10:24 pm - 01/28/2013

[OP-ED] Should Pornography in S. Korea Be Censored?


To some, it’s a harmless pleasure. To others, it’s a societal ill. Pornography, for better or worse, is a prevalent reality in Korea. Yet, unusually for a developed democracy, it remains largely illegal here. While possessing or viewing porn is not a crime, the production, selling or displaying of materials deemed obscene is a jailable offense.

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the Constitution protects “indecent” sexual expression that does not reach the level of “obscenity,” holding that the former contains “social value.” On a day-to-day basis, however, a complex regulatory framework decides what is and is not fit for public consumption. Multiple government or semi-governmental agencies are involved in the process, including various ministries, the Korea Communications Commission, Korea Communication Standards Commission and Korea Media Rating Board. The government-run KCC regulates the overall television, radio and Internet environments, with the president-appointed, nine-member KCSC tasked with removing specific online content.

Choi In-kyeong, a clerical officer with the KCC, said that while it is ultimately up to the courts to define what constitutes obscenity, the current framework is necessary in an age of instant access to information.

“The final judgment on the obscenity of online materials is done by the court,” said Choi. “But the commission has been established separately to, first, face the rapid spread of information on the Internet, to restrict obscene materials quickly, and to supplement the time required to conclude a court decision on all pornographic materials.”


Choi confirmed that new restrictions targeting minors were in the offing.

“We are currently reviewing the revised plan which requires telecommunications firms to offer software to underage smartphone users which automatically restricts obscene materials.”

There are few indications that a liberalization of the censorship regime is on the horizon. A spate of horrific sex crimes against women and children in recent months prompted authorities to launch a renewed crackdown on adult content. In a number of cases, the perpetrators had admitted to viewing porn before their crimes. While much of the anti-porn drive has focused on materials involving minors, content involving only consenting adults, too, has been a target. Officials all the way up to President Lee Myung-bak have drawn a link between even mainstream pornography and sex crimes.

In September, police nabbed 400 people for possessing or distributing porn during a month-long crackdown. The following month, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that it would oblige businesses to filter out porn from their websites, with non-compliance to carry the threat of up to three years in prison or fines worth 150 million won.

Youn Ga-hyun, president-elect of the Korean Association for Sexology and a professor at Chonnam National University, said that a failure to differentiate between different forms of porn has resulted in widespread public support for blanket censorship.

“They do not differentiate pornography featuring consenting adults from kiddie or violent pornography,” said Youn. “They tend to understand all pornography as obscene material. Therefore, they do agree with tightening regulations or cracking down on obscene materials.”

Others see a public that is increasingly wary of being told what they are allowed to watch. James Turnbull, a writer on gender and sexuality who has resided in Korea for more than a decade, said the government’s latest moves were likely to face resistance.

“In all my 12 years in Korea, ordinary Koreans have loudly and consistently complained of being treated like children by censors,” he said.

“But the censorship of movies has been considerably relaxed in recent years, and even the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has begun to acknowledge its own excesses with music videos. So this latest crackdown actually goes against recent trends, and I expect it to face a lot of opposition.”


While acknowledging the “dilemma faced by every democracy” of protecting children while preserving adult freedoms, Turnbull lambasted the “draconian” restrictions on sexual content imposed by the government.

“With the proviso that of course the government should continue to monitor the pornography industry as a whole, to prevent exploitation and the use of minors, you have to question the government’s zeal in attacking an otherwise victimless activity, and which there is clearly a huge demand for,” he said.

“Surely the time and resources could be better spent? Perhaps on more up-to-date and effective sex-education, so people could better judge the supposed harmful effects of pornography for themselves?”

Government ministries, including the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, have been prominent in the latest round of the fight against porn. The Gender Equality Ministry was behind a recent revision to the law on child porn and in the past has released surveys on porn use among minors. When The Korea Herald contacted Gender Equality Ministry for comment about its stance on porn, however, it was told the ministry did not have responsibility in the area.

The Gender Equality Ministry has come under particular criticism from one group for its supposed attempts to suppress men’s natural desires.

“The oppressive measures on pornography by the Korean government are totally insane,” said Jae Gi-sung, the head of Man of Korea, a men’s rights organization. “It is actually seen that it oppresses masculinity and that it distorts the essentials. It is all done by the Ministry of Gender Equality and women’s organizations led by Korean feminists.”

