With red-letter days for both mothers and children, May is often considered the "Month of the Family" in Korea, but theaters across the country are filled with films that are anything but family-oriented. In fact, a whole crop of sexually explicit flicks await moviegoers this month.
"The Scent," which was released last month, features explicit scenes of actress Park Si-yeon in the nude that continue to draw viewers. "A Muse," which opened two weeks later, stirred controversy by showing sex scenes between a teenage girl and a man in his 70s. "The Taste of Money," which has been invited to the 65th Cannes Film Festival, will hit local theaters this week after already grabbing headlines for its steamy sex scenes between veteran actress Yoon Yeo-jeong (65) and Kim Kang-woo (34). The trend is likely to continue in June with the release of "The Concubine" starring actress Jo Yeo-jeong.
While these movies may contain powerful messages, such as remorse over growing old ("A Muse") or criticism of the importance people place on money ("The Taste of Money"), they are hardly congruent with a month traditionally associated with family values.
Nonetheless, this marketing strategy of relying on racy content worked well in 2010. In May and June of that year, "The Housemaid" and "The Servant" drew 2.3 million and 3 million moviegoers, respectively. As they generated a further W2 billion (US$1=W1,147) in DVD and other sales, movie industry bigwigs soon caught on to the fact that such films are well received even at this time of year.
Ramping up the level of sexually-explicit content in domestic films is also increasingly being viewed as a way to fend off Hollywood. Hollywood summer blockbusters swamp the market at this time of year, and 2012 is no exception, with the "The Avengers" drawing 5 million viewers since its release on April 26, and "Men in Black 3" expected to become another hit when it opens here on May 23.
"Korean moviemakers tend to shun releasing films in May," said Lee Chang-hyun at CJ E&M. "But R-rated films can compete with Hollywood blockbusters by targeting the niche market for adult viewers."