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Biden & Putin Begin With High-Stakes Meeting In Geneva Soon; IDF Strikes Gaza Over "Incendiary Balloons"; Biden Prepares For Putin's Tactics Ahead Of Meeting; Biden Prepares for Putin's Tactics Ahead of Meeting; Report Examines South Korea's 'Pervasive' Digital Sex Crimes. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired June 16, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm John Vause live from CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Fred Pleitgen coming to you live from Geneva right here in Switzerland, where as you can see, it's a beautiful day, Lake Geneva, the water is still very calm. But, of course, the atmosphere here is already very much heating up as we're looking forward to that historic summit between President -- of the U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Now, the highly anticipated summit is still about -- let me check our watch, is still about seven hours away. And, of course, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin have met here before, but this will be the first face- to-face meeting that they have as equals, as heads of state of their respective country. Now, the build up to the summit, of course, has been immense. The U.S. has imposed strict ground rules on the Russians, Putin will arrive first. So, the U.S. president will be kept waiting. They will not appear together for a joint news conference. And that certainly is something very important.

If we look back to, for instance, the summit in Helsinki back then because, of course, President Trump and Vladimir Putin and the press conference that happened there that still, of course, so many folks in the U.S. and in Russia still very much remember. This will be Mr. Putin's fifth meeting with a U.S. president or a meeting with his fifth U.S. President that he's dealing with.

And Joe Biden, of course, in his very long career has also dealt with five leaders of either the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation. Now, the significance of this meeting, of course, cannot be overstated. Kaitlan Collins has some of the details.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden arriving in Geneva for the main event. In less than 24 hours, he'll sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the world will be watching.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you ready for tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys. Thank you. Thank you so much.




COLLINS: White House officials are already lowering expectations for the outcome telling reporters they aren't expecting a big set of deliverables. The White House says the notoriously late Russian leader will arrive to the venue before Biden and the two will at first meet with just one staffer each in the room before being joined by a larger delegation. The venue for the historic summit, an 18th century villa, a reminder of this 1985 meeting also in Geneva, between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. But if this was Reagan's mantra --




COLLINS: Biden is offering his own version.


BIDEN: I'd verify first and then trust. In other words, everything would have to be shown to be actually occurring. It's not about, you know, trusting, it's about agreeing.


COLLINS: Although it will be Biden's first meeting with Putin since taking office, it is far from their first face to face.


BIDEN: I have met with him. He's bright. He's tough. And I have found that he is a, as they say, when I used to play ball, a worthy adversary.


COLLINS: Biden has met with at least three Soviet leaders and two Russian presidents in his career. Then Vice President Biden took aim at Putin in Munich in 2015, after Russia illegally seized Crimea from Ukraine,


BIDEN: America and Europe are being tested. President Putin has to understand that as he has changed, so has our focus.


COLLINS: White House aides are confident that this summit with Putin will be nothing like the last one the world watched with the U.S. president.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.


COLLINS: Then President Trump sided with Russia over U.S. intelligence on election interference.


TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


COLLINS: Sources say Biden plans to confront Putin over election interference, ransomware attacks, detained Americans, and human rights.


BIDEN: I'm going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate if he chooses. And if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cyber security and some other activities, then we will respond.


COLLINS: But in his first interview with a U.S. outlet in three years, Putin is already telegraphing his own response.



VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have been accused of all kinds of things, election interference, cyber attacks, and so on and so forth. And not once, not once, not one time did they bother to produce any kind of evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: And the White House says they expect President Biden and

President Putin to just meet for about four to five hours tomorrow, of course, that is subject to change, depending on how those meetings are going. One thing that we do know is they say nothing is off the table when it comes to topics. But when it comes to actually what's on the table, there are not going to be any shared meals between the two delegations, which, of course, does speak to the level of formality that the White House is bringing to these first talks with Putin. Kaitlin Collins, CNN, traveling with the President in Geneva.

VAUSE: So Fred, often ahead of summit, officials will talk about deliverables, at the end of the meeting, what's been achieved, you know. One senior administration official outline three basic, very basic expectations, establish areas of common interest where both countries can work together, communicate areas of U.S. vital national interests that will trigger a response to any Russian activity, which runs counter to those interests, and clearly explain the U.S. President's vision for American values and national priorities.

