Feminism in Asia: Korean Spy Cameras

By Kelly Can ’24 and Emily Lu ’24 for Fall 2020 Issue

Layout by Mulan Mu ’23

Here in America, the 1960s feminist movement culminated in more educational and vocational opportunities regardless of gender, improved quality of reproductive health care, and—arguably the most important one here—the right to vote. However, a handful of social, economic, and political issues still remain in terms of achieving complete equality between the two sexes, especially in Asia. Gender equality is a complex issue that is tied to tradition, religion, and politics. 

In recent years, spy cameras have become a serious and widespread issue in South Korea. The majority of these spy cameras are installed in public spaces, such as public bathrooms, lodgings, and locker rooms. A small minority of them are installed in motels. After they are installed, they will  film everything that happens within their frame. Due to the nature of the locations at which these spy cameras are installed, the non-consensual filming results in footage t ranging from disrobement to sexual encounters. Most egregiously, this footage is then sold to people who run pornographic websites and upload onto these sites for viewers. A recent scandal in South Korea now known as “The Nth Room” involved the utilization of these spy cams to blackmail, cyberbully, and exploit young, innocent women. Unbeknownst to those who were being filmed, thousands, if not millions of people, would log on anonymously to their smartphones on an app called Telegram to pay large amounts of money to watch these heinous films. When the police finally arrested the owners of these “Nth Rooms”, many South Koreans were enraged, demanding that they expose and imprson those who supported the making of these films by paying to watch them.  Little has been revealed about the viewers, as there have been speculations that many of those who paid held high positions of power in South Korea or had distinguished careers in entertainment. 

The majority, 80% to be precise, of victims are women (Asian Boss Interview). One of the main reasons why non-consensual filming via spy cameras has become a seemingly uncontrollable issue in South Korea is the fact that there are virtually no regulations on the purchases of spy cameras. People do not have to make intentions known when purchasing spy cameras, so they can either use these cameras to perpetrate perverted crimes or for legitimate purposes, such as using them as concealed security cameras in a jewelry store. However, as reality makes painfully obvious, most of the spy cameras are purchased for the former reason. Furthermore, many laws regarding unauthorized filming of “intimate” videos are ambiguous enough so that many perpetrators are not convicted of their crimes or punished in proportion to the severity of their crimes.  What is the government doing about an issue that threatens the dignity, privacy, and basic rights of half of its citizens? Clearly, a lot of work remains to be done with regards to achieving gender equality.

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