South Korea’s camera porn problem

A rise in the use of secret cameras to spy on women

South Korea’s camera porn problem

South Korea has a big problem with secret camera porn, and technology is to blame.

In the four years from 2010 to 2014, the number of people arrested for secret camera or “molka” crimes increased sixfold, from 1,100 to 6,600, according to an AFP report citing South Korean police data. The crimes include taking pictures up women’s skirts as they travel on public transport or escalators, and filming video inside women’s changing rooms or public toilets.

The dramatic rise in the number of molka crimes coincides precisely with the rise of the smartphone, and South Korea has the highest percentage of smartphone saturation in the world.

South Korean lawmakers are fighting back however, and have set up a dedicated squad of female crime fighters in Seoul who scour the city’s bathrooms for hidden cameras. Using handheld detectors, members of the squad check public bathroom stalls including the toilet, door handle and paper roll holder.  

“It’s my job to make sure there’s no camera to film women while they relieve themselves,” Park Kwang-Mi, a member of the squad told AFP. 

As far back as 2004, just as the first camera phones were being introduced, South Korea introduced a law requiring all mobile phone manufacturers to ensure that devices make a “camera shutter” sound of at least 64 decibels when a picture is taken. This remains the case today and even iPhones sold in South Korea have different firmware that prohibits muting the camera sound.

At the time, the law was seen as somewhat of an overreaction to emerging technology, but today it is seen as a crucial component in the fight against molka crimes. Multiple apps available from various app stores, especially on Android, offer to help perpetrators of molka crimes by muting the mandated shutter sound.  

To give you an idea of how widespread the interest in molka is, last year the third biggest search term on Google in South Korea was “waterpark molka,” following the leak online of video footage showing a women’s locker room at a local water resort.

Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS

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