You know, it seems like Putin is in for a good talking to which we'll probably get to set him straight, but should they not do the trick, is there anything which the U.S. can offer, which would be inciting enough or potentially harsh enough to deliver a real change in Russian behavior?

PLEITGEN: Yes. Yes. Why, I think there's very little and I think one of the interesting things is that you've just mentioned, those deliverables that you just pointed out, that doesn't really seem very ambitious, that really seems like they are sort of setting the tone for the next couple of years and how these countries work together. It's all very general. There's really nothing in the form of, you know, specific policy goals are specific goals on the ground in any sort of area that the two countries are trying to achieve.

It really is, these two leaders really seeking each other out, feeling each other out, seeing how they can go together and trying to set the relationship on a more stable, as they put it, in a more predictable footing. Now, of course, there are things that the U.S. can do that can hurt Russia, but it really doesn't seem as though that's something that President Biden wants to do. President Biden wants to see, it seems, lay out where the U.S. stands, where the U.S.'s red lines are, and that the U.S. will respond to areas where Russia acts aggressively, or acts against the interests, or what the U.S. perceives to be its interests or the interests of the U.S.'s allies.

But, of course, the U.S. does have tools at hand to hurt Russia, be it in the cyber sphere, be in other spheres as well. But I do think that that's something that President Biden wants to scale back. He wants a more predictable relationship with Russia. Big question is whether or not Vladimir Putin wants that as well, John.

VAUSE: Yes. And so once the U.S. President makes all this clear, and let's assume in a few months nothing has really changed, and the Kremlin is still doing what the Kremlin does, is there any indication of what the response will be to that trigger? And, again, is this being kept deliberately vague by the U.S.? PLEITGEN: Why I think it is being kept deliberately vague. But I think one of the interesting things that President Biden said, after the NATO summit when he spoke at that press conference there, he said, look, he wants to go on to Vladimir Putin, he wants to tell him he believes that there are areas where the countries can cooperate. And he believes, of course, that there are also areas where the countries are still very, very far apart on certain issues, and that he wants to invite Vladimir Putin to play a more constructive role in all of those areas.

But if he does not do that, then he did say that the U.S. will respond in kind. And, of course, the U.S. does have big tools to actually do that, especially if you look at the cyber sphere, for instance, which I think is one of the big areas of contention, I think it's probably also going to be one of the most hotly debated areas in all this, the recent hacking by the Russians, hacking also by criminal gangs as well, that are operating from Russia, where so far the Russians have said there's very little that they can do about that if those criminal gangs don't violate Russian laws.

The U.S. is expecting more from Russia on that. Very difficult to see how the two countries can come together there. Now, of course, the -- this summit is one where there has been some criticism of it in the past, in the run up to the summit, and President Biden has said that European allies support his decision to meet with the Russian President, but not everybody is on board with that decision.

There has been criticism, for instance, former chess champion, Garry Kasparov, he is also, of course, a very famous Russian pro-democracy activist, and he says that President Biden, in the run up to the summit, gave up too much and he accused President Biden of showing weakness. Let's listen to him.


GARRY KASPAROV, RUSSIAN PRO-DEMOCRACY LEADER: Putin already got what he wanted, a summit. He might get more, of course, but the main exchange has already happened. President Biden gave the credibility of the United States to a brutal dictator. Let's not forget, you know, Biden called Putin a killer, rightly so. And the President of the United States, having a summit was a killer who attacked his country, the United States, on multiple occasions. It's the only sign of weakness.



PLEITGEN: And I am joined now by former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, sir, first of all, thank you very much for taking the time with us late in the evening for you, early in the morning for us here in Geneva. And I want to go straight to that criticism that came there from Garry Kasparov. But I think also it actually came from some of the U.S.'s Eastern European allies in the run up to the summit as well. Do you think that President Biden, in order to make this summit happen, showed weakness? Do you think that possibly he gave up too much, for instancing -- for instance, announcing even before the summit that the U.S. was not going to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: So I think President Biden does go into this summit in a strong position, certainly based on the fact that he is coming with all the support of his allies, where he's just been for the last couple of days. That gives him a lot of strength. You mentioned, and many people have talked about the lack of sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, that's troubling. I would have preferred to see sanctions on that. The President, of course, is trying to shore up alliances that have been damaged. And so one ally, of course, is Germany. And that was a balancing act.

