[FOUNTAIN]TV ads tackle taboo subject of safe sexKorean dictionaries are welcoming a new word, aepil. It is a Korean word referring to a condom. The Korean Anti-AIDS Federation chose the name from a public contest, and it means “what you need when making love.” Shy guys no longer have to hesitate at the drug store and can just say “aepil please.”
Korea started its first public campaign to encourage the use of contraception on television networks in October.
It’s estimated that 1.7 Koreans contract HIV every day, supporting the main campaign’s theme that Korea is not free of the disease.
The man and woman in the advertisements are wearing sunglasses and covertly hand over an aepil like a scene from a spy movie. The sneaky scene illustrates a common notion that sex is still a taboo in Korea. But by poking fun at the secret way sex is dealt with in Korea, it could be interpreted as subtly stressing that talking about sex is still shameful, indecent thing.
After tuberculosis and cancer, AIDS is nearly synonymous with death. There was a time when tuberculosis meant a death sentence. AIDS has a high mortality rate, but researchers are working on improved treatments. However, society still gives a cold shoulder to AIDS patients. Patients say that prejudice and social stigma can be as painful as the disease itself. Just as the word “cancer” is used to describe something evil or malignant that destructively spreads, AIDS has earned a similar notoriety.
In the 1988 book “AIDS and Its Metaphors,” acclaimed American critic Susan Sontag wrote, “It seems that societies need to have one illness which becomes identified with evil and attaches blame to its ‘victims.’” Just as syphilis was the French sickness to the English, the German illness to the French and the Chinese disease to the Japanese, the prejudice that AIDS is a disease of certain races and sexual minorities is spreading from America to the world.
When the United Nations designated Dec. 1 as the World AIDS Day, the international community was advocating not only collaboration to fight against the deadly disease but also a reconsideration of the notion that only heterosexuals are enjoying equality. The efforts to fight AIDS in Korean society can be only valid when we free ourselves from viewing AIDS as a scene from a crime movie.
by Chung Jae-suk
The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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