[FOUNTAIN]A little obscenity can boost a career

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[FOUNTAIN]A little obscenity can boost a career

There was a time when octagonally shaped matchboxes could be found in just about every Korean home. Goya’s “The Naked Maya” was reproduced on the boxes’ covers. In 1970, the Supreme Court of Korea ruled that the manufacturer, U.N. Matches, had “profaned the masterpiece, turning it into an obscene picture that is obviously pornography.” That was Korea’s first obscenity case. Standards were stricter then, but the matchboxes sold like hotcakes.
That same year, the novel “Banno,” whose title means a servant who betrays a master, was accused of being obscene. But after seven years of testimony and litigation, it was absolved of the charge. “The expressions are lewd, but the purpose is sound,” the court ruled. “Banno’s” first print run had been just 1,500 copies, but by the end of the court case it had become a bestseller.
In 1996, a play called “Miranda,” a dramatization of John Fowles’s novel “The Collector,” became the first theatrical performance subjected to an obscenity prosecution. Its leading actress and actor both appeared onstage naked. The producer was given a one-year suspended jail sentence. A joke soon circulated that actors now had to appear naked for a play to succeed.
“Yellow Hair,” a movie filmed in March of 1999, had a three-way love scene. Denied a rating in its first run, it received the equivalent of an R rating in its second, and attracted more than 200,000 people.
In 2003, there was a nude photography fad among female celebrities. Although the actress Lee Seung-Yeon got in trouble for posing nude in pictures with a “comfort woman” theme, some people were able to make billions of won off the photos by way of the Internet and mobile phones.
A few years ago, after flashers, or “coat men,” started to become a phenomenon around university neighborhoods, the actor Go Myung-hwan became well-known for playing one in the movie “My Boss, My Hero.” Sigmund Freud, it might be noted, saw that kind of exhibitionism as a sexual perversion, a mental illness that resulted from a person’s inability to control his sexual instincts.
Last weekend, there was a major incident on a broadcast network when two young men performing in a rock concert exposed themselves on live television. It was obscenity, of course, but were these performers merely showing symptoms of exhibitionism, or did they have another goal in mind?
Since when is it necessary to treat audiences this recklessly in the pursuit of money and fame? It is said that there aren’t even specific laws that can be applied to punish this kind of broadcasting “accident.”

by Yi Jung-jae

The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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