Two men have been arrested and another pair investigated in connection with the scandal, which involved 42 rooms in 30 accommodations in 10 cities around the country. Police said there was no indication the businesses were complicit in the scheme.
In South Korea, small hotels of the type involved in this case are generally referred to as motels or inns.
Cameras were hidden inside digital TV boxes, wall sockets and hairdryer holders and the footage was streamed online, the Cyber Investigation Department at the National Police Agency said in a statement.
The site had more than 4,000 members, 97 of whom paid a $44.95 monthly fee to access extra features, such as the ability to replay certain live streams. Between November 2018 and this month, police said, the service brought in upward of $6,000.
“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 said.
Last year, tens of thousands of women took to the streets of Seoul and other cities to protest against the practice and demand action, under the slogan “My Life is Not Your Porn.”
In response, Seoul launched a special squad of women inspectors who have been conducting regular inspections of the city’s 20,000 or so public toilets to search for spy cameras, though some critics have denounced the move as a superficial response to a societal issue.
Lee Ji-soo, a computer specialist who helps women scrub the web of images taken without their consent, told CNN last year her company had seen a surge in demand since the protests drew attention to the issue.
“The most common things that the clients are saying — and they are quite heartbreaking — are ‘I want to die’ or ‘I cannot leave my house.’ Especially the victims of spy cam or illegally taken videos say that when they encounter people on the street, they feel like they would be recognized,” she said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note the size of the accommodations involved and that in South Korea small hotels are typically referred to as motels.