Cyber Hell: Exposing an Internet Horror is the latest documentary on Netflix about the Nth Room Sexual Harassment case that took place between 2018-2020. Directed by Choi Jun-sung of Steel Cold Winter (2013) fame, Cyber Hell is almost an hour and a half long and recreates the events, which are often sensitive and a bit triggering. The Nth Room case was an infamous sexual harassment ring that used videos and images of often underage girls by blackmailing them via phishing. The perpetrators were caught and arrested in 2021, but the case itself caused much anger and uproar in the South Korean society and the internet community.
– Cyber Hell review does not contain spoilers –
Cyber Hell: Is a product of patriarchy mixed with undeterred technology
Cyber Hell starts with an unknown woman (or probably a minor girl, in this case) receiving a message and a link from someone on social media informing her that her photos have been leaked. In her fear, the unsuspecting girl clicks on the link and boom! all her personal info goes to this other person.
From here starts this poor girl and so many other minors’ gradual descent into cruel victimhood as they begin to comply with the quite criminal wishes of this unknown man behind the screen. This is the basic premise of the documentary, joined by journalists and the police who try their best to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
In 2019, came to light a case of more than 100 women getting blackmailed by either getting phished or lured with lucrative job offers into making and sharing sexual content to be shared on Telegram. Two men called “Baksa” (Doctor in Korean) and Gotgot would contact these women (mostly fresh school graduates or still in school) and offer them work for good money for explicit photos of them.
But then they would blackmail them with the photos, which they’d promised earlier that have been deleted. He would threaten to send them to their families and friends or leak them online, he would get their addresses and other info. Then he would sell these on Telegram in various chat rooms called Nth chat rooms where users paid anywhere between 250,000 Won (₹15k) to 1.5 million Won (₹92k) for being admitted.
What is more shocking is the outrageous number of men that flocked these 30 Telegram chat rooms, almost around 25,000 users. The documentary does its best to shield the viewer from the utter cruel nature of these chat rooms. But one simply cannot escape the manner in which the victims were commented and jeered upon by these legions of depraved people, who took immense pleasure in watching these minors suffer, some as young as 8 years. It is a literal Cyber Hell for women out there.
As Cyber Hell progresses, we get to see the depths of depravity men can go to, we see these victims being forced to commit acts of violence on their bodies, humiliate themselves in front of a live audience and whatnot. When journalists began their investigation, even their identities were revealed and threatened in the Doctor’s Room. Since all the transactions took place using cryptocurrency, there was no physical evidence, making an investigation difficult.
Apart from journalists, a duo of students was also working alongside the police, who had originally published an article on the Nth Room. With these three different groups of people working their way towards the Doctor and Gotgot, the case proceeded quickly and soon both were caught. The Doctor’s identity was revealed to be Cho Joo-bin and Gotgot as Moon Hyung-wook, both in their early 20s. Both have been sentenced to serve 42 and 34 years respectively by the time Cyber Hell is released.
Cyber Hell does a very good job of building up the case with interviews with the investigators and police officials involved in the case. In between the interviews and chat messages, there are animations of the incidents, which are a bit sentimental, essentially showing women as trapped. As the documentary ends there are again some sentimental scenes as the police and investigators and journalists reflect on the case and their involvement in it. The courage of the victims is praised as they came forward and made the investigation possible.
But there is no talk of the political or social involvement in cases like these in Cyber Hell. What kind of changes it brought in the legislation of South Korea, how women are treated, and cases of stalking and unsolicited filming have been left out of the documentary. This is not the only such case in the country, only a few years ago, the Burning Sun scandal shocked South Korea. And now that the new president of South Korea openly makes misogynistic claims, one wonders how women will find equal footing with men ever.
Watch Cyber Hell: Exposing an Internet Horror for its gripping story and clear explanation of the chain of events without unnecessary dramatising. The weight of the crime itself makes the documentary compelling to watch, making one wonder what goes on in the minds of criminals. Again, for the lovers of true crime documentaries, Netflix is opening up its horizons in South Korea. Only a few months ago they released The Raincoat Killer, and now this. Hopefully, there are much more true crime shows in store for us in future.
You can watch Cyber Hell on Netflix.Instagram & Facebook to keep yourself updated with the latest news and reviews.