"As president, I offer my sincere condolences to the victims and sympathize with the people's legitimate anger," Moon said in remarks conveyed by his spokesman in response to two public petitions, which were posted on the presidential website and supported by 3.8 million angry protesters.
The petitions urged police to unveil the identity of the chat room's operators and users, along with their punishment. More than 70 victims, including 16 underage victims, have been lured and exploited in the "Nth" chat room showing naked photos and brutal sex acts. One suspect surnamed Cho has been arrested for distributing videos on the messaging service Telegram. Users have paid in cryptocurrency.
Moon condemned the chat room as "a cruel act that destroyed human life." "We should recognize this case as a grave crime and thoroughly investigate it and punish the perpetrators severely," he said, calling for stern action against digital sex crimes, especially against children and teenagers.
Police have launched an investigation to track down those involved in the case. Police chief Min Gab-ryong said investigators are consulting with overseas law enforcement authorities. Equal rights groups have voiced resentment, insisting some 260,000 men have visited similar chat rooms, including about 10,000 affiliated with Cho's room.
The Nth room operators used fake websites to collect personal information using Twitter ID and password from victims who could not seek legal help or reject orders because of fears that their personal information and sexual content would be made public through web or social media.
Cho had demanded a subscription fee of at least 1.5 million won ($1,184) in cryptocurrency from those who wished to join one of his three secretive chat rooms in Telegram. Subscribers were required to provide selfies and photographed ID cards.
Each of Cho's chat rooms had unique concepts -- teaser room for sharing teaser content, "Hard" room for sharing brutal content and "Highest-ranking" room" that live broadcast sexual exploitations. To keep their identity hidden, Cho and accomplices have contacted each other using Telegram.
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