Telegram’s Nth Room Sex Scandal Exposed in South Korea

The victims include at least 16 underage girls. 
Thursday 26 March 2020
Cho Ju-bin was arrested as the main suspect. Photo: Yonhap / AFP

The nth room sex scandal has rocked South Korea as at least 74 women including 16 underage girls were tricked and blackmailed into sharing sexual images of themselves on Telegram.  The sex crime suspect? A 24 year old orphanage volunteer, Cho Ju-bin, or better known as “doctor” or “baksa” on the encrypted messaging platform.

Cho has his identity revealed following public uproar over the case, with millions of people signing the petition to expose him. He’s accused of sharing sexual content across different Telegram chat rooms and receiving payment in cryptocurrency, amassing 260,000 users in the process.

How Telegram’s nth room chat groups worked?

According to Quartz, customers paid up to US$1,200 to access Telegram’s nth room chat groups, where extorted content from underage girls was uploaded. To gain access to these chat rooms, customers had to first “prove” themselves in a separate channel by uploading their own sexual abuse videos and images.

The Korea Cyber Sexual Violence Response Center also added it has found at least 260,000 users in 56 chat rooms where they shared extorted content, along with spy-cam images or photos of women. Some of the content was created by the users themselves, and included deep fake pornography.

The chat room operators preyed on runaway teenagers who were active on chat apps or Twitter and engaged in prostitution or sexting for cash. They would then contact the girls through those accounts, with the promise of quick and high-paying modelling or escort gigs.

telegram's nth room sex scandal
Is there anything Telegram could have done to prevent this? Photo: Unsplash


Next, the girls were directed to a Telegram account where the abuser slowly extracted their details, including names, phone numbers, addresses and exposed photos which were later used to blackmail them into filming sexual content.

South Korea’s notorious sex scandal problem

South Korea’s issue with sex crimes is related to the K-pop industry, with the Burning Sun scandal being the main focus. The exposed sex crime saw Big Bang’s former member Seungri being indicted on prostitution charges.

K-pop’s notorious toxic masculinity problem was also related to the deaths of female artistes Sulli, 25, and Goo Hara, 28, with the latter’s ex-partner being accused of filming their intimate moments without her knowledge along with allegations of abuse.

Telegram’s nth room sex scandal only serves as a reminder to the challenge faced by government officials to put an end to this growing concern. The Minister for Gender Equality Lee Jung-ok has vowed to revise the laws governing sex crimes including online grooming and the blackmail of children and teenagers.

Source: Straits Times, BBC, Quartz