Comparing current policies to the Prohibition in the U.S., Jae said restricting pornography was bound to lead to undesirable side effects as well as effectively labeling normal men sex criminals.

“You will understand easily if you know a bit about men’s sexual mechanism. Pornography itself can ease and satisfy men’s sexual impulses.”

Religious objections

But for others, nothing could be less natural than sex performed in front of cameras for voyeuristic audiences. Most major religions frown on such depictions of sexuality, including Christianity, a significant political force in Korea.

A member of The Christian Council of Korea, a major alliance of Christian denominations, said that it supports the government efforts to clamp down on porn.

“The conservative Koreans in Korea have a tradition of puritan heritage,” said a reverend who wished to remain anonymous.

“We would like to manage our life without too much sexual desire. Pornography is kind of a distorted image of love. As conservative Christians, we are against making that kind of image to the public. ”

By John Power (john.power@heraldcorp.com)

Readers’ voice

Censoring porn ...

I believe that pornography should not be censored. Censoring pornography creates unrealistic expectations for those viewing it. Censoring anything that we see, read, hear or discuss can create more tension than if we were not to censor it.

Although parental groups around South Korea have become even more furious about children choosing to view pornography on the Internet with their cell phones, censoring it and denying consenting adults the option to view it causes legal issues. What constitutes pornography in any case? What if a woman posts pictures of her naked newborn baby on her blog? Is she a pornographer or pedophile? Hardly.

Using the “slippery slope” argument in this case can be fair, as we have seen in the past Korea’s ability to censor and jail those who flout the rules. Continuing to censor pornography does nothing to improve the nation.

However, when we come to the topic of “how to deal with children obtaining and viewing pornography” there are specific tasks that can be done to help parents. First, if the Korean government decides to, they should have phone companies offer parents a data plan for cell phones that has limited access to specific content. This means that parents have the ability to control more visited websites and those websites that are accessed can be routinely blocked by the phone company. Offering incentives for phone companies to do so would be a good step.

Second, parents need to actually learn how to teach sex education to their own children. Korean parents believe that someday their children will make beautiful grandchildren for them, however, they fail to provide them with adequate education on the subject. The government should also offer programs in cities to teach parents how to teach their children about sex and how to be safe. Parents should also learn how to deal with situations where they find out that their children are viewing pornography.

No matter what, choices are far better than lack thereof, and giving people the knowledge to deal with it in their own way and in their own time would create a much more prosperous society. Forcing all people to obey censorship creates resentment and can cause people to be more likely to fight against it.

Open up and educate instead of prohibit. When you tell a child “no,” for them, it can be a challenge. But when you educate them, they are less likely to view content that is destructive.

― Anthony Gilbert, Anyang, Gyeonggi Province

This is a freedom of speech issue that makes South Korea seem like the Stone Age compared to other democracies.

― Thomas Michael Corcoran, Seoul, via Facebook

I don’t think it makes South Korea look any different from the individual states or municipalities who have already made the sale and creation (and sometimes distribution) of adult material illegal within the U.S. That said, I don’t agree with any law of the sort in any country. Expression is expression regardless of form. Don’t like it? Turn it off.

― Justin Davis, via Facebook

There is no credible, consistent evidence, to my knowledge, that access to pornography increases the number of sex crimes. It may even reduce it. Of course, pornography promoting or condoning sex crimes should be censored, but otherwise people should have access to whatever helps them in their pursuit of happiness. Sex is just another part of life, not something dirty and sinful. We should listen to the voice of reason and not those of religious conservatives.

― W. A. Trent, Jeungpyeong, North Chungcheong Province

Pornography is not art or “free expression” and should be limited to keep it away from children. Child pornography should be banned. There should be reasonable laws about not allowing children to view Internet pornography.

― Stacy Metzger, Seoul, via Facebook

Yes, pornography should be censored. It’s a damaging influence on young people.

