[FOUNTAIN]There's snow on the roof, but...

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[FOUNTAIN]There's snow on the roof, but...

Among the masterpieces of the late Joseon Dynasty's erotic paintings, 10 panoramic pieces depict sexual frolicking among men and women from various walks of life against the background of the four seasons. On the pieces the seal of Kim Hong-do, a late 18th century master painter, is clearly visible. But art experts conjecture that somebody forged the seal of the painter on works that were actually painted in the early 19th century. Among a series of explicit paintings, one of an old couple on the wooden floor of a thatched house catches our eye.

The painter envisioned a lazy afternoon, when the bamboo was swaying in the breeze behind the terrace where crocks of soy sauce were fermenting. A bearded, bald old man is naked and tumescent. In front of him his wrinkled old wife has raised her skirt to encourage his excitement. The scene is too pitiful to call erotic. Some might call it "creepy."

In an old folktale, a mischievous young man impolitely asked a neighborhood granny who was living by herself, "Do you have sexual desire at your age?" Without saying anything, the white-haired lady went into her room and picked up the tongs from her firepot. She poked through the white ashes in the pot and picked up a burning red-hot charcoal to show the impudent boy.

Senior citizens' sexual life has recently become the talk of the town, as the Korea Media Rating Board gave a "Restricted" rating to a new movie titled "Too Young To Die" for straightforwardly depicting sexual intercourse between an elderly couple. The rating is a virtual ban of the movie because under the law, it can only be screened in an R-rated-movie-only theater, and none exist in the country yet.

The number of Korean people of age 65 or older is 3.4 million, or 7.1 percent of the total population. Almost half of these elderly are living without a spouse and cannot even think about doing the things described in the Joseon erotic paintings. According to a recent survey of elderly people of ages between 65 and 70, 90 percent said they still have sexual desire.

The problem in Korea is that senior citizens hesitate to talk about their feelings and their children's generation imposes a double standard. Younger people envy Andre Previn, the conductor, who married a violinist 34 years younger than he, and Anthony Quinn, the actor, who fathered a son at the age of 80. Despite that, they do not want their single parents to find a spouse with whom they can spend the rest of their lives -- as if they would never get old.



The writer is the deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Noh Jae-hyun

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