South Korea is in the grip of a "spycam" epidemic with hidden images of sex, nudity and urination published online, which amounts to a "social death penalty" for thousands of female victims.
The images can be taken secretly by boyfriends or captured in secret devices as small as the keys of a car. Daily camera controls are now part of the life of cleaners in many public restrooms.
The phenomenon of the spy camera has reached such epidemic proportions in South Korea with technological knowledge that tens of thousands of women have taken to the streets to march towards action.
Under fire for moving too slowly, the government adopted a series of measures, including the formation of a working group to help the victims and an increase in inspections in public places of risk.
In April, the 16-member working group launched a free service to help victims remove unlawfully filmed images from the Internet: the computer has been flooded. So far, he has handled about 15,000 applications to remove images and has advised more than 3,000 victims.
"The situation is getting out of hand," said Ryu Hye-jin of the Korea-based Women's Human Rights Institute, which is overseen by the government, which oversees the working group. "Since the establishment of the working group, many victims have called us and contacted us."
& # 39; Social death & # 39;
Perpetrators often use small devices that can easily film women in public places, such as bathrooms or changing rooms, and then sell the images to pornography sites for profit.
The video shows women who get undressed or have sex and can sell for up to 100,000 won ($ 90).
In many cases, filming is done by partners, with or without consent, in homes or hotels, and then used as a form of revenge if the relationship becomes bitter.
"Send the victims to depression because it has no end, it's on the Internet forever, it's a penalty of social death," Ryu said.
Women who fall victim to the hidden camera have previously turned to "digital laundries", private firms that remove the videos for a fee, giving rise to a new lucrative industry. However, the new working group now offers the same services for free, and has taken over most of that work.
The number of spycam cases increased to almost 6,500 in 2017, from approximately 2,400 in 2012, according to the Yonhap news agency.
Park activist Park Soo-yeon said many victims did not even know they were the subject of such videos, and were reluctant to speak when they found out, intimidated by social stigma.
"These are the people who try to hide as much as possible," said Park, who always carries a hidden camera detector, in his office in the suburbs of the capital, Seoul.
A fierce government critic, the 22-year-old activist founded the Digital Sexual Crime Out group in 2015 and was credited with having shot down a notorious pornography website, Soranet, in 2016.
The illicit website, created in 1999 and which had claimed more than one million users, had hosted thousands of videos of women that were filmed without their consent.
"What we need to tell people is that this is a crime, this is sexual violence, this is not pornography," said Park, who asked that sales of hidden cameras be adjusted and regulated.
It is virtually impossible to erase all online traces of illicit images.
"These websites are all over the world and each country has different laws, it's really hard to get to the point where we can punish all the perpetrators," said Song Eugene, adviser to the working group.
He said it has been difficult for victims to talk about the issue in South Korea, where discussions on women's rights are still considered taboo in a male-dominated society.
"It is important that women talk about the issue to raise awareness about the pain that has been inflicted."
Ryu said there was no way to stop such crimes while women were seen as sexual objects. "What we need is to change the way our society treats our women," he said.