[Journalism Internship] Lack of parental guidance — insufficient movie ratings leave audiences upset

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[Journalism Internship] Lack of parental guidance — insufficient movie ratings leave audiences upset

Blood splattering, gunshots echoing and body parts flying across the silver screen: These gruesome scenes shocked the audience of “The Witch 2: The Other One,” (2022) who were promised (a far less gory) PG-15 movie.  
Ever since its release on June 15, the movie has been at the center of controversy over its low rating despite the gruesome scenes depicted. The disparity isn’t unique to “The Witch 2,” with other movies also having been released with a seemingly inappropriate rating here often after receiving a much higher rating overseas.  
In 2018, “The Witch 1: The Sub version” was released. It was a box office and critical success: In its opening week; it grossed $6 million and averaged a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 89 percent.  
The film gained attraction because of its well-fleshed-out narrative and gut-wrenching action sequences. However, the movie’s greatest strength was also its main source of criticism as audiences questioned if the depiction of bodily mutilation was appropriate for its PG-15 rating.  
The recently released, highly anticipated sequel “The Witch 2: The Other One” also faced the same criticism as its predecessor. As a result, the Korea Media Rating Board (KMRB), the organization that determines the age restriction for public media in Korea, has been criticized for being too lenient with its grading.  
The organization takes into consideration subjectivity, lasciviousness, violence, horror elements, drug usage and risks of imitation when categorizing films into the PG-12, PG-15 or R categories. In most instances where films are given the R rating, it’s because of the graphic depiction of violence and nudity.  
Posters of movies linked to a dispute over ratings decisions. From left: “The Witch 1: The Subversion,” “The Witch 2: The Other One” and “Believer.” [JOONGANG PHOTO, NEW]

Posters of movies linked to a dispute over ratings decisions. From left: “The Witch 1: The Subversion,” “The Witch 2: The Other One” and “Believer.” [JOONGANG PHOTO, NEW]


“I was sat beside a teenage school student,” said Lee, a mother of two who saw “The Witch 2” on opening night. “I was shocked that they could watch such a gory movie.”  
Lee voiced her fear that images of violence would be detrimental to children.
“It seems like youngsters nowadays are desensitized to blood on screen,” Lee said. “I’m not so sure if they understand the true weight of the action shown on screen.”  
When asked if she would let her own children watch “The Witch” series, Lee chuckled and said; “No, definitely not. It doesn’t matter what the rating or movie critics say, they are not ready to see that.”  
“The Witch” series is only one of many movies that has exploited a loophole to escape a far more restrictive rating. Back in 2016, the  
Korean horror movie “The Wailing” garnered attention due to its confusing PG-15 rating: During the film there were scenes where a character’s bones were snapped, faces were mauled and somebody was assaulted with a pickaxe.  
The depiction of drug abuse in “The Believer” (2018) also sparked outrage after it was rated 15. The movie also contains several scenes considered erotic.  
The KMRB explained that although the film contains violent scenes, such as gun battles, killings, torture and illegal drug manufacturing and trade, the description is not detailed.  
Inappropriate violence isn’t the only reason parents distrust the KMBR rating system.  
On-screen depictions of drug usage, provocative activities, crime and the use of vulgar slang in movies accessible by minors is also an issue.  
In 2019, “Parasite” faced criticism because of its age restriction. The film attempted to break the social stereotype that the poor are always the suffering ones and portrayed them as equally cunning. Despite its relatable themes, people worried the content might be too disturbing for the younger audience.  
When asked why movie ratings are so controversial, one film critic who refused to be named blamed the lenient criteria.  
“Usually, the Korean movie rating system accurately assesses media, but their criteria are fairly lenient,” he said. “Countries like Italy and France, you expect them to be generous with their ratings. But it’s quite a surprise that Korea is generous when rating violence and sexual material. Movies such as “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Swimming to Sea” were rated for minors here.”  
The public is advocating for a stricter rating system.  
“I feel a great need for a change in the standards of the movie rating system,” said Hwang So-won, a sophomore at Korea International School: Jeju. “Some R-rated movies outside of Korea are rated as PG-15 in Korea. I believe Korea’s standards in this system are too generous. A single generous rating can cause negative effects on the people who watch it. The system has to change.”  
The film critic also voiced his agreement with the need for change “I don’t intend to besmirch the KMRB, but I believe that reform is necessary,” he said. “Of course, for companies to earn maximum revenue, films should have the least amount of age restriction. “But it’s crucial that viewers get what they expect and not traumatized by shocking imageries.”  

BY NOH HYUN-SOO, KIM SE-WON, CHOI DONG-IN AND YOON JI-WOO [hsnoh24@kis.ac dhchoi24@kis.ac swkim24@kis.ac jwyoon24@kis.ac]
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