About 1,600 hotel guests in 10 South Korean cities were victims of an illicit “spy camera” scheme, local police announced this week. The victims were recorded surreptitiously with tiny cameras strategically hidden in their hotel rooms. The footage was live-streamed online for subscribers, some of whom paid monthly fees to view the unlawful content.
“There was a similar case in the past where illegal cameras were [secretly installed] and were consistently and secretly watched, but this is the first time the police caught where videos were broadcast live on the internet,” police in the South Korean capital of Seoul said in a statement to CNN.
Two people were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the case, the Korea Herald reported. The suspects have been accused of illegally recording and live-streaming the activities of guests at 30 hotels located in 10 South Korean cities. Mini cameras were reportedly hidden in digital TV boxes, wall sockets and hairdryer holders in 42 hotel rooms.
Two other people who were allegedly involved in setting up the spy cameras were also booked on Wednesday but were not detained, the Herald said.
Police noted there’s no indication that the hotels — which have not been publicly identified but have been described as smaller establishments like motels and inns — knew about the operation.
The illicit footage was allegedly streamed on a site for members, almost a hundred of whom paid a $44.95 monthly fee to “access extra features, such as the ability to replay certain live streams,” CNN reported. The site, which was launched in November, had about 4,100 members in all.
The group behind the site raked in about $6,200 from paying subscribers, police said. The perpetrators, if convicted, could face up to five years in prison and fines amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.
The troubling scheme is the latest case in South Korea’s so-called “spy cam epidemic.” Since 2013, more than 30,000 cases of illicit recording have been reported across the country, The New York Times reported in September.
Seoul police pledged last year to carry out regular checks of the city’s 20,554 public toilets for hidden cameras.
“Women [in South Korea] have come to fear that cameras could be anywhere: perched inside the toilet bowl of a public restroom, disguised as a smoke detector in a shop’s fitting room, even rolled into a plastic bag at the lip of a trash can,” the Times wrote.