Nonetheless, I think, overall, I think the President goes into this in a strong position. He's, as I say, he's got support from the allies. He also is going to, I think, make it very clear, where there are problems that the Russians are causing not just for the United States, but for the neighbors, Russia's neighbors, for the allies in Europe and for international security more generally.

PLEITGEN: Yes. You, of course, were ambassador to Ukraine and Ukraine was a topic in the run up to this summit, not just because of Nord Stream 2, but also because of course, President Zelensky came out and basically begged President Biden to meet with him before he meets with Vladimir Putin. President Biden did not do that. Then, of course, there was also the fact in that press conference from President Biden, where he was asked whether or not Ukraine would be admitted to NATO.

He said, look, essentially Ukraine still has a pretty long way to go. How do you think the Ukrainians are viewing this? And how significant do you think Ukraine is going to be in the discussions in this summit?

TAYLOR: I think Ukraine is going to be a very important topic in the summit. Again, President Biden is going to lay out where the Russians, in particular Mr. Putin have caused problems. And one of the big problems that they've caused, of course, is when they invaded Ukraine, and they tried to annex, illegally annexed part of Ukraine, Crimea. So it's clearly going to be an issue. It's as long as the Russians are occupying part of their neighbor, that's going to be very difficult to reestablish any kind of rules of the road, any kind of predictability, any kind of stability that the President has been talking about.

So I think Ukraine will be a serious topic. And Ukrainians, of course, are watching this very carefully. They were pleased, I will tell you, that President Biden did call President Zelensky before meeting President Putin later on today.

PLEITGEN: Yes. I think one of the interesting things that we've seen in the past, this is, you know, if we look at the basically escalating conflict between the U.S. and Russia, it's essentially been going on since 2012, and in 2014, you had all the events around Ukraine, around Crimea. So far, as far as sanctions have been concerned, other actions have been concerned, it really seems as though Vladimir Putin has been impervious to pressure, and has continued to fuel that conflict. Do you think that there's anything that President Biden could do to make Vladimir Putin change course?

TAYLOR: Yes, I do. I think there are things that the United States can do that President Biden can do. And I believe that the sanctions that have been imposed so far, for the actions in Ukraine, actually have been effective. Since the sanctions were put on, the Russians have not moved further into Ukraine. They've not gone further into Ukraine, as they -- as people worried they might, because they know that the sanctions can be worse. There are more sanctions that can be imposed on Russia that they're clearly concerned about.

That's not the only thing, of course that the President can do. We can clearly support Ukraine and -- militarily, politically, diplomatically. One thing that might change the Russian attitude, toward Ukraine in particular, is if the United States were to join those negotiations on how to get sovereignty, how to remove Russians from Donbass and Crimea.


If the United States were enjoying those negotiations, as President Zelensky actually has invited, then it might be a change in the Russian attitude and negotiating posture.

PLEITGEN: Yes. So we know that the Ukrainians have been pushing for that, Ambassador William Taylor. Thank you very much for joining us this morning, and all the best to you out there in Washington, DC. Thank you, sir.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Fred.

PLEITGEN: So as you can see, John, there is really a lot at stake at this summit. There is really a lot of anticipation of this summit. And it's going to be very interesting to see how these two leaders come together and whether or not really anything can be achieved between the two. But certainly both sides say that the meeting is still going to be extremely important John.

VAUSE: And very different from what we've seen over the last four years, Fred. Thank you.


VAUSE: We'll take a short break. When we come back, Israeli airstrikes once again targeting militants in Gaza. A new Israeli Government apparently does not mean a new approach in dealing with the Palestinians. But details on this developing story in a moment. And, later, will South Korean police regularly search public restrooms for hidden cameras? There are new details on how the government has failed to stem a surge in so-called digital sex crimes.


