Korean (Movie) Censors in Retreat?

(Sources, edited: left, right)

With so much attention on restrictive censorship in K-pop these days, it’s easy to overlook how much standards in movies have actually been relaxed in recent years. See my latest column in Busan Haps for more information, especially if you’ve never heard of Shortbus before…

But please let me reiterate here though, that the freedom to show more sex and nudity in popular culture is just one aspect of becoming a more sexually liberal society. For sure, it’s a step in the right direction, and can have positive knock-on effects, just like the first kiss in a Korean ad in 2009 lifted the taboo on PDA for a lot of young couples for instance. (Yes, only anecdotal; but prove me wrong). But on the other hand, with the (re)criminalization of abortion by the Lee Myung-bak administration, recent attempts to limit access to the contraceptive pill, and the continued stigmatization of single mothers, you could reasonably argue that Korea is really just as sexually conservative as ever. No matter how much T&A you can see on the silver screen now, and which is often (usually?) just for financial reasons anyway.

In short, it’s complicated. Anyone that’s been here more than a couple of years, what impressions do you get? And how do you think things will change after the elections?

8 thoughts on “Korean (Movie) Censors in Retreat?

  1. Sorry to post a comment just to say this, but I thought if it was going to be said it might as well be sooner rather than later: The speech bubble on the image is wrong.It should read K-팝은..?!


      1. I was just rereading your post and I had a thought. You’ve often talked about how, in western cultures celebrities are almost encouraged to misbehave, and that certain things are tolerated of them that wouldn’t be of “normal people” in society, whereas on the other hand Koreans expect far more controlled and “better” behaviour of celebrities than what you’d commonly find among “normals”. However, looking at the points you raise in this post, it seems that now there’s a trend in both music and film – even on tv to a certain extent – where celebrities are allowed to do far more risque things as long as it’s part of the performance. children can be dressed like… well, we know what they can be dressed like, as long as they’re doing it for a K-pop performance. Actors can take part in racy sex scenes as part of a film but knowledge that they might be doing something similar in real life is not acceptable. I don’t really have a point, just an observation that in itself might not even be very accurate. What do you think?


        1. Yes, and the same goes for homoeroticism. I’ve seen a teenage boy in drag to an extremely racy performance in front of the whole school district as well as groups of boys doing the most overtly homoerotic dances together. I’ve seen two of my female students, one playing a male role, do a dance act that would violate the PDA rules of almost any American school. The one doing the female role hand her hands all over the “male’s” body, but since they’re both girls and homosexuality doesn’t exist here, it’s fine for one to feel up the other’s T&A in front of the whole school since they’re just pretending one’s a male (even though the short-haired butch one playing the male role would be immediately strongly suspected of being a lesbian in any western school).


    1. When you have to be over 19 to watch someone under 19 do something, there’s probably something seriously messed up, yes.


  2. Is it better to say that the relaxing of sex and nudity is a step in the wrong direction (or perhaps a step side ways) , whilst full access to contraceptive pills, on demand abortion, etc,. *would* be a step in the right direction?


  3. Thanks for all the comments. Alas, I’ve caught a bad flu and am slowly and painfully typing this in bed with my netbook sorry, so I’ll try to respond properly tomorrow after a decent night’s sleep and lots and lots of 유자차…


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