‘Largest Darknet Child Pornography’ website owner Jong Woo Son could soon be free
South Korean child porn website administrator Jong Woo Sun had 250,000 images of child pornography on his bedroom computer, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
CNN reporter that 112,500 of these were new videos of child sexual assault with victims as early as a half-year-old.
By the time this story broke, it was already a long time in the making. Though the South Korean courts could have given Son 10 years, they chose to give him 18 months. He is almost free.
As Merrit Kennedy reported, through the efforts of law enforcement from nearly 18 countries, 23 children were rescued from Spain and the United States, children allegedly used to produce these videos.
Often, I report on the injustices of the sex offender registry and the need for reform in terms of how sex offenders and child pornography laws seem out of sync with other crime and punishment. However, this case is no different. The various law enforcement agencies came together after countless hours. They subjected themselves to the horrors of child sex crimes to save exploited and endangered kids and to bring those responsible to justice. They deserve credit for a job well done.
Yet something is amiss.
The egregiously low punishment of the man responsible for the abuse and exploitation of half a million children is stunning. Such abuse could go on for decades. Son’s light punishment is a slap in the faces of child survivors. It is a shrug to the seventeen other law enforcement agencies that worked so hard to take down the website and those involved.
Law Enforcement Should Use the Little Guy to Get the Big Man
The South Korean government should extradite Son to the United States to face the U.S. legal system for his role in exploiting children within the United States. The Trump administration should ask as well. Son should also be tried in Spain. If he is not, such complacency sends the message that if one is a child pornography ringleader or website administrator, it’s okay to abuse and exploit kids for profit.
Maybe this whole thing was worth it for Son. He must have made millions of dollars. Are millions of dollars worth 18 months in prison? Most of us would do that time if it meant a multi-million-dollar paycheck, that is if we were conscience free. Unfortunately, some people are very good and morally justifying their immoral actions.
Why does it seem that the Epstein’s and Son’s of the world get such light sentences or “deals” with prosecutors? Even after Epstein was in trouble again, many feel his suicide was highly questionable. He has already been forgotten by the news cycle.
Though I know nothing of Epstein’s circumstances in jail, I did intern in prisons. There is no way that a high-profile inmate is left alone that long whether he is on suicide watch or not.
It is often heard that the way to stop sex crimes is to go after the “little guys” because they create the demand, but why don’t we go after the store owners that have the cash to make and sell the product? In conventional warfare, a defeated army spends its time killing only the infantry; the winning one, the capital. So often, it seems law enforcement sets itself up for failure.
The sad fact is we will never stop child exploitation because such is about sex. I worked with heroin addicts. As one explained to me. Sex is better than heroin. We can greatly slow it, but we need to have a totally different approach. Here are some suggestions.
These Steps Can Slow Online Child Sexual Exploitation
First, take the focus off of cartoons, writings and sex dolls (unless the dolls are made from real child models) and focus on actual child sexual abuse and child pornography that has real victims. There is no such thing as a non-existent victim creating a real offense.
Second, get the public involved by having adverts (asking internet providers, search engines, and businesses, including adult entertainment) that instruct viewers how to distinguish and report child pornographic images and video.
Having a reporting extension placed on the browser where one can report a pop-up or website, video or images can make a difference. Make it clear that the individual will not be prosecuted for reporting the image. See such images can shock and scare viewers.
It is important that people distinguish. No, a child in a bikini is not child pornography unless something sexual is going on. A topless 6-year old, no. Neither are stock photos. A provocative dance done by kids at a dance competition is not child pornography either. Reporting such could hinder police from getting to the abusive reports.
Third, focus on the big fish. Generally speaking, the police catch the little guys pretty much by net fishing: they throw out a virtual net and drag people in. The problem is that people are curious and, well, pretty messed up.
How many of us drove by a bad accident and slowed down to look? What if we see a dead person? Would that make us a murderer?
If someone says to a person, “Hey, look, a child is being molested” and they look out the window, nothing happens to that person. If that window is a computer screen, they are now a sex offender.
This is not about justifying child exploitation. Some, as we witnessed in this case, go out of their way to get abuse images, but there is a difference between production and distribution and looking. When we punish possession more harshly than the owner that exploited and caused the production and rape of a half-million kids, something is very wrong, international or not.
Go where the money, bitcoin, owners, producers, and distributors are. Use the little people to get the big people. Though police sometimes do this, the punishments don’t show it.
Have those looking pay retribution, but also get them help not to offend again. Allow people that report themselves a better way out because this is better for child victims than keeping bad secrets and allowing the abuse to continue.
A comprehensive plan like this will not eliminate child exploitation, but it will make those that hold more cards accountable. More time for Son can send a message to others with the bitcoins and knowhow to exploit thousands of children. There is a high price to pay.
Earl Yarington (LMSW) is a social worker and school bus driver. He taught literature and writing for nearly 20 years and spent 3 years working in forensic social work internships with offending populations, including work at Delaware Correctional facilities and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He has a PhD in literature and criticism (feminism/women writers) from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Master of Social Work from Louisiana State University, and an interdisciplinary Master of Liberal Arts from Arizona State University, where he studied the impact of visual image and girlhood in media/social media. He also has an MA and BS in English from SUNY College at Brockport. He is currently in the later stages of his MFA program at Concordia University-St. Paul, where he is studying and writing about Anne Frank. The opinions and analyses that Earl writes are his own and are not necessarily the positions or views of his employers, the agencies he supports, or that of his colleagues.