G-Dragon, left, leader of popular boy band Big Bang, gives a sexually-charged performance during his concert at Olympic Gymnasium in southeastern Seoul last month in this image captured from a video of his performance. Singer Yoon Bok-hee sports a miniskirt in this January 1967 file photo.
Sex-Obsessed or Free Expression?
By Park Si-soo
In January 1967, when Yoon Bok-hee, a legendary singer, appeared on TV wearing a miniskirt, she was branded a “public enemy” who threatened to destroy Korea’s strict ethical code.
In April 1973, a barmaid was thrown into jail for sporting a scanty garment that exposed more than 20 centimeters of flesh above her knees.
Such a miniskirt ban is long gone but, ironically, Korea now finds itself debating whether it is overly tolerant.
The debate especially focuses on entertainers, notably singers, in their sexually explicit performances, which some criminologists claim have a lot to do with an increasing number of sex crimes, among the younger generation in particular.
Park Hyung-sin, 38, said she was shocked after watching a music video on television with her nine-year-old son. It was a music video of a popular girl group’s hit song, showing a young couple, scantily clad, in bed kissing and touching each other before ending with a scene insinuating the two were completely naked.
“I blushed in embarrassment at first and became indignant,” Park said. “I fear for my child and wonder what impact it will have on him, when he is left alone to watch it. Then, I was told that many music videos of this kind are available on the Internet. It’s really a big problem.”
In fact, one of the codes for success in the entertainment industry here is getting “sexy.” Actors and actresses as well as singers are competing to show as much of their bodies as possible. Some music videos of singers, which are popular among teenagers, show scenes on the border of explicit sexual intercourse or homosexuality.
“If such films had been shown even a decade ago, they might have created a major controversy,” said a senior producer of m.net, a domestic music television. “We weed out overly explicit scenes and ask entertainment agencies to reedit them.”
Seo Hyun-seong, a music video director, says sexually seductive scenes in music videos are regarded as a “must-have” element to sell.
“With little difference in music style, agencies try to grab public attention with sexily dressed singers,” Seo said. “With no detailed regulations existing, such a trend is likely to continue for a while.”
Such a trend is no longer limited to the small screen or cyberspace.
G-Dragon, the leader of popular boy band Big Bang, has faced changes for a sexually-charged performance during a solo concert in front of 50,000 fans, mostly teenagers, in December last year. During his concert at a stadium in Seoul on Dec. 5 and 6, the 21-year-old singer performed some pseudo-sexual acts with a female dancer on a bed on stage, with heavy breathing and moaning coming out of the speakers.
The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs subsequently filed a complaint with the state prosecution, saying the singer’s performance was too sexually explicit to be available to teenagers. The prosecution plans to summon the singer for questioning.
Yang Hyun-suk, head of G-Dragon’s management agency, said in a statement, “I will fully cooperate with the investigation and take all legal responsibility for the performance.”
Entertainers have also been criticized for the perceived sexual content of certain lyrics and dancing styles.
Part of a song by popular girl group Brown Eyed Girls is “You can climb on top of me, and then I will climb over you, too. We will be out of control in the end. I want to kiss on your bright-white neck.”
Lyrics of another song, by Sandara Park, a member of the popular girl band 2NE1, say “Don’t hesitate. You can have my lips.”
Kang Tae-gyu, an executive at a music label, said “A growing number of boy and girl bands are seeking a competitive edge with obscene contents in lyrics or music video. When I listen carefully to some music, I feel like I’m in an adult-only night club.”
Experts say teenagers exposed to sexual content through TV, music, films or magazines on a regular basis are more prone to be sexually stimulated than those who don’t.
According to a recent survey of 155 teenagers convicted of sexual crimes by Professor Shin Eui-jin of Yonsei medical school in Seoul, nearly 40 percent of them pointed out obscene material on TV and the Internet prodded them to rape or harass a woman.
Ji Jung-soon, an activist of a teenager-protection group, urged the authorities to set concrete guidelines. “Obscene material has already become a part of daily life for our children. Immediate and strong countermeasures are needed,” Ji said.