South Korean police recently discovered that over 1,600 people had been secretly filmed with hidden cameras in motel rooms across the country. The footage was then live streamed online for paying customers to view, all without any semblance of consent. The cameras were hidden throughout motel rooms, including in TV boxes, wall sockets, and even hair dryers.
Two arrests have been made in connection with the scandal, and police are investigating the possibility of another pair involved. The site had over 4,000 members, many of which paid extra fees in order to access additional features, including the ability to replay chosen live streams.
This story points out the problem South Korea has had in the past with illicit filming, with cases spiking since 2011 from around 1,300 to more than 6,000 reported cases in 2017. This filming ranges from spy cameras hidden in both public and private bathrooms, upskirt shots taken on the street, and even secret filming in the privacy of women’s own homes. The videos and pictures are often then uploaded online, with many women never realizing their privacy has been so violated until years after the fact.
To make matters worse, many cases have been mishandled by both the police and the government, with only 5% of illegal filming cases resulting in any jail time. When thousands of women took to the streets to protest the rise of illegal filming in 2018, the Seoul government responded with special all-women task forces to inspect thousands of bathrooms for secret cameras. Many protestors, who rallied around the message, “My Life is Not Your Porn”, believe that this simply isn’t enough. While removing the cameras that currently exist is important, this is merely a bandaid on the gaping wound that is the societal system allowing for women’s lives to be violated and exploited on such a grand scale.
This most recent scandal of secret cameras live streaming private motel tenants for profit only proves that not enough is being done to curb this disturbing trend. One woman, Lee Ji-soo spends her time scrubbing pictures and videos off the Internet for clients who were recorded without permission. She says that many of these women express feelings of deep fear, saying they wish to die or that they feel they cannot leave their homes. Why isn’t more being done to protect and ensure that a woman can leave her home without being secretly exploited for men’s sexual pleasure and benefit?
The problem of illicit filming connects back to the massive global pornography industry that fuels these horrifying stories. Pornography provides the avenue for these men to both record and then consume these women’s lives as online sexual entertainment. In South Korea and around the world, many women cannot even exist in their own homes without being objectified and violated in the name of male sexual entitlement. Until we address the systemic problems such as pornography, wide-scale objectification, and demand, problems like secret motel cameras may never disappear completely.