South Korea is fighting to prevent minors from being sexually harassed in the metaverse

While the government promotes the expanding metaverse economy, experts claim that laws do not adequately safeguard children from abuse in virtual environments.


While the government promotes the expanding metaverse economy, experts claim that laws do not adequately safeguard children from abuse in virtual and digital environments.
The Metaverse

As these virtual reality worlds where players play games or even recreate life through avatars become more popular in South Korea, there is rising concern that adolescents are being subjected to sexual harassment and assault.


Sexually harassing words are a typical occurrence, say Jung Hee-jin


"Sexually harassing words or interactions are a typical occurrence. Jung Hee-jin, team manager of Tacteen Naeil, a sexual violence therapy center for young people, said, "You can readily notice them waiting in the metaverse playing area."


An adult allegedly enticed a kid to transmit revealing images in exchange for in-game products in another metaverse, according to the national police in April 2021.


According to the authorities, the adult then utilized the images to make sexually exploitative content, without specifying if a suspect has been charged.


Acts that appear to be crimes but occur within the metaverse are potentially more dangerous. A 14-year-old girl was coerced into taking off her avatar's clothes in a metaverse and then told to make her avatar do sexual acts, according to South Korea's Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in September 2021.


According to legal experts, regulations addressing abuse in the virtual and digital spheres have not been appropriately crafted.


At a recent debate, Seo Ji-hyun, the head of the Ministry of Justice's digital sex crime team, stated that verbal sexual aggression or abuse is only regarded criminal when it occurs in a public space, for example.


As a result, it's possible that abusive messages in metaverse private chat rooms aren't penalized.


Another issue, according to Koo Tae-on, a lawyer at the South Korean law firm Lin, is that current rules are limited to dealing with physical harassment of actual individuals, making it difficult to construe avatars performing sexual behaviors as a crime under the current legal system.


Law enforcement is also complicated in the nationless, borderless internet


Law enforcement is also complicated by jurisdictional difficulties in the nationless, borderless internet, according to Koo.


Even while it is prohibited in South Korea for adults to initiate sexual chats with minors, "it is difficult to carry out the investigation and thus makes it tougher to prosecute the offenders if the offender or the operator of the metaverse is based overseas," he said.


So far, the industry has proved ineffectual at self-policing. According to Tacteen Naeil's Jung, the sanctions enforced on users for metaverse infractions are confined to disabling or cancelling their accounts from a site.


She stated that South Korean metaverse platforms must improve their monitoring capabilities and develop technology to prevent such crimes from occurring in the first place.


The government will almost certainly press the business to adopt more drastic measures. Last month, governing Democratic Party lawmaker Kang Sun-woo spearheaded the development of new modifications to an existing youth protection law, with the goal of making online platform providers more accountable.


The Korea Communications Commission, the country's media regulator, also established a council last month. The panel claims to come up with a new "regulatory paradigm" for creating a fair and trustworthy digital society in the metaverse.