Seoul: A South Korean court on Monday awarded a rare jail term to a woman for secretly photographing a male nude model, in a case that sparked controversy over double standards.

High-tech South Korea has been battling a growing epidemic of so-called ‘molka’ or spycam videos, which largely involve men secretly filming women in schools, offices, trains, toilets, changing rooms and on the street.

Spycam crimes reported to police surged from around 1,100 in 2010 to more than 6,500 in 2017, and many offenders share or sell photos and videos online.

According to official statistics, about 98% of offenders are men - ranging from school teachers and college professors to church pastors and police officers - while more than 80% of victims are women.

But in the latest case the woman in her 20s - also a nude model - was sentenced to ten months in prison for taking a picture of her male colleague at a Seoul art college and sharing it on the internet in May.

She was arrested days later and paraded in front of television cameras while police raided her home to search for evidence - described by many activists as an uncharacteristically swift and aggressive response.

Patriarchal values are deeply ingrained in South Korea despite its economic and technological advances.

State data shows only 8.7% of high-tech peeping Toms are jailed on their first conviction, with most only fined or receiving suspended terms, seen by many as a slap on the wrist. "The whole response by the police to this rare case in which a victim is male is truly unprecedented," said Seo Seung-hui, head of the Korea Cyber Sexual Violence civic group. "We rarely saw them act so quickly for countless cases in which victims were female," she said.

The case of the model - who has not been named - was a catalyst for a recent series of mass women's rallies in Seoul, at which protestors accused the police and court of treating male victims and offenders more favourably than women.

Smartphones sold in the South are required to make a loud shutter noise when taking pictures, but many offenders use special apps that mute the sound or turn to high-tech spy cameras hidden inside eyeglasses, lighters, watches, car keys and even neckties.