On March 18, 2020, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency confirmed that they have gone under investigation of 14 perpetrators who brutally exploited underage girls by “enslaving” them with threats of disclosing their personal information, forcing them to film themselves doing sexual acts, and selling and distributing the photos and videos to viewers via online messaging applications like Telegram. The SMPA shared that 4 of these perpetrators have been arrested for investigation under custody, for their major involvement in this digital sex crime.
This case, best known as the Telegram “Nth Room Sex Abuse” case, first surfaced in February 2020 — when nearly 220,000 Korean netizens petitioned for the authorities to look into the issue. Such disturbing group chats began forming as early as 2016, when Korea’s most infamous illegal pornographic site “Soranet” got shut down and the site’s administrator was arrested. An anonymous man, by the nickname of Godgod, claimed that he will “recreate the glory of Soranet” using these group chats for sharing sex videos. He chose Telegram as his platform because Telegram, as “a cloud-based instant messaging and voice over IP service”, is relatively more difficult to trace.
With the rise of Godgod, more group chat administrators like Watchman and Baksa became “popular” among the users. The name “#N Group Chat” stemmed from the fact that these administrators would set up numbered group chatrooms — only to delete it after a certain period of time, to evade possible track downs. Viewers, who wished to enter any number of these group chatrooms, had to pay an admission fee of anywhere between hundreds to thousands of dollars. Regardless of the price, each of the group chatroom that opened accumulated thousands of viewers, paying to see the contents that got shared by the administrators. A lot of these monetary transactions had been done in cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, also to avoid leaving any records.
By July of 2019, Baksa became one of the most notorious administrators. He approached women by claiming he had good connections for high-paying part time work. He then gathered the women’s personal data like their national identification numbers, bank account numbers, and profile pictures — insisting they must disclose such information to get paid on time. Once he collected all the information, he forced the women to create videos of themselves doing sexual acts. He threatened to reveal their identities to family, friends, and all over the internet. He also threatened to physically harm them had they not obliged to his orders. And by doing so, Baksa was able to push these women to keep making videos that became more cruel and humiliating.
The perpetrators and the viewers all referred to these women as “slaves”. In fact, Baksa made all of his victims to “carve the word Noye (slave) and/or Baksa” somewhere on their bodies — as a proof of promising loyalty to him. Among the 74 women who fell victim to his exploitation, 16 have been verified to be minors.
A little over a month into the investigation that followed the petition, the police were finally successful at pinning down the group chatroom administrators, including Baksa. The authorities estimate these men to have profited hundreds of thousands of dollars from distributing these illegally produced pornographic videos. Baksa is reported to have kept over $100,000 USD stashed away at his residence — assumed to be the cryptocurrency he made from his chatrooms cashed out.
The Korean police force stated, “We will trace Baksa and other perpetrators back as far as we can to make sure we collect all the information needed to bring justice to the case.” The police also commented, “Even the viewers who entered the chatrooms, purchased, downloaded, and distributed the videos will be tracked down for investigation.”