Authors Zhanin Al-Shargabi, Denitsa Kozhuharova - Law and Internet Foundation

The Nth room is one of the biggest cyber-trafficking and sexual exploitation rings in recent times. It is based in South Korea and was at the center of a large-scale investigation by Korean media and authorities.[i] Numerous revelations were shared and caused many to describe this instance as one of the most violent and brutal cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of women and minors for years.[ii]

The perpetrators engaged in in blackmail, cyber-trafficking and other abusive practices, such as sharing images and videos of sexual abuse, rape and exploitation across Telegram between 2018 and 2020.[iii] The criminals in the center of this cyber-extortion and cyber-trafficking ring would collect intimate information and pictures of victims and blackmail them into sending more provocative content, which the perpetrators could later share in exchange for profit.[iv] Some victims even had their location shared and were victims of sexual abuse that was recorded and shared.[v] It has been estimated that around 260,000 people paid up to £1,200 to access such content and that more than 100 women, including 26 minors fell victims to these practices.[vi]

Some whistle-blowers did report the Nth room to authorities, but they did not take the case seriously.[vii] News outlets started their own investigations and soon the story broke out and gained increased attention by media, authorities, and citizens alike.[viii] Petitions began to gain traction calling for the perpetrators identities to be shared and for the users that engaged in the Nth room to also be charged for their participation and purchasing the abusive materials.[ix] This seems to show the important role civil society and media can have in bringing such issues to the fore-front of public discussions and in signaling abusive practices to authorities.

In the end, the two main faces behind the Nth room were charged and sentenced for their criminal acts - Moon Hyung-wook was sentenced to 36 years, while the copy-cat criminal Cho Joo-bin was sentenced to 40 years.[x] Another positive development was that South Korea passed a law which stipulates that those who possess, buy, store or watch illegally filmed sexual content can be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison or can be fined up to 30 million won.[xi]

According to many the factors behind this criminal ring are multiple and also include the cultural particularities of South Korea, along with tendencies that can be found in our society as a whole. For example, some link the crime to the rise in gender-based violence and misogyny in South Korean society.[xii] While violent crimes, such as murder and arson are becoming less common, there is a rise in sexual violence crimes.[xiii] Other factors include the rise in use of digital technologies which facilitated the cybercrimes which were committed.[xiv] Sexual violence crimes are rampant in the country, even celebrities, such as K-pop idols have been sentenced for sex-related crimes, for example[xv]:

  • The K-pop idol from the group Big Bang Sungri has been sentenced for arranging sexual services for foreign clients in his club Burning Sun;
  • K-pop stars Jung Joon-young and Choi Jong-hoon have been sentenced for gang-raping a woman, Joon-young was also convicted for sharing images of the act in online chat rooms.

Evidently, sexual violence is rampant on all social levels. Researchers link this to strong stereotypes and social narratives that harm women and neglect their bodily autonomy and rights.[xvi] While it seems that these issues are extremely prevalent in South Korean society, all around the world technology is facilitating the abuse and exploitation of women. More needs to be done in order to combat these issues. Measures would include more educational efforts towards creating a level of zero tolerance for abuse, along with new policies that would introduce stricter sentences for people that engage with illegal sexual content or otherwise commit other sexual misconduct. Lastly, digital platforms themselves should have better moderating systems in order to combat such content.

[i] Kayla Cobb, ‘‘Cyber Hell: Exposing an Internet Horror’ on Netflix: Your Guide to This Deeply Disturbing Case’, (Decider, 18 May 2022), available at:, last accessed: 19 May 2022

[ii] Cobb n(1)

[iii] Cobb n(1)

[iv] Editorial, ‘What Is Nth Room? The Horrific True Story of 'Cyber Hell: Destroy the Nth Chatroom'’, (Esquire, 17 May 2022), available at:, last accessed: 19 May 2022

[v] Esquire n(4)

[vi] Esquire n(4)

[vii] Esquire n(4)

[viii] Esquire n(4)

[ix] Cobb n(1)

[x] Al Jazeera, ‘Leader of S Korea ‘sextortion’ ring jailed for 40 years’, (Al Jazeera, 26 November 2020), available at:, last accessed: 19 May 2022

[xi] Al Jazeera n(10)

[xii] Soo Kim, ‘'Cyber Hell' Only Scratches Surface of South Korea's Sex Crime Crisis’, (Newsweek, 18 May 2022), available at:, last accessed: 20 May 2022

[xiii] Kim n(12)

[xiv] Kim n(12)

[xv] Kim n(12)

[xvi] Kim n(12)