VAUSE: Gaza has been rocked by a fresh round of Israeli airstrikes, which were in response to so-called incendiary balloons, which were released by the militant group, Hamas, in Gaza, and Israel says started a number of fires once they lost altitude and landed in Israeli territory. The IDF released images of their first airstrikes on Gaza since last month's ceasefire, which ended 11 days of deadly violence.

Notably, though, for the first time in a dozen years, these airstrikes were ordered with an Israeli Prime Minister not called Netanyahu. CNN's Hadas Gold joins us on the line from Jerusalem. And Hadas, if anyone was unsure if a Naftali Bennett government really different from a Netanyahu government when it comes to Hamas and Gaza, they now have their answer.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, and also there are reports that Naftali Bennett had been pushing Netanyahu and the previous government to act with more force in response to these incendiary balloons that are launched by the militants from Gaza. They float over the border and into Israel. And according to some reports, there are somewhere around at least a dozen fires that were started as a result of these balloons.

And, of course, keep in mind that yesterday wasn't just the balloons that were launched, there was the flag march that took place in Jerusalem. This is an annual mark usually attended by right-wing Jewish groups. And it takes place to celebrate when Israel took control of the Western Wall and East Jerusalem in the 1967 War. This march was supposed to take place last month on Jerusalem. It's canceled at the last minute when Hamas began firing rockets towards Jerusalem, of course, that helping to trigger that 11-day bloody conflict.


So this March was rescheduled under Netanyahu's government and Naftali Bennett, his new government, one of their first moves was to actually just allow the march to take place as scheduled. There was a huge police presence because part of the march was expected to take place in front of Damascus Gate. This is the main entrance for Muslim worshippers into the Old City. It's the one -- it leads directly into the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. So it already was a provocative move to have these right-wing Jewish groups marching dance with the Israeli flag in this plaza in front of the gate.

Now the police did not allow them to enter the Old City through the gate. They instead marched along the outside and entered through the Jaffa Gate. But they were -- I was there. They were heard chanting slogans such as Jerusalem is ours, Jerusalem is our home. At one point, some of them were even chanting death to Arabs. So clearly a very provocative move. It was condemned by the Palestinian Prime Minister, Hamas. It also issued a warning.

Now some of these incendiary balloons were actually launched from what we understand before the march took place. But there had been a big question after that ceasefire was first struck in May was what would happen, what would Israel do if Hamas and other militant groups took action that wasn't rockets, things like these incendiary balloons that were sent over? And now we have our answer, and that is airstrikes, and it clearly goes to show you how tenuous, how fragile this ceasefire is. And, of course, the question is, what happens next? Will there be a

further response from Hamas militants? Hamas spokesperson saying on Twitter that the bombing of the Gaza Strip is a failed attempt, he said, to stop their people's solidarity and resistance to the whole scene to cover up what they say the unprecedented state of confusion for the Zionist establishment in organizing the so called flag March.

Now Hamas and the other militant groups did not immediately respond to the airstrikes with rocket fire into Israel. But the situation along the border between Israel and Gaza remains extremely tense. And it shows the possibility of an imminent and a serious escalation cannot be ruled out, Michael.

VAUSE: Hadas, thank you. Hadas Gold there on the line from Jerusalem with the very latest. Thank you.


BIDEN: Americans, we are committed. We have never fully left but we are reasserting the fact that it's overwhelming in the interest of the United States of America to have a great relationship with NATO and with the E.U. I have a very different view than my predecessor. So I'm looking forward to talking to you all about what I'm about to do.


VAUSE: Before traveling to Geneva, the U.S. President met with E.U. leaders to renew the transatlantic partnership and reaffirm America's leadership role, while also taking a thinly veiled swipe at his predecessor, Donald Trump.


BIDEN: When uncertainty is generated politically like that, by the individuals, it also generates some folks who are less than -- how can I say it? Somewhat more like charlatans, trying to take advantage of those concerns. And we see it in Europe, we see it in the United States, we've seen it around the world, this phony populism.


