©2014 VICE Media LLC

    The VICE Channels

      Are South Koreans Committing More Sex Crimes Because of a Porn Ban?

      February 15, 2013

      By George Marsden


      South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak laughing in the face of sex crime.  Photo by hojusaram

      South Korea have long had a ban on pornography, which – in this enlightened age of mobile masturbatory aids and careless sex bag misplacement – must suck, especially if you're a 15-year-old boy. Fortunately for 15-year-old boys, they tend to be a lot better at the internet than the government. According to the Ministry of Public Information and Security, a third of South Korean youths admit to watching porn by their first year of middle school. (I'm not entirely sure where they got their stats from, but I have a feeling that two in three South Korean middle school kids are fucking liars.)   

      However, the next time they conduct their masturbation polls those numbers may plummet, as the government announced a crackdown on internet pornography last year. Eleven citizen groups have banded together to form an alliance – they call themselves the "cyber keepers", hilariously – to patrol the internet for porn; an incensed army of Tipper Gores frantically battling the onrushing wanking masses. Only, it's 2013, not the PRMC case of 1985, and human beings are well aware that genitals exist and sex happens and people sometimes film it and put it on the internet for other people who want to consensually watch it.

      The 11 groups collectively boast 400 members, with another group of around 800 volunteers (who, also hilariously, call themselves the "Nuri Net Cops") helping the government censors by patrolling the internet for pornography in their spare time. That second lot are a bit like the PCSOs of the online buzz kill world, in that they're essentially powerless, but when they do dig up any "harmful" material they can tell the legitimate authorities at the network providers about it, who will then demand the material is taken down.     

      If you're in South Korea and you're found to be consistently visiting porn sites, you'll have your computer and smartphone taken away and be banned from using the internet. Clearly, this seems like a massive invasion of personal freedom and you can understand why those who make it their job to patrol the web are subjected to constant abuse. On the other hand, their task seems so futile that it also starts to seem kind of noble.

      One member of the Nuri Net Cops, Moon Tae-Hwa, compared the task of keeping porn off the web to "shovelling snow in a blizzard", which might make you question the point of the operation if everyone involved realises what an eternally endless waste of time the whole thing is. But Moon went on to explain: "It’s easy to find smut on the internet, but it’s difficult for me to watch. It’s disgusting and it bothers me because the images I see linger in my head for so long." That, Moon, is something you could quite easily avoid by not spending all your free time actively searching for porn.

      There's another sex-related phenomenon emerging in South Korea, but it isn't quite as jovial as a bunch of uptight pietists freaking out over something they have literally no control over. The country has been witness to a worryingly steep rise in sex crime. According to data from the Supreme Prosecutors' Office released in December, sex crime in South Korea has risen 62 percent in the last five years – and that's despite the introduction in 2011 of a law allowing judges to sentence child abusers to chemical castration.

      These figures are showing no signs of slowing down and the government hopes that, by ridding the country of porn – and, according to an officer for the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, "preventing the contamination of the minds [of the country's youths]" – it will help curb the rise of sex crime. But could the opposite not be true? After all, after the country banned prostitution in 2004, it saw another huge rise in the amount of reported sex crimes

      In a country where sex crime is already a massive issue, to ban pornography and remove an accessible form of sexual relief seems hugely counterintuitive. Sure, perhaps the odd kid who's already that way inclined will be perverted by pornography into doing something awful, but the same rule applies here as in the video game argument: You don't shoot up a school because you play Call of Duty, you shoot up a school because you want to kill innocent children.

      Korean professor Ma Kwang Soo pointed out to me that, "No country in the world has ever reported that banning porn results in a drop in sex crimes." Which quickly rubbishes South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak's assertion that "obscene materials and harmful information that can be easily accessed on the internet are singled out as one cause inciting sex crimes”.

      But does that prove that banning porn will, in fact, have an adverse effect rather a positive one? Well, no – not quite. But Tim Worstall of Forbes Magazine writes, in regards to Myung-Bak's claims, that, "After doing some research, you can see that – across the population – the conclusion is that the better availability of porn, the lower the number of sex crimes."

      I suppose the best way to gauge potential effects the ban might have on citizens of South Korea would be to talk to a citizen of South Korea. Jea Chan, a 30-year-old designer from Seoul, said that while the ban doesn't really affect anyone who knows how to use the internet properly ("streaming websites are blocked, but we can download it very easily from torrents"), the general consensus in Seoul, at least, is that it's a bad idea: "Banning porn will affect ordinary people and not allow the same level of sexual release they're used to, which, if anything, will lead to more sex crimes rather than less."   

      Follow George on Twitter: @georgemarsden

      More fun stories from the jolly world of sex crimes:

      An Interview with a Convicted Paedophile 

      Photos of Sex Offenders' Homes

      Have Cartoons Legitimised Paedophilia in Japan?

      Trapped Forever in Sex Slavery, Eh?

      -

      Topics: South Korea, porn, internet porn, ban, sex crime, rise in sex crimes, Seoul, George Marsden, Forbes, Lee Myung-bak

      Comments