A South Korean man accused of coercing dozens of women and schoolgirls into performing sex acts in pay-to-view internet chatrooms has been paraded in front of the media.
Cho Ju-bin (24), who worked in an orphanage in Incheon, was arrested earlier this month and was awaiting trial before media coverage of the crimes of which he is accused triggered public outrage.
More than five million people signed petitions on the home page of Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, demanding that the authorities withdraw his right to anonymity before his trial.
A committee made up of senior judicial officers, a psychologist and a psychiatrist considered the public's right to know and took the unusual decision to identify Cho.
Yesterday, Cho - who gave himself the name "The Doctor" - was brought out from a police station in central Seoul to face the public.
"I apologise to those that I hurt," Cho, who was wearing a medical neck brace, said. "Thank you for putting a brake on the life of a devil who could not be stopped."
He declined to comment when asked whether he admitted the charges.
According to prosecutors, Cho befriended women on internet chat sites and offered to pay them for nude photos sent through an anonymous chatroom in an app.
An accomplice with access to a government computer network allegedly traced the women and threatened to expose them to friends and family.
Cho then allegedly forced the women to perform obscene acts in one of four chatrooms, with some media reports suggesting that 260,000 users had paid more than €1,000 to access the live feeds.
Media reports claimed some of the videos showed groups of men raping a teenage girl, while others included images of torture. One video featured girls "barking like dogs", according to the 'Kookmin Ilbo' newspaper, while others involved sex acts with insects.
Of the 74 women believed to have been subject to abuse, at least 16 were school students.
The National Police Agency said that 18 chatroom operators had been arrested, along with 106 people who paid to access the feeds. Authorities are still trying to locate others, including a user who is believed to have first set up the chatroom.
Mr Moon has promised the case will be dealt with sternly and will introduce measures to stamp out digital sex crimes.
The alleged offenders' actions were "cruel", he said, and he felt "sympathetic" towards the public anger over the crimes, the president's office said in a statement.
South Korea's Ministry of Justice has attracted criticism over its failure to deal with the growing use of technology to carry out sex crimes, with a ministry official admitting that the case had been "a disaster" and apologising for its "lukewarm response" to digital sexual abuse. (© Daily Telegraph, London)