VAUSE: Talks between President Biden and the E.U. range from the Coronavirus pandemic, the climate crisis, tech innovation, as well as trade but it wasn't just all talk, there was one big development to report, resolution to a nearly two-decade old trade dispute. The U.S. and the E.U. have been at odds over government subsidies paid to Boeing and Airbus since 2004. CNN's Anna Stewart explains what the true signals for the future.

Anna Stewart, Cnn Reporter: It took the best part of two decades but at last a truce has been called by the U.S. and the E.U. on the Boeing-Airbus spat. It's being seen as a victory for the new Biden administration and it's also been celebrated by European leaders. The spat dates back to 2004 when both the E.U. and the U.S. accused each other of giving state aid to bolster their own aircraft maker at the cost to the other. This resulted in the WTO, the World Trade Organization, ruling many

years later that both the E.U. and the U.S. can impose tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other's exports. This didn't just hit the aircraft makers in the dispute, it also hit all sorts of products, scotch whiskey, Italian cheese, American tractors, tobacco, these tariffs were actually paused in March of this year by both sides to allow some breathing room for these trade negotiations to take place and, clearly, it has paid off.

An agreement has been reached by both sides on what constitutes acceptable support for aircraft makers and all of those tariffs that were associated with the spat are suspended for five years. The U.S. Trade Representative made clear that this is an example of just how the U.S. and Europe can form an alliance to combat what she calls the unfair trade practices of China and it signals hope for further agreements and some of the trade spats that were not resolved.

One is the U.S. tariffs on European steel and aluminum, and another is the E.U.'s plans to curb the power of America's big tech companies.


On Tuesday, both sides agreed to form a Trade and Technology Council. So I think many more U.S.-E.U. trade talks to come. Anna Stewart CNN, London.

VAUSE: We head back to Geneva. That is where Fred Pleitgen is leading our coverage of this Biden-Putin summit. Fred.

PLEITGEN: And that is, of course, where the tension is building ahead of that summit. We're about -- I would say about six and a half hours away from the two leaders squaring off here at the La Grange or La Grange Villa right on Lake Geneva. Certainly a lot of anticipation, and we'll have much more coverage for you when we return. Stay tuned.


PLEITGEN: Welcome back to our special coverage of the summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin from right here in Geneva. And, of course, in several hours, Joe Biden will have a first face-to-face meeting of his presidency with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Now the U.S. President arrived here in Geneva, Switzerland just a few hours ago. And then late evening of last night, U.S. officials are keeping expectations for the summit fairly low. There are broad disagreements between the two leaders on a wide range of issues including cyber hacking, election interference, and of course, the whole complex of Ukraine and the conflict that's been going on there for such a very long time.

Now the meeting is going to or is scheduled to last about four to five hours and will be held at the lakeside Villa, La Grange, right here in Geneva. There will be no meal, no joint press conference when all of it is over. Of course that's something that is a very, very important detail. The U.S. officials say they have no intention of giving Vladimir Putin a platform like the one he had during the summit with President Trump in Helsinki, of course.

They also say Joe Biden has been preparing for the Russian President's tactics in an effort to avoid the pitfalls his predecessors and other world leaders have faced. CNN's Brian Todd explains.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Helsinki, July 16th, 2018. It was well into their news conference when Vladimir Putin showed just how good he was at playing Donald Trump, gifting the president a custom soccer ball in front of the media.


PUTIN (through translator): Mr. President, I'll give this ball to you and now the ball is in your court.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.


TODD: When the ball was in his court, Trump, in the minds of many, dropped it. He inexplicably let Putin off the hook for Russia's 2016 election meddling.


TRUMP: So I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


Trump's intelligence leaders had repeatedly told him that Trump's intelligence leaders had aggressively tried to interfere in the 2016 vote at Putin's direction, but Trump seemed cowed by the former KGB lieutenant colonel.

TRUMP: People came to me; Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

MASHA GESSEN, AUTHOR, "SURVIVING AUTOCRACY": That looked pretty awful. And we could see sort of the master liar next to this spontaneous, not very experienced public liar.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Putin is a master at playing mind games during these meetings, from his own imposing body language to making his counterpart cringe. In 2007, knowing German Chancellor Angela Merkel was terrified of dogs, Putin brought his huge black Labrador, Connie, into the room. Putin smirked. Merkel put on a brave face.

