After purchasing an iPhone 5s upon my arrival in Korea, I noticed the shutter sound wouldn’t turn off. Confused as to what why, I returned to the store to fix the issue. The staff informed me that all phones made in Korea are required to make that sound.
At the time, I didn’t think much of it, and chalked it up to another factor that makes Korea such a quirky country. However, when I found out the real reason the shutter sound is so common here, I was incredibly creeped out.
As it turns out, voyeurism is an extreme issue in Korea. So much so, that in 2004, the Korean government issued a mandate that rendered it impossible for consumers to disable the shutter sound feature on their smart phone cameras.
These days, offenders can easily purchase hidden cameras in their respective neighborhoods which come disguised as items such as shirt buttons, wristwatches, eyeglasses, pens, remote controls and USB memory sticks.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t using their smartphones.
Six months after purchasing my phone, I returned back from a relaxing summer vacation in Vietnam, feeling happy and excited to see my boyfriend. It had been a long week for the both of us (I got stranded in Macau on my way back to Seoul), so we decided to get dinner somewhere close to my apartment.
We decided to call it a night early, so we headed back to my apartment, unaware of what was to come. After finishing our nightly routines, I closed the window and turned on the air conditioner in an attempt to combat the muggy outside air that had permeated through the apartment all evening. As always, the two of us drifted into a deep slumber, holding one another close.
Around 3:30 that morning, I woke up to a muffled sound just outside my window followed by a series of bright flashes. My consciousness shot me up out of bed, and in my groggy and confused state, I shook my boyfriend awake.
“What’s that?!” he screamed.
“What?” I replied, confused by his response.
“THAT!” he shouted, and directed my attention to my window.
My eyes focused on a large hand tightly gripping the window frame. As we sat there, shaking in fear, the person slowly closed the window, then the screen without any panic whatsoever. The way he closed it made me think this wasn’t the first time.
We ran outside to see if we could spot the perpetrator, but he had already fled. Gripped with fear, I found it difficult to sleep through the night.
As soon as I saw any trace of sunshine, we went outside and discovered an alarming number of hand and finger prints along the pipes and ledges leading up to my window. Unsure as to what to do, I contacted every Korean person that I knew, as I would need a translator to be able to properly handle this situation.
I finally got in touch with one of my former colleagues, and she informed me she would be able to help me as soon as she completed her daily errands. My boyfriend and I sat around all afternoon in my house, washing my clothing and bed sheets. I took several showers in an attempt to reduce the feeling of filth.
Once my former colleague finally showed up, she called the police and they arrived in a timely manner. Without any translation from either party, the officers quickly checked out my apartment as well as the exterior and piping.
They informed me that the flash that woke me up was most likely from the man’s camera. Apparently others in my neighborhood had made several complaints about a man filming them sleep, which to this day, makes my skin crawl.
Despite knowing this information, less than five minutes into their search, the officers determined that they were unable to do any sort of finger print testing because they “assumed he was wearing gloves.” I also requested they review the CCTV tape that was recently installed outside of my apartment building, but they said there “most likely wasn’t a tape.”
After they left, I felt extremely defeated. I felt let down by the Korean police and their failure to take action.
I still wonder about the incident. How did he manage to climb up 8 feet worth of piping? Was he acting alone or did he have an accomplice? Had he been watching me prior to the incident or was this completely random? Some things in life have no answers.
To this day, I still find it difficult to go to sleep and I have nightmares from time to time. Oh yeah, and I moved to another apartment — about an hour away, and much safer.