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Accused in S. Korea sex blackmail case identified amid outcry

SEOUL : South Korean police took the unusual step of publicly identifying the 24-year-old accused leader of an online sexual blackmail ring after the case lead to a national outcry in a country still focused on battling a coronavirus outbreak.

Cho Ju-bin was identified by police as the central suspect in the case after more than five million South Koreans signed multiple petitions calling for the authorities to release his name.

Cho is accused of organising an online network that lured at least 74 people, including 16 underage girls, into what the authorities have called "virtual enslavement" by blackmailing them into sending degrading and sometimes violent sexual imagery of themselves.

He is facing charges of violating child protection, privacy and sexual abuse laws, as well as abuse, threats and coercion, according to the police, who have now referred the case to prosecutors.

"I apologise to those who were hurt by me," Cho said as he was led away from a Seoul police station yesterday, but did not respond when asked by reporters whether he admitted to the charges.

"Thank you for ending the life of a demon that I couldn't stop."

CHAT ROOMS

The case brought new pledges from police to investigate not only the organisers, but also participants of the chat rooms who paid as much as 1.5 million won (S$1,760) to view the images.

"The police will transform the social apathy to digital sex crime and strongly root out such crime from our society," commissioner general of the Korean National Police Agency Min Gap-ryong, said on Tuesday.

He said police would mobilise "all available power" to investigate those who shared the videos of sexual exploitation.

He said police would strengthen cooperation with law enforcement in the US and Britain, with Interpol, as well as with global IT giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to track down digital crime on foreign servers.

The National Police Agency told reporters that 124 suspects had been arrested and 18 operators of chat rooms on Telegram and other social media had been detained as a result of investigations into such sexual crimes since last September. Cho is accused of being one of those 18 operators. - REUTERS

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