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SKorea's porn fight 'like shoveling in a blizzard'

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 9, 2012 at 11:17 pm •  Published: December 9, 2012
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Police say they have recently shut down 37 websites, and another 134 sites are under investigation on porn-related charges. Authorities also deleted many porn materials from other websites, though Moon said much of the porn re-emerged in slightly different form days after being removed.

Some Nuri Cops acknowledge that they are fighting an increasingly difficult battle against a relentless enemy. They've also faced complaints from their sometimes baffled spouses and friends, and endured venom from anonymous online porn enthusiasts.

"They've called me the enemy of South Korean men," Bae Young Ho, a Nuri Cop who works as a real estate broker, said of his online critics. He said he found about 5,000 malicious messages attacking him in the comments section of an online story about his work.

The volunteers also find the work itself to be disturbing.

"It's easy to find smut on the Internet, but it's difficult for me to watch," Moon said in an interview at his Seoul home. "It's disgusting and it bothers me because the images I see linger in my head for so long."

Moon, who was ranked the top anti-porn monitor in 2010 and second this year, said he and other Nuri Cops keep going because they feel that society benefits from their work.

Opponents of pornography point to several recent horrifying sex crimes as reasons to try to stamp it out.

A man was sentenced to life in prison this year for strangling a woman after a failed rape attempt, then chopping her body into 280 pieces that he hid in plastic bags at his home south of Seoul. The man told investigators he watched pornographic movies while cutting up the victim's body.

Another man got a life sentence for strangling a 10-year-old girl living in his neighborhood after a failed rape attempt. He was found to have dozens of child porn films in his computer.

South Korean law punishes those who distribute, sell or display obscene materials on the Internet with up to one year in prison. There's no punishment for watching or possessing cyberporn.

The National Assembly recently passed a law raising — from seven years to 10 years — the maximum sentence for distributing, selling or displaying child pornography for commercial purposes. Legislators also made possessing child pornography punishable by up to a year in prison; previously, the maximum punishment had been a fine of 20 million won (about $18,500).

The prime minister's office says it will seek to have all movie download sites and smartphones used by minors equipped with anti-porn filtering systems. Anti-porn campaigners also want authorities promote sex-education programs aimed at countering the effects of pornography among children.

Some South Koreans believe the government's approach should be more nuanced. Lee Bong Han, a former police officer who teaches at Deajeon University, said it's time for South Korea to legalize less extreme and nonviolent pornography, which he believes can be used in clinics that treat sex problems.

Ma, the professor who advocates for porn legalization, doubts that such changes will come anytime soon. He sparked a national debate in the early 1990s after authorities arrested him and banned his book "Happy Sara," about a female university student exploring her sexual freedom.

"It's been 20 years since I was arrested ... but South Korean culture hasn't democratized yet," Ma said.

"Happy Sara," he added, is still banned.