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[Newsmaker] [Feature] A week of YouTuber chaos leaves Ansan residents angry

Ansan city asks streaming platforms to takedown contents concerning child rapist Cho Doo-soon

A YouTuber stomps on top of the vehicle escorting child rapist Cho Doo-soon on Dec. 12. (Yonhap)
A YouTuber stomps on top of the vehicle escorting child rapist Cho Doo-soon on Dec. 12. (Yonhap)
As the winter cold wave hit Tuesday, the many YouTubers surrounding the residence of child rapist Cho Doo-soon left one by one, leaving behind worried and weary residents.

On Friday, the alleys around Cho’s house were quiet and empty, according to residents and police. While YouTubers left with their mission of grabbing online interest successfully completed, the residents were left angered by the YouTubers on top of their worries about Cho.

Cho was convicted of raping an 8-year-old girl in 2008 and served 12 years in prison. Even before Cho was released from prison, many YouTubers vowed to confront him, with some promising to give Cho what he deserves. When Cho was released on Dec. 12 and returned to the city of Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, YouTubers made live broadcasts following him there, eventually surrounding Cho’s residence guarded by police.

Some even damaged the police vehicle that transported Cho, while others threw rocks toward Cho‘s residence and tried to infiltrate the residence using the gas lines. For a couple of days, the YouTubers caused problems for police and residents.

“We had no problems with YouTubers just turning on live broadcasts, but the excessive actions made the other residents in the area uncomfortable. Also, since there was a large number of them and social distancing measures due to coronavirus forbid groups of over 50, we constantly pushed them back,” said a policeman at Ansan Danwon Police Station who wished to be identified by his last name, Kim. “The cold was one thing, but as the story stopped becoming a hot topic of discussion, they left one by one. Now there are none left,” Kim said.

So far, four YouTubers have been investigated by police for public disturbance near the residence and two more are expected to be summoned. Arrest warrants are being discussed for YouTubers that damaged a police vehicle carrying Cho, according to the police.

For the YouTubers, the lucrative topic of a released child rapist was low hanging fruit they were eager to pick. One popular YouTuber announced that he made a net profit of around 17 million won ($15,480) in the three days that he livestreamed about Cho. Other YouTubers that are not as popular, with some having less than 100 subscribers, hoped to make a name for themselves by livestreaming the scene. According to the police, around 80 percent of the YouTubers were men in their 20s and 30s, but older YouTubers could be seen, as well as some female YouTubers.

“For 3 days, there were a lot of YouTubers in the vicinity. The YouTubers didn’t sleep at night and kept on poking around nearby residents, so people filed complaints. After the residents filed complaints, the police that barred only the alley to Cho’s residence increased the perimeter step by step,” said an Ansan resident. “Since Cho never actually came out and there was not much to film, people started leaving.”

The local government also asked the members of the press to be wary of invading the privacy of other residents. Although Ansan requested content on YouTube and Afreeca TV regarding Cho be taken down, the streaming services have yet to act.

“YouTube examines requests by the government to delete videos and checks if the contents violate any laws. As for Ansan’s request, we cannot say what actions will be taken yet,” a YouTube marketing official told The Korea Herald on Friday.

Aside from being filmed without permission, the residents had to deal with YouTubers nosing around the vicinity. They were also worried about YouTubers from around the country bringing in COVID-19.

“I don’t think grown men like myself living nearby are worried that much about Cho. But women and parents who read about Cho in the area do seem worried. People who’ve actually been to the area are not that worried because there are so many police officers stationed. Although Cho could be dangerous, it’s almost impossible to commit crimes right now. But the people in the city as a whole seem worried,” said one resident. “After seeing reports that YouTubers flooded the area and are causing harm, the worry many people in Ansan had regarding Cho has now turned a bit to anger toward the YouTubers,” the resident added.

Police blocks an alley in Ansan near resident of Cho Doo-soon on Dec. 13. (Yonhap)
Police blocks an alley in Ansan near resident of Cho Doo-soon on Dec. 13. (Yonhap)
A popular video showed an Ansan resident shouting at the streamers that they were nowhere to be seen when Cho was sentenced 12 years ago and that they only came to get viewership and donations.

As criticism mounted against the YouTubers, some took down their videos and a few even announced they would donate the profits made with their videos to non-profit organizations. Such profits include donations from the livestream from Ansan and advertisement fees from the uploaded videos.

While YouTubers can be punished for illegal actions, they are free to seek increasingly provocative content as long as they remain within the boundaries of the law.

“Under the current system, the government is unable to interfere in the creation of individual videos. Unless the content is illegal, it’s not easy to restrict this sort of broadcast,” said Yoo Hong-sik, professor of communication at Chung-Ang University. “From a legal point of view, saying that YouTubers making these contents that are not illegal is a problem is a problem in itself.”

“The higher number of clicks for the contents lead to more money for the YouTubers. There are only two ways to restrict this. The first is YouTube restricting the content, and the other is the viewers boycotting content,” Yoo said.

While Afreeca TV, a local streaming platform, is within the purview of Korea Communications Commission, YouTube is not.

“Since YouTube is a foreign company, it is difficult for Korea Communications Standards Commission to restrict them, leading people say that it is reverse discrimination,” said Yoo.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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