ANNETTE HEUSER, OTTO BEISHEIM FOUNDATION: She did not blink, because she understands the Russian mindset. She knows that the Russians, and in this case Vladimir Putin, wanted to play Russian chess with her, which means the person who blinks the first has lost. TODD: President Biden now seems determined not to blink with Vladimir

Putin in Geneva. Sources tell CNN Biden has spent long hours over several days, huddling with his top national security officials and aides in preparation, meeting with Russia experts from think tanks. Experts tell us however well Biden prepares, Putin will still tweak him.

JAMES GOLDGEIER, SENIOR VISITING FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: He's going to try to provoke Biden on the issues that are bedeviling American society: the polarization, the issue of systemic racism, the insurrection in the Capitol on January 6.

TODD: What does Biden need to do to not get knocked off balance by Putin? One expert says don't back down on the issue of recent cyberattacks blamed on Russia.

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA: The best that President Biden can do is telegraph that he is -- he is full of resolve, you know, that his government is resolved to respond if the Russians continue, that there will be consequences.

TODD (on camera): Biden's dilemma, one analyst told us, is that he's seeking a stable, predictable relationship with the Kremlin so he can concentrate on countering China. And Vladimir Putin, the analyst said, is determined to be just the opposite of stable and predictable. He'll likely poke and prod Biden and try to create more political division in America for the duration of Biden's term.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


PLEITGEN: And of, course folks, our special coverage will continue all day, so certainly make sure to stay right here with CNN. And John, just a lot of anticipation about how the summit is going to unfold today and how these two leaders are going to interact with one another.

VAUSE: Yes, it's just the beginning of what appears to be a very strained relation for at least the next four years. Fred, thank you. Fred Pleitgen will continue with you in a moment, but we'll take a break.

Still to come here on the cable news network, why digital sex crimes are surging in South Korea and how government response has failed to protect a growing number of women and girls falling victim to illicit, secret filming.


PLEITGEN: And there you have some very beautiful images there of Lake Geneva, of the city of Geneva as the sun is rising here on a very special day. I'm Fred Pleitgen, right here in Geneva, in Switzerland, where U.S. President Biden will face Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since taking office. Of course, the stakes are extremely high, and Mr. Biden has promised

to press the Russian leader on multiple issues, including recent cyberattacks linked to Moscow, of course. That is one of the really big issues.

So it's time for me this hour to hand it back to you, John. And we'll obviously be speaking a lot more about all the issues at hand and also, of course, how much leverage President Biden actually has to try and change the course that Vladimir Putin has -- has embarked on for his country and its relations with the United States.

VAUSE: So many hours until the summit and so much to talk about. Fred, thank you. We appreciate it.


VAUSE: Moving on now, in South Korea, there are new scandals and allegations, from an air force dormitory to a women's restroom in a public high school that authorities have taken no action against the men who either secretly recorded images of women or installed spy cameras in an attempt to do so.

They're just the latest examples of a years-long surge in so-called digital sex crimes. According to data from South Korean police, in 2008, there were just 585 sex crime prosecutions involving illegal filming.

By 2017, the number was up 11-fold, more than six and a half thousand, 20 percent of all sex crime prosecutions in the country that year.

In the following year, a number of laws were changed to deal with this high-tech version of an old, perverted crime, but only after tens of thousands of women rallied across the country, chanting, "My life is not your porn."

And that's the title of a just-released report from the Human Rights Watch, which says beyond tinkering with the law, the government has done little to prevent the damage and harm inflicted on women and girls, finding this: "At the heart of the government response is a failure to appreciate how deep the impact of digital sex crimes is on survivors."

Heather Barr from Human Rights Watch is with us now from Islamabad in Pakistan. Heather, thank you for taking the time to speak with us.


VAUSE: Just to be clear on what exactly a digital sex crime is, your report specifies three types. The first is taking intimate images without consent.

