Netflix’s latest true crime documentary isn’t for the faint of heart. Cyber Hell: Exposing an Internet Horror chronicles the rise of two online sex trafficking rings that sprung up in South Korea just a few years ago. The leaders of these organizations gained access to intimate images and videos of their victims and used them as blackmail when asking for more and more sexual and violent content. That was just the tip of the morally corrupt iceberg present in this case.
With the Nth Room and Doctor’s Room targeting South Korea, chances are you haven’t heard of one of the most gruesome internet cases in recent history. Before you hit play on Netflix, here’s what you need to know about this deeply disturbing true crime.
What was the Nth room? What was the doctor’s room?
The Nth Room is most easily described as a sexual slavery ring that unfolded in South Korea between 2018 and 2020. It took place almost entirely via Telegram, an encrypted cloud-based instant messaging service, and the names of the eight groups were derived from their atomic number. Women and young girls were blackmailed into sending pictures and videos of themselves, many violent and degrading. These images would then be promoted and sold to select groups.
In terms of sexual exploitation, the Nth Room was as nefarious as it gets. The organization would typically find its victims in two ways. They would access their potential victims’ private photos and social media accounts and threaten to share the photos with family, friends and work colleagues if they do not cooperate. The other recruitment option was even more troubling. Others were recruited through job offers. They would get paid for seemingly innocuous tasks before requests escalated. It wasn’t long before victims were being asked to engage in sexual acts or violence on themselves.
But the scariest thing the Nth Space did was in location tracking. In some cases, these perpetrators have been able to locate their victims and track them down. As they were sexually assaulted, the group filmed the crime.
The Nth Room was the first of these Telegram-based sexual slavery rings to appear and was run by a user nicknamed “God God”. About a year later, in 2019, a copycat emerged. Known as the “Doctor”, his group was dubbed “Doctor’s Room”. This user would recruit their victims through part-time job offers on Twitter and would use the personal information provided by the applicants to track down and blackmail them. It is estimated that approximately 260,000 people paid up to £1,200 to access this pornography. Because of this criminal ring, 100 women and 26 minors were forced into sexual slavery.
How did the authorities find out about the Nth room and the doctor’s room?
Credit for this case goes to the media and the public. Several men reported these child pornographic groups to the police, but the authorities did not initially respond to the reports. It’s unclear if this error was because they didn’t understand what happened or if they didn’t believe these reports to be credible.
Both Seoul Shinmun and sisa journal, two South Korean newspapers, worked on stories about Telegram spreading child pornography. But the electronic times was the first outlet to report specifically on the Nth Room in August 2019. The story immediately sparked public outrage, leading to an online petition signed by more than 5 million people, urging police to publicly reveal the Doctor’s identity.
“If (he) is not a devil, then who can you say is a devil? (He) should be standing with his face bare on a photo line…Human rights are a luxury for someone who takes the humiliation of other people lightly,” the petition reads.
Who was arrested for the Nth room and the doctor’s room?
Luckily, the two biggest names in this sex ring case have been arrested. First there is God God Himself. Before his arrest, God taunted the police, claiming the authorities could not charge him because he never used his own phone and only used gift cards that could not be traced. In this respect he was wrong. In April 2021, Moon Hyung-wook was sentenced to 34 years in prison.
Then there was the doctor. In March 2020, the Doctor was revealed to be Cho Joo-bin. He was found guilty of racketeering and sexual harassment and sentenced to 40 years in prison. In addition to these big names, Mr. Jeon was arrested for being the “Guardian,” the nickname given to the user who popularized the Nth Room. For his crimes, Mr. Jeon was sentenced to three years and six months. Mr. Shin, an Nth Room Operator who took over God God’s organization, was given a year off.
It is impossible that these arrests account for all the criminals responsible for the Nth Room and the doctor’s room. Both groups were sophisticated organizations that relied on systems of administrators, harassers, recruiters, and extortionists. Not to mention the people who subscribed to these groups that sold child pornography. But at least this story ends with the two biggest names behind bars in this crime case.