A Seoul court has denied extradition request of the United States for Son Jong-Woo, who is convicted of running one of the world's largest child pornography websites, on Monday, July 6.
The 24-year-old was imprisoned for 18 months in South Korea for operating the website 'Welcome to Video' that produced and distributed over 250,000 disturbing images of children that were only accessible through darknet in the U.S. He collected payments from users through cryptocurrency. He was released initially in April but was taken back into custody after the U.S. issued a warrant against him on nine counts for his operation of the website that also hosted videos of children being raped.
Multiple online campaigns urged for his extradition to the U.S. as he would have faced harsher punishment. In South Korea, the punishment is now up to a year in jail or fines up to 20 million won ($17,000) whereas, in the U.S., such convicts face jail time of 15 to 30 years with heavy fines.
But the court deemed it necessary for Son to stay in South Korea and cooperate with the investigators. "It cannot be ruled out that the extradition could hamper South Korea's investigation into sexually exploitative content. The decision should not be interpreted as exonerating him. Son should actively cooperate with the investigation and face proper punishment," the court in its judgement said.
According to authorities related to the case, they arrested as many as 338 people including 223 Koreans in 12 countries including South Korea, Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Spain, Brazil and Australia linked to the child pornography network. At least 23 victims, who were abused by the site's users, were rescued in the operation.
Call for Tougher Law Grow in South Korea
Ever since Son was handed down the punishment, calls for a tougher law to curb child pornography have grown. In November last year, the South Korean parliament drafted a bill to increase the punishment. The bill drafted by lawmaker Kang Chang-il would have increased the penalty up to three years and 30 million won ($25,740) in fines. It would have also defined child pornography as 'abuse'.
"Our law simply describes those illegally produced films and photos as pornography 'using' children and juveniles, but child pornography is sexual abuse and exploitation," Kang told Reuters.
The bill titled 'Act on the Protection of Children and Youth Against Sex Offenses' was passed in May this year in the National Assembly of South Korea. As per the new law, a person convicted of selling, advertising pornography will face five years in prison while non-commercial distribution or advertisements will lead to three years in jail. The revised act also banned offenders from landing any jobs in child or youth care centers in South Korea.