Amid South Korean Nth Room case, Chinese drama delves into violence against women and sexual abuse

By Ji Yuqiao Published: 2020/3/29 22:44:27

A woman tries to defend herself from sexual harassment. Photos: CFP

As talk about the Nth Room chatroom sex abuse case in South Korea sweeps Chinese social media, a new web drama with plots similar to the case has captured the attention of netizens.

The 22-episode series Imperfect Love, starring actress Zhou Xun, Kara Wai and Angie Chiu, debuted on Friday. The drama, which has earned a 7.1/10 on Chinese media review site Douban, focuses on stories about the harassment and abuse women deal with and the support they give each other, striking a chord with netizens.

The story focuses on Lin Xuzhi (Zhou) who gets to know a 7-year-old girl called Mu Liansheng, who lives with her recently divorced mother and her mom's new boyfriend Shang Wu.

In private, Shang treats Mu like his very own toy. He forces her to stand in front of a target during a shooting game and forces her to pretend that she has been shot. If her performance displeases him, Mu must fall over again and again. The girl is often seen out and about with new injuries all the time as she endures Shang's various whims such as being sealed in a cardboard box and being forced to wear lipstick and a sexy dress. 

In the show, the abused little girl feels very fortunate to meet Lin and runs away from her life of torture. However, many netizens have pointed out that in real life many young girls and women must deal with similar situations as Mu and the women involved in the Nth Room case, yet have no chance of escape. 

"If you can have a better understanding of the fate of women and help them when they are faced with similar situations, and if you can stand up for them when they encounter misfortune, then this show is more than just a 30-minute episode series," one netizen wrote in a review on Douban.

The Nth Room case is related to a series of digital sex crimes involving chat rooms on the platform Telegram from 2018 to 2020 in South Korea. The so-called Nth room refers to a series of chatrooms operated by a 24-year-old man named Cho Ju-bin, who sold sexual exploitation videos through these rooms.

According to reports, at least 10,000 people used these chatrooms and some 74 people, including 16 underage girls, were exploited.

Videos circulating in the chatrooms involved grotesque sexual acts and acts of self-harm performed by blackmailed women and even middle school girls and their names and addresses were often posted with the videos, according to a report from Quartz.

The report said that one user even live-streamed himself raping a girl after luring her to a motel room.

The sexual abuse case has astonished and angered Chinese netizens, who have called for more attention to be paid to the health and safety of women.

The case is an example of a new form of sex crime against women, Sun Xuemei, one of the founders of the Beijing-based Girl's Protection Foundation and chief editor of, told the Global Times on Sunday.

"It is an important lesson for other countries around the world. I think one of the reasons behind the repeated emergence of sex crimes, especially those involving young girls, is due to a shortage of appropriate sex education," Sun said.

Since the South Korean scandal was exposed, Chinese media including The Beijing News have investigated whether Chinese women and girls have experienced similar abuse. 

According to a report from The Beijing News, China also had illegal websites offering obscene videos, some of which were pay-to-view platforms. Some videos posted on these websites show adult males molesting little girls.

China's authorities responsible for policing obscene online content have investigated these illegal platforms and found they are all overseas websites that couldn't be opened when the authorities investigated, People's Daily reported.

"Even if operators and users of these websites escaped this time, the government should not stop investigating. We must protect women and especially juveniles from any form of abuse," one netizen on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo commented.

Sun emphasized the importance of education. 

She noted that some girls do not understand sexual abuse and do not recognize obscene behavior, so they cannot realize when they are being abused.  

"Schools and parents should not avoid teaching sex education to children just because they feel embarrassed. The right ideas about sex can prevent victims in the future."

For example, women are more likely to report to the police and ask for help from others if they are sexually assaulted if they were properly educated about sex at an early age because they will not feel guilty and place the blame on themselves, she said.

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