Then there's non-consensual sharing of images that may have been taken with consent, but were not intended to be shared or made public. And the third one, fake or manipulated images often used online to harm reputations, relationships, as well as safety. So the impact on someone, regardless of what it is, which type of

crime it is. It's almost always a woman. It's horrendous. I was learning toward survivor and not victim, but in some cases, the women don't survive.

MEYER: That's right. One of the shocking things about doing this research was that -- that most of the survivors I interviewed described having thought about suicide at some point.

And one of the people he interviewed was the father of a woman who had taken her own life after being the target of a digital sex crime. And I think the thing that's important to understand about these crimes, that I'm afraid to many government policy makers are not understanding is that this is a crime that never actually ends.

Once those images are out there, they can reappear at any time for the rest of your life.

VAUSE: So with that in mind, here's another finding which came with your report. And here's the line: "This trauma is often worsened by retraumatizing encounters with police and justice officials and by the expectation that survivors should gather evidence for their case and monitor the Internet for new appearances of images of themselves, which leaves them immersed in the abuse. Survivors also face stigma which can harm their relationships and access to education and employment." And mentions victim blaming and shaming by police, low sentences given out by judges.

Why is it such a problem in South Korea? Why is it so prevalent, compared to other countries?

BARR: So it's a serious problem in South Korea, and South Korea is not doing anywhere near as well as it should on a lot of different indicators related to gender equality.

But I want to emphasize that this is a problem in every country in the world. I think that, in a sense, you know, South Korea is -- is ahead of the rest of other countries but has lessons that everyone needs to learn.

And part of the problem is that, you know, from -- from the people passing the laws to the police in the police station to the prosecutors, to the judges, these decisions are pretty much all being made by men. And I think that's part of the reason that there's so little understanding of how much impact there is from these crimes.

And just one other thing I want to say about the police is one of the things that I found very shocking is hearing stories about police after a person comes in and says, you know, this happened to me and have to hand over the images as evidence. And those images being passed around the police station and sort of shared and laughed at among police.

VAUSE: That's just horrendous.

Your report goes into some details about one case. Involves a young woman. She turned down some overtures from her married boss. He basically hit on her. After turning -- after turning him down, he gave her a gift. It was a clock. And this is kind of beyond creepy, but it's not unusual. So what are the details in this specific case?

BARR: So, yes, as you said, her boss gave her a clock, but the light from the clock was bothering her. She put it in her bedroom, but she moved it a few times, because the light was annoying her.

And she said that something started to feel weird, because every time she moved the clock, she got a phone call from him. And so, she started searching on the Internet to see what kind of clock it was, and she managed to actually find it, which is pretty surprising, actually, because there are so many different models of spy cams.

But she discovered, of course, that it was a spy cam, that there was a camera in the clock that had been streaming whatever its view was inside her bedroom to her boss's smartphone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including audio.

So she picked up the phone, and she called him, and then she realized that. And she said, you know, What are you doing? And he said, Oh, that's what you've been up all night Googling. So he had actually been watching her try to figure this out.

VAUSE: And he -- there was a sentence handed down in this case, right?

BARR: Yes, so he was one of the very rare people who was actually sentenced to some time in prison. He was sentenced to 10 months.

But in the vast majority of these cases in South Korea, I think in 73 percent of the -- no, sorry, 79 percent of the cases where people have been convicted of filming without consent, their sentence is a suspended sentence or a fine, or both. And there's absolutely no minimum amount for the fine.

So some of these people may have been paying a fine of $50, which is just not proportionate at all to the kind of harm they've inflicted on the people.

VAUSE: It is such a violation. Heather Barr from Human Rights Watch, thank you for being with us.

BARR: Thank you.

VAUSE: Before we go, ending on a lighter note, meet China's newest team of space farers. Beijing is sending three astronauts up in China's first human spaceflight in about five years.

The crew scheduled to launch Thursday morning. They'll orbit the Earth for a three-month stay as they work on China's space station. It's the third of nearly a dozen missions to get the station complete by next year.

Thank you for watching this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Please stay with us. I'll be back at the top of the hour, along with Fred Pleitgen. In the meantime, here's WORLD SPORT. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)