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Sex abuse video distributor from Guam sentenced to 20 years in South Korea

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A Korean American man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in South Korea for the illegal distribution of sex abuse videos via Telegram.

The Uijeongbu District Court’s 13th Criminal Division handed down the sentence to the 43-year-old Korean American, originally from Guam, on September 13. He was found guilty of violating the Act On The Protection Of Children And Youth Against Sex Offenses, according to South Korean media reports.

In addition to the prison term, the court ordered him to undergo a 40-hour sexual assault treatment program and imposed a 10-year restriction preventing him from working in organizations related to children, youth, and the disabled.

The court drew parallels between this case and the infamous Nth Room case, one of South Korea’s largest digital sex crime cases. It revolved around the creation and trade of illegal pornography through a group chat room in February 2019. The court deemed the defendant’s actions as grave and heinous, similar to those in the Nth Room case.

The man, while residing in Guam, allegedly downloaded and edited illicit sex abuse videos to include the personal details of the female victims, such as their real names, jobs, and family information. He then converted these details into PDFs or picture books for distribution on pornographic sites. Additionally, he created and disseminated sexual exploitation videos featuring minors. Through these actions, the man accrued points for use on the site.

To date, the number of identified female victims has reached 100, with some reports suggesting that several victims were teenagers.

Many victims are currently grappling with severe consequences, such as extreme mental distress, and some have even attempted suicide after discovering the widespread distribution of the videos.

Initially, prosecutors recommended a 15-year sentence for the man. However, his subsequent attitude proved problematic. He insisted he was not guilty, arguing that distributing such videos wasn’t illegal in Guam, his place of residence.

The court concluded that the man displayed a lack of genuine remorse and, as a result, meted out a more severe sentence. It affirmed that South Korean domestic criminal law could be applied even if a foreigner committed a crime against a Korean national outside Korea’s territory. Moreover, the court highlighted that both the U.S. federal criminal code and Guam’s laws penalize the knowing publication of obscene materials.

Emphasizing the long-term ramifications for the victims, the court stated, “The victims continue to live in isolation, grappling with the trauma of this crime. Even now, the illegal videos edited and distributed by the defendant are being re-distributed. To curtail the threat of such digital sex crimes being committed wantonly and without consequence, a stringent penalty is warranted.”

The man has since lodged an appeal against the sentence.

In related news, Vincent Galarza, 32, an American accomplice involved in running “Welcome to Video” — touted as the world’s largest child digital sex trafficking site based in South Korea — received a 17-year and six-month prison sentence from a U.S. federal court in July 2023.

BY YEOL JANG    [jang.yeol@koreadaily.com]