[EDITORIALS]Editing films from the benchThe Seoul District Court has ruled that three scenes from the controversial forthcoming film “The President’s Last Bang,” which dramatizes the assassination of former President Park Chung Hee, must be deleted before its theatrical release. In doing so, the court partly accepted the petition of Park Ji-man, the only son of the former president, who argued that the movie defamed the Park family and should be banned from public view.
But because the film’s producer has said it will appeal the ruling, and because cultural and film-related groups are opposed to it, the controversy will likely continue.
The court said that freedom of expression is not an unlimited right permitting infringement upon others’ honor and personal rights. “Fact and fiction are blurred in the movie, and therefore, it infringes upon the rights of Mr. Park,” read the court ruling.
The court also said that the movie does not look like a fictional film, but like a documentary, because it has footage from the Busan-Masan uprising against the Park regime at the beginning, develops the assassination scene theatrically, and puts footage from Mr. Park’s funeral at the end.
As the court pointed out, freedom of creation and expression are not unchecked. Our Constitution reads, “Neither speech nor the press shall violate the honor or rights of other persons.” It is generally agreed that the clause restricting press freedom should be applied to artistic expression as well.
But cultural groups say that such a ruling deprives them of their right to create and express themselves freely. Indeed, the ruling is controversial in that it means that the court can damage artists’ creative work.
Whether courts are qualified to edit works of art is another controversial question. If such a ruling is widely applied, and portions of artworks are deleted according to court order, then it is doubtful that the works’ artistic value can remain intact. Of course, whether or not movies should be considered to be in the realm of pure art is another controversial issue.
There are no established court rulings concerning the deletion of scenes from a movie. We expect a higher court to make the ultimate ruling, since the producer intends to appeal. In particular, we believe it will be necessary to determine whether or not the deletion of parts of artistic works is something that can be ordered by the courts.