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But perhaps as you’d expect, they’re generally not using protection. A quick report from The Daily Focus on Wednesday:
While the national total number of STD cases has dropped overall, the numbers of people aged 65 and over contracting STDs has risen sharply, it emerged on the 28th.
The Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service presented its “Current Situation Regarded STD Treatment Recipients” report to Assemblywoman Son Sook-mee of the National Assembly Health Welfare Committee, according to the data of which the number of cases of people aged 65 and older receiving treatment for STDs was 44,000 in 2007 and 64,000 in 2009, a rise of 43% in just 2 years.
In 2007, people 65 years and older accounted for 4.0% of all cases of people treated for STDs, but this has risen to 5.5% as of March this year.
Little information to go on unfortunately, but Seoul residents may be interested in placing that into the context of the prostitution culture around Jongmyo Park in Jongno, which caters to the thousands of male retirees that spend their days there. From story #13 in a “Korean Gender Reader” post from March last year:
Prostitution Answers Sexual Needs of Senior Citizens?
The first time I visited in Jongmyo Park in Seoul in 2000, naturally I remarked on the hundreds of mostly male retirees there to my friend visiting from Japan, who rightly pointed out that they “didn’t particularly have much to do nor anywhere in particular to do it,” so why not play Korean chess all day there? In hindsight though, many would much rather be doing something else, and it’s almost surprising that it took so long for prostitutes to encroach on this captive and – let’s call a spade a spade – somewhat desperate market.
Here, the Korea Times reports on the ensuing problems of unsafe sex, the sale of fake Viagra and “men’s stamina” products, and the general increasing seediness of the area. You can also read discussions about it at ROK Drop and The Marmot’s Hole.
One surprising omission in the Korea Times article though, was the fact that the area between Jongmyo and Tapgol Park is also “packed full with gay bars and hotels catering to gay clients”, as noted by regular commenter Gomushin Girl. Still it does end with the pertinent point that:
…the social atmosphere of viewing senior citizen’s sexual desire as a nasty matter has worsened the situation. “Sexual desire is a desire not only shared among young people but also old people. But our society is sill stuck in the obsolete Confucian-based perception that labels desire as an undesirable state, playing a major hurdle in setting a sound sexual culture for the aged,” said Prof. Lim Choon-sik at Hannam University’s social welfare department.
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And accordingly, probably the most notable if not the only “recent” Korean film to depict the sexuality of the aged – Too Young to Die (죽어도 좋아; 2002) – was heavily censored. As noted at KoreanFilm.org:
The filmic career of this independent digital feature about an elderly couple in love has followed an unusual arc. It began at the pinnacle of respectability, being selected to screen in the Critics’ Week section at the 2002 Cannes International Film Festival. After receiving a number of very positive reviews, it went on to be selected for the Toronto International Film Festival’s showcase of Korean cinema, and then received a special grant from the government-supported Korean Film Commission to help finance the film’s transfer to 35mm film for a release in Korea. Then, alas, the film was submitted to the nation’s Media Ratings Board, where it was judged unfit for public viewing and banned from release in ordinary theaters.
Too Young To Die is based on the true story of Park Chi-gyu and Lee Soon-ye, a man and woman in their early seventies who met, fell in love, and then rediscovered sex. The couple, who play themselves in the movie, seem little different from a couple in their twenties. They tease each other, fret about their hair, take snapshots of themselves, argue over trifles, and leap into bed with unabashed frequency. Indeed, watching them forces you to rethink all your stereotypes of what it is to be old.
In particular, as Gomushin Girl mentioned in the context of the excessive censorship of women’s sexuality in general:
…the key scene of fellatio was darkened and shortened significantly before it could be released. I would suggest that it was not just the fact that the couple was elderly that made the sex scenes so controversial, but the gusto and relish that the woman took in the acts.
Which raises the question of if there have been any other depictions of aged sexuality in Korean popular culture in the past 8 years (positive or otherwise), as perhaps that experience put directors off? If you know of any, then please let know, but regardless I’d wager that we’re likely to see more soon; after all, with Korea rapidly becoming the most aged society in the world, then audiences (and rating boards) can only become more sympathetic to the subject over time.
In the meantime, can anyone think of any areas in other Korean cities where retirees and prostitutes regularly meet?