Censorship isn’t exclusive to China

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Censorship isn’t exclusive to China

Lately, actress Fan Bingbing was the center of controversy in China.

Fan is the star of “Empress of China,” a drama series that began airing at the end of last year. The television series tells the story of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor to rule China. The popular drama was suddenly discontinued after a week for “technical problems,” but there were speculations that censorship was behind the suspension. The series resumed five days later, but it only fanned suspicion. The upper body shots of the actresses on the show were no longer seen. Her close-ups only showed her face. It was obvious that the shots were modified to make sure the actress’s cleavage was not shown on television.

No news followed it up. It has not been clarified whether the broadcaster or the censorship authorities are responsible for editing the show. However, people on social networks and the Internet are already blaming the censors. China is a socialist state where censorship is widely applied. Whenever an incident that is unfavorable to the government or a sensitive event happens, Internet search keywords are blocked. So companies such as Facebook that advocate freedom of speech do not speak up in China. It must therefore have been so easy for the censors to get involved in a television drama.

As unpleasant as it may sound, it is still a story about a foreign country, which I thought was only happening in China. But then a red light came on in my mind. I remembered an even more absurd and ridiculous example of censorship on Korean television.

Recently, I watched a BBC documentary on a cable network, and I almost spit out my coffee while watching a segment on Renaissance architecture. All the private parts of the Renaissance masterpieces were blurred out. On another show, a part of the body of Adam on Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” was covered up. Expletives are frequently muted on television, and sometimes it is hard to understand what people say.

Of course, there are broadcasting standards. It is not desirable to see unpleasant or obscene images or hear inappropriate language on television. But censorship should be based on context and common sense. When in doubt, positive judgment should be given. That’s how the scope of imagination is expanded and a creative economy is made possible. Too much is as bad as too little. We cannot expect a country that blurs parts of David or Laocoon and His Sons to enjoy cultural prosperity. Hopefully, it won’t happen off screen.

The author is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 31

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