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(LEAD) Ruling party chief declares war on digital sex crimes

14:36 March 27, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in last 6 paras)

SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's ruling party chief on Friday declared war on digital sex crimes, vowing to push for the parliamentary passage of relevant bills by May.

Lee Hae-chan, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, made the declaration as the nation has recently been shocked by a sexual exploitation case centered on group chat rooms of the Telegram messenger service.

Cho Ju-bin, a 25-year-old, has been arrested for allegedly blackmailing girls into sharing sexual videos, which were then posted in his pay-to-view chat room. At least 74 people, including 16 underage girls, are believed to have been exploited in the case.

Lee Hae-chan (R), chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, bangs the gavel during a party meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on March 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

The Democratic Party has submitted three revision bills for the Criminal Law, the Sexual Violence Crime Act and the Information and Communication Network Act to the Assembly, calling for stricter punishment of blackmailing with videos of a sexual nature.

Lee said his party will push to pass the three revision bills, all related to chat room sex abuse, at the parliament in May, stressing the war against digital sex crimes will be fought like the ongoing war on the coronavirus outbreak.

"Digital sex crimes, such as sexual exploitation and the use of hidden cameras, are character assassination, and those who apply for or download such (videos) are co-conspirators who should never be forgiven," Lee said in a party meeting at the National Assembly.

"The chat room scandal is a terrible case that shows how seriously our country's women are living in anxiety and threats."

While prosecutors are reportedly seeking to apply 12 criminal charges against Cho, including violation of the Act on the Protection of Children and Youth against Sex Offenses, police are also expanding their investigation to track down paid members of his chat room, dubbed "Baksabang."

Following President Moon Jae-in's order for a thorough probe into the case, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency has been analyzing data from two cryptocurrency buying agents to identify users of the Telegram chat room.

Apparently under pressure from the expanding investigations, a man in his 40s, believed to be a member of Baksabang, took his own life early Friday morning, police said.

According to police, the man plunged into the Han River in an apparent suicide from Yeongdong Grand Bridge in southern Seoul at around 2:47 a.m., after leaving a suicide note.

In the note, the man known to be a salaried man said, "I paid money to Baksabang. I didn't know things would get serious like this. I feel sorry for the victims, families and relatives."

Police said they will investigate the exact reasons for the man's death.

ycm@yna.co.kr
(END)

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