South Korea rejects US extradition request over child abuse website

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Laptop use (file image)Image source, EPA
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A Seoul court argued the man was useful for future investigations

A South Korean court has denied a US extradition request for the man behind one of the world's largest child sexual abuse websites.

Son Jong-woo, who ran the site Welcome to Video, served 18 months in South Korea for producing and distributing indecent images of children.

Following his initial release in April, Son was taken back into custody after a warrant was issued for US extradition.

But he will now be released again after the request was denied.

Campaigners had urged the court to send him to the US, where he would have faced a harsher punishment than in South Korea.

He was indicted in the US in August 2018 on nine counts for his operation of the website, which he operated on the dark web.

On Monday, the High Court in Seoul decided that having Son in the country would be helpful in the fight against child exploitation.

"It cannot be ruled out that the extradition could hamper South Korea's investigation into sexually exploitative content," the court said.

"The decision should not be interpreted as exonerating him. Son should actively cooperate with the investigation and face proper punishment."

Son was arrested in March 2018 and authorities found around eight terabytes of videos of child sexual abuse during the arrest process.

He was found to be the operator of the website Welcome to Video - a covert online den for people who traded in clips of children being sexually assaulted. Among the victims was a child of just six months.

Authorities tracked down more than 300 other people connected to the website in a wide range of countries including South Korea, Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Spain, Brazil and Australia.

Son operated the site from 2015 until March 2018, when it was taken down.