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Police expand probe into ‘closed-door’ photo shoots

Police investigating alleged molestation and coercion of female models are looking into how pornography is produced and traded through “closed-door” photo shoots at studios.

Seoul police began the probe last month after YouTube star Yang Ye-won revealed that she was sexually abused and coerced into posing for lewd photos three years ago. The photos were recently leaked online.

Seoul police are investigating 43 suspects in nine cases of alleged molestation and distribution of pornography. They include people who run the studios; took the photographs; collected and distributed the pictures; and uploaded large amounts of pornographic materials online or run pornographic websites.

Eight of the suspects, including the operator of the studio where Yang was allegedly molested, are implicated in two or more cases. 

This screenshot shows Yang Ye-won sharing her story through YouTube. (YouTube)
This screenshot shows Yang Ye-won sharing her story through YouTube. (YouTube)

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s women’s and juvenile affairs division and related departments of six police stations are investigating the cases.

Police are looking into how studio operators recruit models and photographers, how photographers trade the photos with collectors and distributors, and how the photos are uploaded on porn sites.

They are also investigating firms that advertise on porn sites, offering to delete the online photos.

Police are considering charging studio operators with abetting the distribution of pornographic material, as they arranged the photo shoots without proper identification of the photographers, knowing the photos could be spread online.

While the so-called “closed-door” photo shoots per se are not illegal, those who arrange them should be held responsible for the leaking of the photos, a police official said.

As most victims agreed to the photo shoots, the National Police Agency plans to take steps to revise the law to toughen penalties for the distribution of lewd photos for profit even if they were taken with consent.

Under the current law, the distribution of photos or videos taken for profit without consent is subject to imprisonment of up to seven years. Distribution of photos or videos taken with consent is subject to a jail term of up to three years.

By Kim So-hyun (