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Seoul police confirmed Wednesday that a gang secretly filmed 1,600 guests in 30 accommodations in 10 different cities across South Korea and broadcast the footage live to paying customers online, CNN reports. Two suspects were arrested and two more involved in the scandal were investigated.
The properties have not been named. “Police said there was no evidence they were involved in the scheme,” points out USA Today.
The Cyber Investigation Department of the country’s police agency revealed in a statement that the culprits hid mini cameras with a 1-millimeter lens—“no bigger than the head of a small screw”—inside digital TV boxes, wall sockets, and hairdryer mounts, among other places where they would not be noticed.
Police said the unnamed website where over 800 videos were uploaded had over 4,000 subscribers, “97 of whom paid a $44.95 monthly fee to access extra features, such as the ability to replay certain live streams,” CNN adds. The service, set up in an overseas server, earned over $6,000 before it was shut down just earlier this month.
Forty-two rooms in budget hotels or motels located in the country’s North and South Gyeongsang and Chungcheong provinces were targeted between Nov. 24 last year and March 2 this year, according to the Korea Herald. The local newspaper adds that “under current law, distribution of illegal videos is subject to up to five years in jail and a penalty of 30 million won ($26,580), and up to a year and 10 million won ($8,860) for distributing porn.”
The arrests proved to be historic.
“It is the first time for the police to uncover spy camera crime that is live fed to an overseas site,” police said, according to NBC News. “South Korean authorities warned hotel guests to pay special attention when staying in rooms.”
Before this hotel spycam scandal, the South Korean government already hired “thousands of workers to conduct daily checks in public bathrooms for hidden cameras,” Time reports, in an effort address the country’s mounting problem with illicit spy cameras.
People expressed their horror on Twitter when the news broke. Author Catherine Ryan Howard tweeted, “Hidden cameras in Air B&B properties is what gave me the idea for Rewind. I couldn’t even have imagined this…”
Hidden cameras in Air B&B properties is what gave me the idea for REWIND. I couldn’t even have *imagined* this… 😱>> Hundreds of South Korean hotel guests were secretly filmed and live-streamed online – CNN via @shewithonee https://t.co/neyCENhcsD
— Catherine Ryan Howard (@cathryanhoward) March 20, 2019
“There should be a travel warning about this,” @theasianfmnst demanded.
There should be a travel warning about this 😡😡:
Arrests over hotel spycam porn ring that filmed 1,600 guests across South Korea
Cameras were set up in hair dryer holders and wall sockets in in 42 rooms at 30 hotels in 10 cities, say prosecutors. #Molka https://t.co/m9U0YzXkgV
— The Asian Feminist (@theasianfmnst) March 21, 2019
L.A. Times writer Chris Reynolds wondered “who was looking back” when he visited South Korea recently.
I loved looking around South Korea in January. Now i'm wondering who was looking back. They've found dozens of secret cameras in hotel rooms — and web subscribers. https://t.co/1RazJBaTeB
— chris reynolds (@mrcsreynolds) March 20, 2019
In this age of video voyeurism, apparently, one can’t be too safe.
- A man found a camera in his Airbnb and the company didn’t seem to care
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- This woman’s Airbnb turned into a harassment nightmare
Trixie Reyna-Benedicto is a lifestyle editor and writer based in the Philippines. Previously, she helmed Cosmopolitan Philippines’ website, Cosmo.ph, as its founding editor. She later served as editor-in-chief of lifestyle and entertainment portals for Manila-based media company TV5. Her work has appeared in several print and online publications in her country, and she contributes to Speed Magazine, DG Traveler, and Connected Women, among others. Visit her website, trixiereyna.com.