Adults can choose themselvesAfter Director Kim Ki-duk’s latest movie “Moebius” received the “restricted screening” rating, criticisms were renewed about the Act on Promotion of Motion Pictures and Video Products. In 2008, the Constitutional Court ruled that the law’s definition of the “restricted screening” was unconstitutional. The law had defined movies in the category as ones that require certain restrictions on screening, advertisement and promotion.
The clause is a clear violation of the constitutional principle that a legal clause must be clear and precise. And it was, in a way, unbelievable that such a law had been approved by the National Assembly.
The 2008 ruling was the third time the Constitutional Court expressed concerns about movie censorship and the rating system. Since then, the National Assembly revised the law to define “restricted screening” movies more clearly. Under the revision, such movies were defined as ones that are extremely sensational, violent and anti-social, which meant that their screening, advertisements and promotions require some restrictions because they can seriously harm human dignity, social values, good-natured traditions and the public’s sentiments.
It is still questionable if such ambiguous expressions serve the Constitution. Furthermore, we have to ask if we really need to keep the “restricted screening” rating or not.
The rating system is unavoidable but it must be in harmony with the Constitution. In the 2008 ruling, Cho Dae-hyun, then Constitutional Court justice, said the restricted screening rating is so extreme that it amounts to practically banning the screening of the movie. He also said that distributing and screening obscene films is punished by the penal code and it is questionable if there’s a need to have the rating to restrict a movie’s screening.
Today, no theaters specializing in showing “restricted screening” movies exist. So a movie that receives the rating is practically banned from screening. Therefore, the rating actually functions as censorship.
Some contend that the reality of not having a specialized theater in Korea and the legal issues must be dealt with separately, but the argument is half-right and half-wrong. That’s because a country must pay more attention to the actual outcome of implementing a law and a system rather than just simply creating them.
Only a few “wise men” are making decisions to restrict or deprive other adults of a chance to watch a movie after they see them first. It is also questionable if this system is workable.
It is natural for many people to feel uncomfortable about unfamiliar works of art that upend established sentiments and thoughts. But it is foolish to create a system to ban the appearance of something unfamiliar or unexpected because of an uncomfortable feeling. Many great ideas and sentiments that are familiar today were actually rebellious when they first appeared in the past. If we avoid facing such things - if we avoid the new - we have no choice but to stay in the past.
In our society today, efforts to explore humanity and any kind of new world are oppressed while words and actions that threaten truth and democracy are freely spread under the protection of the powerful authorities. Unfamiliar but deep thoughts are ruled out while familiar but shameful thoughts are promoted overtly. That is why our society keeps pushing back to the past, not advancing into the future.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author is an attorney at law firm The One.
By Cho Kwang-hee