate people that this is cyber-sexual violence — it is not their porn."

The current taskforce of 50 people has not found a single hidden camera despite a spike in the crime from 2,400 incidents reported in 2012 to nearly 6,500 cases last year, the Yonhap news agency reported.

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Officials have said that it was hard to tackle the crime, as the tiny cameras are often removed quickly by the perpetrators after they being installed in public places.

South Korea ranked 118 out of 144 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum last year, after it scored poorly on the economic participation and opportunity for women.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Jared Ferrie. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit