Caribbean Bay spycam suspect arrested??? My spycam tech speculation update

spycam girl arrested
The suspect, Choi (27 or 28 years old) is brought into a police station in Yongin, a suburb of Seoul.

The Caribbean Bay shower room spycam suspect was arrested on Aug. 25, about one week after the video clip she shot went viral online here in South Korea.

I took a slightly different approach when I first blogged about it by looking at the technology the woman used to pull off her crime, as this story had already been reported ad nauseam.

Now, this will be the second and last time I post anything about it, but I need to to update my initial speculation as to the kind of technology she employed because a lot of new information was uncovered.

South Korea’s ever intrepid netizens posted captured screen shots like this one all over the interweb. Based on the news at the time and that photo, I had speculated on what kind of spycam tech the woman may have employed.

spycam incident at caribbean bay Screen-Shot-2015-08-17
The suspect caught herself in a mirror in the Caribbean Bay shower room, while she commited her crime. A spycam tech back fire?

But first, before I go ino that in the interest of a little background, it should be noted (as I posted last week), the screen shot here is the result of the spycam shooter inadvertently capturing herself in a mirror while she was surreptitiously sneaking vids of naked women in the shower room at this super popular South Korean water park, Caribbean Bay.

Based on the netizen-distributed screen shot, I had speculated that she may have used a simple periscope iPhone case, such as  COVR Photo (pictured here below). It simply uses miniature periscope tech to redirect the smartphone’s camera. It is also designed to look like a simple iPhone case. The idea being if you snap pics or record vids like this you will capture more naturalistic moments. The price company sells them off their web site run from $55 to $69.99.

I emailed the company to ask them what they thought and got this response:

“COVR Photo is a family-run business with the goal of capturing life’s most special moments in a simpler way without the intrusion of technology. As the industry leader in smartphone lens-case technology, we make it our responsibility to set an example for how current and future companies like ours should brand, market, and conduct themselves,” said  Thomas Hurst, Founder & President – COVR Photo in an email to me on this topic.

COVR Photo for iPhone 6 and iPhoneS6
Covr Photo uses miniature periscope technology to redirect the smartphone’s camera and is designed to look like a simple iPhone case.

I noted in the email to him that spycam tech is really common, the device could be any number of similar technologies, but that his product does some what resemble the device in the screen shot. To that point, Thomas Hurst said this:

“As you said yourself, the technology is common. As a leader in smartphone lens-case accessories, COVR Photo is committed to doing everything we can to ensure that our patented COVR Photo cases are being sold in the market we’ve invented it for.”

“That said, as with any company who is on the forefront of technological advancement, how people choose to use that technology is based on their own morality. There will always be people who choose to misuse technology for the worst possible outcome. Unfortunately, situations such as the water park video in South Korea have been happening long before the advent of smartphone cameras or camera-lens cases.”

Sure. Technology is to some extent “value neutral.” But in the case of spycam tech, I would maintain that the vast majority of people are not mindful of how easily their privacy can be compromised.

Back to the tech. Based on statements reported in the Korean press, the hidden cam shooter appears to have used spycam tech similar to, but not necessarily the very same, as the one pictured below, a DVR 225 by KJB Security Products, Inc. Another company making a similar device, the ICM-12, by Taiwan-based Clever Intelliegence Unity, Inc. This device below looks similar to both brands.

spycam tech photo aug 29 2015
Spec summary of the miniature camera: The spycam is designed to look like an extended power case for iPhone 4, 4s, 5, or 5s. It has a pinhole lens with 1080pHD recording,UI software with 12 video settings, third of an inch MP3 Color Camera with wide dynamic range, and auto orientation and focus. They run about $408.99 on amazon.

So, based on those reports since her arrest, as I said I need to update my speculation. After she was caught she was quoted telling police that she used a “miniature spycam video recorder from Taiwan,” one that is made to look like an iPhone battery charging case, anyways that according to Korean press reports.


Based on her statement — again, as reported in the Korean press — I think the spycam tech she used was probably something like this one,  a miniature camera made to look like a battery charging case.

After the suspect’s face was revealed like it was in the mirror of the shower room at Caribbean Bay, the police were able to start a simple identity search. But apparently they could not cross-reference that vid clip of her face with CCTV at Caribbean Bay entrances and other locations because — and again, as quoted from Korean press reports — all of the security footage from Caribbean Bay had already been deleted.

The suspect, identified as Choi (27 or 28 years old) was arrested on Aug. 25 at 9:00am at her residence, after a domestic violence call was made by Choi against her father. The father apparently assaulted her as a result of discovering she borrowed money from relatives and about 900,000 to 1 million won for three separate videos she shot at three water park locations including the Caribbean Bay video.

She told police she got the camera from an unidentified man that she had met in an online chat site. She gave the camera back to him and also sold him the videos.

Police in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province south of Seoul  booked Choi and charged her with sexual assault using a hidden camera. The crime carries up to five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of W10 million ($9,000).

South Korean police on Aug. 27 also arrested a man in connection to the crime surnamed Kang and aged 33.



Caribbean Bay hidden video appears to have been shot by iPhone spycam accessory

The perp behind the spy cam incident in South Korea that went viral and infuriated thousands of netizens — not too mention millions of women here — appears to have used a simple $70-dollar iPhone spycam accessory.

Promo photo of Everland’s Caribbean Bay

In case you do not know, a video clip went viral on the internet here in South Korea during the week Aug. 17, showing dozens and dozens of young women showering at what appears to be Caribbean Bay.

Now, for those of you who don’t know about Caribbean Bay, let me sum it up this way, so we can get to the main part of the story. It is a water park that sells sex to teenagers and young adults here in South Korea.

It has long been called a meat market for young people to hook up. I nothing against that. God bless them. As an older slacker nerd, I have never even bothered going there, because I knew better. I would just embarrass myself. Caribbean Bay is  water park for the young and the hot. By the way, it is located just south of Seoul in Yongin City, Gyeonggi Province.

(And yes the place is super popular and crowded. Well, maybe less so after this scandal.)

Spy cams have been around for years– decades even– but the tech is getting much better in recent years in terms of battery life, frames per second and pic resolution.

Popular spy cams on the market include Black Box Mobius Pro Mini Action Camera, which is about two-figures wide and retails for about $80.00, and Photo COVR case which allows the photo-clicker to snap sneaky pics and video.

COVR Photo is made by a Bellevue, Washington-based startup. More on that later.  Sneaky pervert videographers are a huge concern in South Korea, maybe more here than in other big cities around the world. The Seoul Metro Police even designate the period from April 1 to July 31 as “Subway Sexual Assault Crackdown” to scare off and/or nab wannabe spycam pervs.

The poster from 2014 reads “Subway Sexual Assaults Intensive Crackdown.” The dates of the crackdown on the poster are: April1 to July 31. Is it a scare crow measure, or are the cops really cracking down?

Police focus on the city’s public transportation network which is vast and  crowded. The place with highest reported number of cases of pervy spycam activities is the area around Jongno 3-ga Station, 91 out of 971 cases in 2013. That is really a lot. Think about it. There are 100s of subway stations in Seoul and just one station out of 100s sees more than 10 percent of the total number of cases the police handled in 2013.

The incident of course infuriated women here, and it agitated Korea’s netizens to no end, too, but it also embarrassed Caribbean Bay’s parent company Everland.

Seoul Police on Aug. 18 said they started an investigation after a complaint from the Everland Resort, a company that owns the Caribbean Bay water park. But you have to wonder if the company is not also liable for allowing people’s privacy to violated like this. If you have an amusement park one should be able to expact a basic level of safety to be assured by the managers and owners, including privacy being protected to some basic extent. But that is just me, maybe.

Police said Wednesday they believe the 10-minute video footage titled, “Korean Water Park Shower Hidden Cam Videos Released,” was filmed last year before being released on a U.S.-based website. A woman in her 20s is suspected of having secretly recorded the footage.

Why do people think that a women in her 20s in particular did it. How in the world could they know that? Well, because of Korea’s netizens of course. It appears some of them analyzed the vid-clip and discovered that the person responsible for shooting the video clipped herself in a mirror for a split second. She appears to be using a device resembling a cell phone, and is pretending to be texting while secretly filming:

Netizens caught a split second reveal by the alleged perp who appears to be using COVR Photo iPhone spy cam accessory. What do you think?

The device she is using appears very much like COVR Photo. Doesn’t it? When Google Glass started shipping out
in April 2013 out to early testers privacy advocates were worried. I mean, it is true that Google Glass wearers could snap secret photos or video of anyone they were looking at.

Recently, however, two fully funded crowd sourced projects have proved that the humble iPhone can be just as secretive for sneaky snaps. COVR Photo makes taking a photo on your iPhone pretty inconspicuous.  To be  honest, this so-called “spy cam” is simply one more iPhone accessory. And as the web site says, it is meant to be able to snap “natural looking” pics and video. The COVR Photo case is made for the iPhone 5 and 5s and iPhone 6 and 6S. It features a “periscoping lens.” That means you can position the phone flat in your hand to candidly snap pictures without the subject  notices.

COVR Photo for iPhone 6 and iPhoneS6


COVR Photo for the iPhone 5/5S

Basically, you can appear to be looking at t
he screen on your phone while actually snapping a photo of the per
son or object directly in front of you, as seen below.

That is exactly what the perp is doing in the screen shot. So, I leave it to you the reader. Is it a hasty conclusion on my part to identify her spy cam device as a COVR Photo iPhone accessory? I will leave that to you guys and gals to decide.

Samsung, LG holds top spot as LCD TV woes continue

This story was written originally for ZDNet Korea on Aug. 11, 2015.

Samsung and LG held on to their market leader positions in LCD TVs for the second quarter as global shipments dropped 6.4 percent to 48.25 million units on weak demand resulting from a soft global economy and weaker currencies in emerging markets, analysts said.

Samsung held on to its position as the LCD TV leader in the second quarter with 10.5 million unit, a volume comparable to that of the first quarter. Perennial rival LG was runner-up but its second-quarter shipments dropped 5.3 percent due to poor sales in emerging markets and slowing Chinese domestic demand, according to figures released by TrendForce.

Over all dominance in the LCD market by South Korean brands widened slightly in the second quarter as well, with Samsung increasing its lead by 1.4 percentage points to 21.8 percent. Even though the number of TVs shipped by LG was lower, the company’s market share nudged up by a fraction of a percentage point to 14.7 percent.

A global slump in demand for panels is to blame with Chinese makers of LCD TVs hit hardest by low sales during the Chinese Labor Day and the Dragon Boat Festival, according to the TrendForce figures. Shipments by Chinese vendors TCL and Hisense dropped by 19 and 12 percent, respectively.

South Korean analysts pointed to a soft global economic outlook and weakening currencies in emerging markets for the continued slump.

“LG’s second quarter result was poor and Samsung’s profit was marginal. The biggest reason is the overall economic situation and a decrease in TV demand in China,” said Lee Seung-woo, an analyst at IBK Investment & Securities.

Going forward, the soft global economy and an over supply will stunt buying during the holiday seasons in Europe and the US on the one hand and in China on the other, he said.

“In the latter half of the year, numerous holidays across the globe will generate market demand for TVs. China will have sales events related to the Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day, while the United States and Europe are readying for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. However, the uncertain global economy and the need to reduce excess inventory mean the stock up demand will not be as aggressive as anticipated,” TrendForce said.

Cutting display costs

But ultimately, as the future of LCD TVs depends on the technology underlying display panels, Samsung is looking to invest in producing larger displays more cost-effectively, according to one technologist specializing in LCD displays.

“In order to maintain the business there is no way except for putting more money in making larger sized [TVs],” said professor Lee Shin-doo of Seoul National University. “Once Chinese makers start producing LCD TVs from 10.5 generation [glass substrates], then there is definitely going to be a huge surplus and the price should go down very quickly. That is why Samsung took so long to make a final decision where they are going to put their investment for the 10.6 generation.”

Generations in display production represents the size of the ‘mother glass’ used to cut out the display panels. The larger glass means more yields of display panels, allowing Samsung to save costs during TV production.

Chinese rivals have already reportedly began investing in 10.5 generation factory lines to take advantage over South Korean and Taiwanese rivals.

Samsung is reportedly investing in LCD manufacturing facilities that uses 10.6 generation glass substrates with production scheduled to begin in the second half of 2017.

But it remains to be seen whether that will make a difference to the bottom line for world’s largest maker of LCD TVs, IBK’s Lee pointed out.

“Those kinds of decisions are inevitable because Samsung is expected to make those investments as a market leader,” he said.

A strategy to ship more pricier premium TVs is also not an alternative. “Even if LG and Samsung focus on the high end, those kinds of markets are not as strong as they first expected.”

Can South Korean smartphones beat back ‘market squeeze’?

This story was written originally for ZDNet Korea on Aug. 7, 2015.

As it faces challenges at both the high- and low-end of the smartphone sector, the global market share of South Korean electronics companies is threatened like never before.

The makers of ultra-high-performance smartphones overloaded with flashy specs are getting hammered by touchy feely Apple rich with “human feeling and a user friendly experience” at the high end and ever faster and more reliable Chinese handset makers at their rear flank.

That will ultimately mean big players Samsung and LG electronics could be faced with an unwinnable war of attrition over market share and profit margins.

“The main reason for the success of the Galaxy series _ in particular, its SII, SIII and S4 _ was that there were no Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei and Xiamu,” said Lee Seung-woo, an analyst with Industrial Bank of Korea. “But Samsung’s premium has since decreased in relation to these Chinese manufacturers.” Samsung first unveiled its Galaxy SII in February 2011.

Perhaps that cool machine-like performance led Korean companies to market dominance, and they have since maintained a dominate market share worldwide. But is the heyday of Korean smartphone companies over?

“Korean companies mostly focused on the electronic performance of their smartphones and not UI or UX and a user friendly style, in contrast to Apple iPhone,” said Lee Shin-doo, a Seoul National University professor who specializes in display technology.

The role of what UI or UX play in a digital device is highly debated among IT professionals _ indeed, as is their very definition _ but, despite the vagueries of the ideas, they could mean all the difference for the future of Korean smartphones.

“Korean companies put their weight on the semiconductor industry, such as really fast apps and processors, particularly Samsung, but [these companies] pretty much ignored the user-friendly, human-feeling experience,” the professor said.

Apple, China threat

But now that hold is slipping, as Samsung and LG face competition from Apple on the high-end in the smartphone segment and from high-quality and inexpensive phones manufactured by a coterie of Chinese companies, such as Huawei, Xiaomu and Lenovo. The three Chinese companies broke into the Top 5 in terms of worldwide market share in the second quarter of this year, according to IDC.

Samsung reported on July 30 a 7 percent decrease in revenue year over year and profit down 8 percent, squeezed at both the high- and low-ends by these competitors. And LG’s 2nd quarter announcement was even gloomier. Its April-June operating profit slid 60 percent from a year earlier.

“Samsung’s market squeeze is inevitable so they should delay the further market squeeze by these Chinese manufacturers, said IBK’s Lee. “Basically the smartphone market will no longer see major new innovations.

Last year Samsung’s brand value dropped vis-a-vis these other Chinese smartphone makers.”

Samsung global market share slipped in the second quarter as well. Samsung’s worldwide market share inched down to 21. 7 percent, with 73.2 million units, a year over year decrease of 2.3 percent, according to IDC.

The combined global market share of Chinese smartphone makers beat out their South Korean counterparts in December last year, according to a report by the Federation of Korean Industries.

Nine Chinese handset producers including Huawei, Xiaomi, Lenovo edged out Samsung and LG by more than a percentage point with 31.3 to 30.1 percent.

But even there, the company was tripped up by a supply snafu of the edge models, too-little-supply to meet larger-than-expected demand for the new curved handset. Older Galaxy models, however, sold briskly thanks to deep discounts and promotions throughout the quarter.

A LG spokesman said the company plans to differentiate by strengthening its brand and offering better after sales service. Samsung has stated during its conference call for the second quarter that it will secure both sales and profits and clearly delineate its low- to high-end brand.

Export-driven Korean economy in smartphone peril

Release of the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 edge plus next week even more important. Broadly speaking, the release might be more important still for the country.

The country’s total exports saw a decline in July for the seventh straight month. While total Korean exports slowed, its IT products as a share of those exports continues rose.

Korea’s IT exports amounted to $173.8 billion in 2014, a 2.6 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Ministry of Science ICT and Future Planning. ICT exports accounted for 30.3 percent of the overall exports, $573 billion. The Galaxy S6 and the G4, flagship smartphones of Samsung and LG, respectively, led the growth.

A forward-looking strategy for Samsung and LG must include faster machines that also integrate a human touch, according to Lee Sin-doo.

“What Samsung has to do is not only emphasize machine-based and high-performance devices, but [it] also has to put into it a human face.They have to integrate it into their future smartphones,” he said. “Look, young people want something that is not just a toy but also a friend.”

The situation is a little more complicated for LG smartphones. The professor pointed out the crucial fact the LG cannot rely on a semiconductor business the way Samsung can, as well as one other key ingredient that LG is missing.

“It may be very difficult for LG to differentiate its phones from other competing phones. China is developing high performance but inexpensive phones and Apple phones have an excellent IUXU experience, emphasizing design and an interactive style.”

LG gains NSA certification for G4

This story was written originally for ZDNet Korea on Aug. 6, 2015.

LG Electronics announced Thursday that its flagship G4 smartphone has received NSA certification for US government use in managing classified information clearing the way for the South Korean tech firm to supply it to government agencies there.

In November last year, a slew of US security agencies gave LG’s G3 smartphone the security stamp of approval, including Defense Information systems Agency, Security Technical Implementation Guide, as well as the National Security Agency.

The last few generations of LG flagships, including the G3 and the G4, come with major security features made by LG, including the Knock Code security lock and Kill Switch. The South Korean tech giant also offers GATE enterprise security solution for the devices.

LG GATE is an enterprise-grade technologies package that provides secure communication for IT managers and employees, the company said.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a hot trend, especially in the US, providing secure communication on remote management devices is becoming an important salable point.

Security certifications might not be a buy factor for the average consumer, but it does open up opportunities for LG to gain new enterprise clients in the US looking for an Android device that doesn’t compromise on security

The approval by the NSA also allows LG to tout its devices as reliable to other nations.

The G4 specs include an Android 5.1 Lolipop OS, features a 5.5-inch QHD display screen, a 16MP f/1.8 camera and 3GB RAM and its recognizable leather-coated plastic case.

In a performance evaluation conducted by Consumer Reports in July, the G4 scored 78 out of 100 and ranked higher than the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6, an LG spokesperson said.

SK Hynix, SanDisk settle tech-leak dispute, extend licencing agreement

This story was written originally for ZDNet Korea on Aug. 5, 2015.

SK Hynix announced on Wednesday that the company inked a deal with SanDisk Corp. to extend an intellectual property licensing agreement and multi-year commercial relationship in which Hynix supplies its cutting edge DRAM products to SanDisk.

The deal also includes a settlement of the trade secret misappropriation suit filed by SanDisk in 2014. Hynix is the fifth-largest semiconductor producer in the world and SanDisk is the third-largest manufacturer of flash memory.

“SK Hynix is able to further focus on strengthening its technology competitiveness by putting the legal dispute behind and expanding its collaboration with SanDisk,” a Hynix spokesperson said.

Under the agreement, which expires on March 31, 2023, SanDisk will release SK Hynix of its liability pertaining to the trade secret litigation and license intellectual property rights to SK Hynix in exchange for license and royalty payments to be made over the duration of the agreement.

Hynix declined to say how much the company has agreed to pay in patent fees to SanDisk, “except for ‘the fact’ that the suit has been settled,” the spokesperson said.

“We believe this resolution acknowledges the value of our intellectual property while providing SanDisk access to DRAM solutions desired by our customers for their mobile and SSD Applications for many years to come,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, president and chief executive officer of SanDisk, in a press statement by the California-based company.

In December 2014, SK hynix also agreed to settle a lawsuit with Japanese tech firm Toshiba Corporation and, instead, cooperate on developing new technologies.

Toshiba sued the South Korean company in March of the same year through the Tokyo District Court over the alleged theft of its NAND flash memory chip technology.

LG vows further legal action against ‘knock offs’ of Tone Bluetooth headsets

This story was original written for ZDNet Korea on Aug. 3, 2015.

LG Electronics promised on Monday further legal action against providers of “knock offs” of its Tone series of Bluetooth headsets.

The South Korean electronics giant became aware of the knock offs as early as July 2014 when costumers began to bring them into LG after-service centers around the world.

LG won two legal cases in South Korea. The company promised on Monday it will also take legal action in other countries in order to protect the company’s brand image. But it admitted that it could prove more difficult as trademark infringement cases are sometimes not as cut-and-dry as they were in the two cases pursued in domestic courts.

It is near impossible to measure the impact the counterfeit products are having on sales figures of LG Electronics Tone series, a company spokesperson said.

“We’re more concerned about the damage to our reputation as the quality of these counterfeit products is inferior and customers are bringing them to LG service centers and being told we cannot repair the counterfeits. These customers are confused and understandably upset,” he said.

LG last month celebrated the sale of 10 million of its Tone series Bluetooth headsets globally since launching them in October 2010.

LG does not know how many counterfeit Tone Bluetooth headsets there are out there. Fake devices were found at markets in such countries as the United States and South Korea and even Saudi Arabia. The most popular brands of the Tone headsets for counterfeiters are the HBS730, HBS800 and HBS900.