TV networks are increasingly turning to sexually explicit content to boost ratings, to the point where even stolid genres like talk shows and family-oriented variety programs are becoming infested with it.
Some of provocative manufactured girl bands toned down their stage antics after objections from the moral majority, but now they are starting to revert. The girl group Secret recently showcased a dance number that was all gyrating hips and splayed thighs, though an outcry prompted them to clean it up a little, while Kara have been appearing with nothing much on and simulating a striptease.
Several talk shows on the three major terrestrial networks have also turned to racy subjects, though a notice appears on screen warning squeamish viewers. And TV dramas with a 15-rating are full of sexually explicit dialogue.
"As viewers are exposed to increasingly explicit content through the Internet and other media, broadcasters naturally ended up pushing the envelope," said Yeom Sung-ho, a former chief of entertainment programs at CJ E&M. "I believe the intention is to make talk shows more realistic that way so they're like the way friends talk to each other in reality."
But others say the only reason is to boost ratings. "This supposed 'honesty' about the taboo subject of sex is just a marketing gimmick to attract more viewers," said media critic Kim Kyo-suk.
The head of a big talent agency admits up-and-coming performers or new programs have to get racier to attract attention in a crowded market.
"With competition intensifying between broadcasters, we're seeing more provocative content and sexually suggestive scenes and dialogue," said pop critic Kim Won. "Networks should try to boost ratings through quality programs instead."
But Shim Jae-woong, a professor at Sookmyung Women's University, holds out little hope. "Broadcasters won't stop airing racy content if it draws a lot of viewers. We'll see content get increasingly provocative, and there's a danger that young viewers will be unable to make proper value judgments."
Shim said broadcasters should be aware of the damage they can cause and take voluntary steps to curb their excesses.