More than 1600 unsuspecting motel guests in South Korea were filmed and live-streamed to a specialist website for paying customers to watch. While the news has sparked concerns about privacy in vacation accommodation, there are ways to check for hidden cameras for peace of mind when travelling.
This week, local media in South Korea reported that two men have been arrested in connection with a hidden camera scandal which saw 42 rooms in 30 accommodations in ten cities across the country targeted. Police said there was no indication the hotels were complicit in the scandal. The suspects, who have not been named, hid tiny cameras in places where they wouldn't be detected such as wall sockets, hair dryer holders and satellite boxes.
It's reported that the cameras were installed between November last year and the beginning of this month. More than 800 intimate videos were then live streamed to a specialist website (with some 4000 members) that charged viewers for a monthly subscription. The scandal is part of an endemic in South Korea known as "molka," which is the secret filming of women in public places without their consent such as offices, trains, bathrooms and changing rooms.
While the issue is widespread in South Korea, there have been incidents worldwide where travellers have discovered hidden cameras in holiday accommodation. Last year, a British couple discovered a hidden camera in the alarm clock of their Airbnb rental in Toronto, while a couple renting a Florida Airbnb property in 2016 found a camera hidden in their bedroom's smoke alarm detector.
It's a frightening scenario but there are a number of ways to check if your room has been fitted with a hidden camera, including looking out for objects in your room that are out of the ordinary or pointed directly at your bed.
Tech expert Jess Kelly from Newstalk FM told Lonely Planet Travel News that you should always check the property for tell-tale signs that surveillance equipment is present. While hosts have the right to protect their homes, they must always flag the presence of CCTV with guests and cameras should never be installed in bathrooms or bedrooms.
"It would be nice to think that you never have to worry about hidden cameras when staying in an Airbnb, however, I still find myself looking on bookshelves and above curtain rails every time," Ms Kelly said. "The big giveaway tends to be a red, blue or green light. Some cameras are motion-sensored, so keep an eye out for a light that just suddenly appears as you walk the room.”
If you still have a sense that something isn't right, the best thing to do is report your concerns with either hotel management or Airbnb (depending on where you're staying) and leave the property.