S outh Korea’s Supreme Court has overturned a lower court decision and ruled that sexually explicit drawings of teenagers in “anime” cartoons and “manga” comics should be considered child pornography.
After issuing its ruling on Thursday, the court ordered a retrial for the operator of a file-sharing web site accused of violating the child protection law for distributing video clips that included depictions of characters in school uniforms engaging in explicit sex acts, The Korea Herald reported.
The defendant, only identified by his surname, Lim, had previously been found guilty of sharing pornography for profit for nearly three years from May 2010 and fined GBP 3,378.
Lower courts had stated, however, that it was “unreasonable” to prosecute him on charges of disseminating child pornography simply because the characters in animated drawings wore school uniforms and had a “young appearance”.
The lower courts said more evidence that the characters were under the legal age of consent would be required to go ahead with a prosecution.
The Supreme Court has overturned those decisions, ruling, “In the perspective of a common individual in our society, the contents of the videos demonstrate what can be seen to be teenagers”.
It is not clear what punishment Lim might face, as child campaigners have been critical of the 18-month prison term given recently to a South Korean national who ran one of the most extensive dark web child pornography sites ever uncovered.
L aw enforcement officials in 18 countries around the world, including Britain, announced in October the break-up of the Welcome to Video child pornography web site, which was operated by Jong Woo Son.
The site relied on the anonymous Bitcoin cryptocurrency trasnsactions to sell access to 250,000 videos depicting child abuse, authorities said. In connection with the case, authorities rescued 23 underage victims in the United States, Britain and Spain.
The South Korean court’s decision is also in contrast to authorities in Japan, the home of anime and manga.
The Japanese government finally passed legislation in 2014 that outlawed the possession of child pornography , but did not criminalise sexually explicit images of children in anime and manga.
Campaigners against child pornography were unable to defeat Japan’s powerful comic and animated movie industry, which successfully argued that as the images were merely drawings there were no “victims” and therefore no crime was being perpetrated.
Artists, writers and publishers also claimed that imposing bans on their work would be an infringement of their freedom of expression, which is protected by the constitution....