(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with arrest of soldier)
SEOUL, April 6 (Yonhap) -- A military court on Monday issued a warrant to arrest an Army soldier for his alleged involvement in a high-profile sexual blackmail case that has ignited public fury over the exploitation of women and girls through online group chat rooms.
The private first class, whose identity has been withheld, is suspected of distributing content of women performing gruesome sex acts under coercion in collaboration with the so-called Nth room case's prime suspect, Cho Ju-bin.
Following the general military court's decision, the military police will receive related documents from the civilian police upon their completion of analysis of his confiscated items, the Army said.
"The Army will strictly and thoroughly investigate the case and give strong punishment based on a clear understanding of its significance and severity," the military said in a release.
The Nth room case's main culprit, Cho, is accused of luring and threatening victims into producing sexual content and distributing such photos and videos via Telegram chat rooms. He was arrested last month.
Police said at least 103 people, including 26 teen girls, are believed to have been exploited in the case. Authorities have so far listed the nicknames of about 15,000 paid members of the chat rooms and are now tracking down their personal identities.
Earlier in the day, the defense ministry said it will join a pan-government task force to devise measures to prevent similar cases from recurring and educate soldiers not to commit such crimes using their phones.
Since last year, conscripts have been allowed to use mobile phones in barracks after work.
"The defense ministry will strongly and strictly punish digital sex crimes, such as the recent Telegram Nth room case, by thoroughly collaborating with civilian investigative authorities," ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told a regular press briefing.
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