[FOUNTAIN]A provocative cancellation“You seem to believe that descriptions of sexual acts are literature and descriptions of sexual desire are a form of art.” So wrote a law professor at Seoul National University in an article published by the Seoul Sinmun, a daily newspaper in Korea, on March 14, 1954. The professor was furious about the publication of a serial in the newspaper which featured sexual encounters. The author who provoked this professorial wrath was Jung Bi-seok, who wrote a serial called “A Free Madame,” about a professor and his wife. The wife had an affair with one of her husband’s pupils and the husband fell in love with another woman. This story described sex in a way that was unprecedented at that time. Thanks to this, the newspaper’s sales jumped from 30,000 to 90,000 copies.
In the 1970s, provocative descriptions became widespread and explicit in serials published by daily newspapers, which led to a debate on whether or not newspapers should publish such stories. “Hometown of the Stars,” written by Choi In-ho, was the most popular serial at the time although there were many other examples.
When harsh military rule was imposed on Korea the dailies had less freedom to report facts and thus serial stories became a key weapon in the battle for sales.
When democracy was restored, the popularity of serials in dailies went down. One reason is that movies have become more sexually provocative and the Internet has given people access to a deep mine of sexual material. But a better explanation is that since society was returned to democracy, news articles have become more interesting and more dramatic than fiction.
So it is surprising that a provocative serial story has once again become a prominent feature in a daily in this digital era. The Blue House responded to this in an even more provocative way. In Japan, serial stories with provocative material have become political issues, once in 1997 and again in 2006, but in neither case did the prime minister cancel his subscription.
If the Blue House wants to say it also has the right and freedom to quit its subscription, it could have done so quietly. This incident has led to allegations of media suppression. As there are many idealists in the Blue House, it’s possible to believe that their intention was innocent. But the Blue House has now leaked confidential material about the affair “by accident.” Government officials cannot have enough to do if they can waste time on this issue, especially when they have yet to sort out other problems such as the North’s nuclear issue and the real estate policy.
*The writer is Tokyo correspondent
of the JoongAng Ilbo
by Yeh Young-june