The parents, who have been sending their child to a state-run daycare center, recently reported to Busan Gijang Police Station their concerns that the child might have been abused at the facility and requested access to two weeks of video recordings from a surveillance camera set up there.
However, officers at the station informed the parents, Jan. 20, that they would have to pay the extravagant fee.
The money, the police explained to the parents, was to cover the cost of editing the video to censor everyone other than the parents' child to protect their privacy in accordance with the country's Privacy Act. The video could only be released in its original state if both the parents and all the people in the video agreed to allow the parents access to the uncensored version.
"Upon receiving the parents' request, which involved the revealing of (confidential) information, we asked a video company for an estimate of the cost of censoring the video," an officer from the police said. "The company said that editing the video, large in size at 174 gigabytes, would cost more than 100 million won. That's what we told the parents."
According to the Kookmin Daily newspaper, the estimate would be around 120 million won based on the country's private video censoring business: with an average rate of 25,000 won per minute, a childcare center usually operates eight hours a day, five days a week.
The parents couldn't afford to pay. Instead, they watched a surveillance video provided by the daycare center but what they saw was heavily censored, with their child only discernible in the video and the rest was so blurred the only thing they could discern was people as vague shapes moving around. The video was useless to the parents looking for clues from the people around their child.
"I never meant to spread the video or accuse the daycare center," the child's mother said. "I only wanted to watch the video. I cannot understand the police who told me to pay such a huge amount of money to censor the video. The video provided by the daycare center was blurred all over and I couldn't figure out a single thing."
Police put the financial burden on the parents based on the country's child abuse investigation manual, which was made and distributed nationwide by the National Police Agency in 2019. The manual instructs police to bill those requesting video footage for the editing costs.
"With the Privacy Act in place, we couldn't show the uncensored video to the parent," the police officer said. "But we secured and watched the original video showing the child and consulted with a child protection agency."
While video censoring costs vary depending on different business rates, a one hour-long video record usually costs from 400,000 won to 700,000 won, according to the daily Financial News. For a video record of several days, the price easily jumps to tens of millions of won.
In the parents' case, since it was hard to pinpoint a certain time segment to catch a clue suggesting child abuse, they had to watch all the recordings made over a two week period ― drastically raising the editing cost.
The country required all daycare centers in 2015 to install CCTVs based on the revised Child Care Act. The revised law also mandates the facilities to share videos with parents or guardians of children for the purpose of protecting their children. The revision followed growing cases of child abuse in the country: it jumped from 213 in 2013 to 427 in 2015, 840 in 2017 and 1,384 in 2019.
The revised law doesn't state anything about video censorship. Instead, it states that whatever the law doesn't cover is subject to the Privacy Act to prevent the misuse of information, according to the Financial News.
The parents' legal representatives criticized the police force for "wrongfully interpreting the Privacy Act," claiming it was too sensitive to the law. They said it prevented children's guardians, who have the right to view the CCTV footage, from accessing the material due to the heavy cost.
source: The Korea Times