Court Lifts Restriction on Sexual Movies

      January 23, 2009 09:00

      The taboo surrounding sexual content in films is to be lifted as the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court recently ruled that the "restricted screening" rating -- a powerful tool for film censorship -- unconstitutional.

      The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the import and distribution of U.S. film "Shortbus," ruling to annul the "restricted screening" rating imposed on the movie by the Korea Media Rating Board, on Thursday last week. Restricted screening virtually means a film cannot be screened in regular movie theaters. Thanks to the court's ruling, "Shortbus" can be screened in cinemas. The controversial movie graphically portrays non-simulated sex scenes, such as group sex and masturbation. It has played at numerous domestic and international film festivals, and has been recognized for its artistic merits by critics.

      Korean films are likely to feature more vivid depictions of sex from after the ruling. Sex scenes in Korean movies have gradually become more liberated, despite a constant struggle with the censorship system. The 1956 film "Liberated Madame" was the first to present female sexuality onscreen, and an age of erotic movies began with "Madame Aema" in 1982.

      Movie stills of "Liberated Madame" (1956) and "Madame Aema" (1982)

      The film industry and the government censorship board have always clashed over the issue. With the abolition of restricted screening, it will be up to prosecutors and the court to judge whether a film is too lewd.

      The film industry welcomes the court's decision. Film Bom CEO Jo Kwang-hee said, "Unlike TV, film audiences play an active role in choosing what to watch. It is inappropriate to censor films when there is so many pornography easily available online."

      However, some are already raising concerns about the possible side-effects of the ruling. Ji Myung-hyok, professor at Kookmin University and the head of the Korea Media Rating Board, said, "I am concerned that if films like 'Shortbus' are screened in theaters, it will cause moral chaos."

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