Although it hasn’t even been released in theaters yet, Concubine, a new South Korean film is causing a media frenzy.
Despite the fact that western audiences generally have accepted nudity in theaters, things are not quite so liberal in South Korea. According to the Korea Times, Korean media has been having a field day debating the controversy of nudity in recent films such as Eungyo and The Taste of Money. Most of this controversy is difficult for westerners to access due to the fact that Korean websites like the Korea Times and the Chosun Ilbo have the tendency to shy away from certain kinds of news stories, including those involving crime which are rarely, if ever, seen. It’s moments like these I wish my Korean were much better than it is.
It may seem a bit strange that this is causing a fuss. So what if there are a few nude Koreans in movies. But Korean society, comparatively, is far more conservative on the surface than in the west. I say on the surface, because there are entire mainstream underground cultures that are firmly entrenched in society. It is strictly illegal, for example, to produce pornography in Korea, yet at the same time large quantities of it are imported from Japan and distributed in adult toy stores (성인용품). And there are a few Korean sex tapes (celebrity and otherwise) available in certain corners of the internet. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
So it would seem that the government, at least, wants to keep a more wholesome image for the nation. All of this is potentially threatened by the increasing number of nude Koreans in cinema. And so the debate continues.
Ultimately, I can only guess that this can’t last forever. The current generation of Koreans that I’ve met are far more liberal-minded than their parent’s generation: homosexuality is more openly tolerated, more and more young Koreans are choosing not to marry until later in life, and western culture is generally more widely accepted.
We’ll see where it leads. Here’s the trailer for the film, which looks really good, despite the lack of subtitles: