Sexual predators have increasingly been using anonymous smartphone messaging apps such as Line and KakaoTalk to groom children for abuse, with 262 minors victimized in the first half of this year, more than double the reported number a year earlier, the National Police Agency said on Thursday.
Of the minors, 133 were coerced into sexual acts, 79 were forced into prostitution in some way, while 30 became victims of child pornography.
A total of 120 cases involved Line, although this marked a drop of 30 compared to the second half of last year, agency data showed. The agency attributed the decline — the first on a semiannual basis — to changes that Line has introduced to make it more difficult for those under the age of 18 to trade IDs with adults on open forums.
KakaoTalk, which has been slower in taking preventive measures, accounted for 117 cases, nearly doubling from the second half of last year, the agency said.
Messaging apps enable smartphone users to contact other people anonymously, without knowing their phone numbers or email addresses.
ID exchanges were linked to 36 victims of sexual offenses in the second half of 2012, the first time the agency examined the link. The half-year total has since been rising, hitting 117 in the first half of last year, and 235 in the six-month period that followed.
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