The operator of online chat rooms in South Korea was sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison on charges of blackmailing dozens of women, including minors, into filming sexually explicit videos and selling them to others.
The Seoul Central District Court convicted Cho Ju-bin, 24, of violating laws on protecting minors and organizing a criminal ring, court spokesman Kim Yong Chan said.
Cho has maintained he only cheated victims into making such videos but didn’t blackmail or coerce them, prompting some of the victims to testify in court.
Kim said the court decided to isolate Cho from society for a prolonged period in consideration of his attitude and the seriousness of his crime.
Both Cho and prosecutors, who had requested a life sentence, have one week to appeal.
Prosecutors formally arrested or indicted Cho and seven accomplices in June for allegedly producing sexually abusive videos of 74 victims, 16 of them minors, and distributing them on the Telegram messaging app, where users paid in cryptocurrency to watch them in 2019-2020.
A prosecutors’ statement called Cho’s group “a criminal ring” of 38 members. On Thursday, the Seoul court sentenced five of Cho’s accomplices, one of them a 16-year-old, up to 15 years in prison.
When he was shown before the media following his initial detainment at a police station in March, Cho said “Thank you for stopping the life of a devil (I) couldn’t stop.”
Cho’s case has triggered an intense public uproar and soul-searching in South Korea over a culture that some experts say is too lenient about sexual violence and continuously fails the victims. President Moon Jae-in earlier called for a thorough investigation and stern punishment for those operating such chatrooms and their users.