― Donald Donaldson, Incheon

Source: The Korea Herald

Slightly old article, but I thought it was interesting...What are your thoughts Omona? Do you watch porn? Do you think it's ~destructive~ to our youth? Should it be censored?
Also, here's another interesting article from koreBANG about "new" porn regulations.
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stephantasm 29th-Jan-2013 04:34 am (UTC)
porn is great. (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)
flumes 29th-Jan-2013 04:36 am (UTC)
except when u search lesbian in the search bar and penis

also wow we need to stop...and i wrote like an essay
flumes 29th-Jan-2013 04:35 am (UTC)
i didn't know production was illegal...that's kind of absurd to me

i watch porn, i don't think it's destructive in a sense though it can desensitize a lot of people. most mainstream porn has a lot of fucking issues but people can learn about that and do with it what they see fit. it's not destructive to look at and it shouldn't be censored.

i mean i'm american, from a western point of view etc but it's not all so black and white. sex in itself isn't a terrible thing ever if done under the right circumstances so. a lot of the basis of this seems very puritanical~ (which is a lot of the basis for those who are against porn here as well so i'm not singling sk out)
pseudo_shigure 29th-Jan-2013 04:40 am (UTC)
The picture in this post though... it's from my country, not SK.
uledy 29th-Jan-2013 04:43 am (UTC)
lol, yeah the caption under the picture in the original article reads "A newsstand display of magazines in an Asian city"... -_-

toshi830 29th-Jan-2013 04:44 am (UTC)
Second, parents need to actually learn how to teach sex education to their own children

This could be said of every country but seriously, do they expect kids to suddenly learn and somebody else to teach them
flumes 29th-Jan-2013 04:56 am (UTC)
it should be said for every country lol
(no subject) - Anonymous
rosetta16 29th-Jan-2013 04:47 am (UTC)
we are all fucked up some way or another, porn wont change much XD
hellicoptajuuce 29th-Jan-2013 05:03 am (UTC)
censorship is just going to lead to more intense curiosity imo. just like when your parents used to sheild your eyes when people were kissing on tv, did you not try to take a peek? it's just going to lead to children and teenagers seeking out new way to view porn lbr though people are starting to have sex earlier and i think it's better for them to see it uncensored so at least they know wtf is going on instead not seeing the condom, not seeing what happens and ending up with unwanted children. my homeland is craycray christian and the entire country follows what the chruch teaches them, the priests said "CONDOMS ARE THE WORK OF THE DEVIL THEY WILL GIVE YOU STDS AND DO NOT HELP IN CONTRACEPTION" and so no one wears condoms and now more than half the country is under the age of 19
runandtelldat 29th-Jan-2013 05:25 am (UTC)
I don't get the point of censored porn. It's an oxymoron.
rikayla 29th-Jan-2013 05:28 am (UTC)
lolol mte
hisjulliet 29th-Jan-2013 05:52 am (UTC)
lol No, because censorship leads to

-ignorance/being sheltered
-men thinking women should be covered up like their bodies are sacred objects (therefore increasing sexism)
-women being discouraged to own their sexuality
-women believing sex should only be used for reproduction
-women believing they shouldn't enjoy sex because that will make them a "slut"
-women believing they should only have sex with someone that they're emotional attracted to
-people less likely of knowing about condoms and STDs/the consequences of STDs
-they would be missing out on lots of oxytocin, and people need the oxytocin
aeries_amethyst 29th-Jan-2013 04:09 pm (UTC)
A+ comment ^_^
bolingi_aii 29th-Jan-2013 06:14 am (UTC)
How are they gonna censor porn they don't produce? or do they mean the erotic models and imported Japanese/western porn everyone is dling in S.K?

They have the highest consumption of pornography, yet no domestic production...that should give you a clue as to if censoring is a good idea.
bolingi_aii 29th-Jan-2013 06:19 am (UTC)
The problem of porn isnt really a problem of porn must a smoke screen for a lack of sex education. Whether in S.K or elsewhere, porn is seen as an evil because people don't know how to go about properly educating the public on sex and sex health so people naturally through curiosity and sexual desire gravitate towards porn as a means of education and stimulation. Lack of education and censorship on sex ed is the real issue, not porn.

Also I can't stand mosaics in porn, its like wtf just show that shit. It makes genitals seem like something forbidden and dirty when its a natural part of our body. Censorship in this way distorts reality and encourages negatives views on the body and sexuality.
zsutzy 29th-Jan-2013 02:25 pm (UTC)
haha I'm totally used to mosaics. If there aren't any somehow it's just strange :D
ullielvidina 29th-Jan-2013 07:00 am (UTC)
Is that Farah Quinn? XD
shiieru 29th-Jan-2013 07:15 am (UTC)
Of course, pornography promoting or condoning sex crimes should be censored, but otherwise people should have access to whatever helps them in their pursuit of happiness. Sex is just another part of life, not something dirty and sinful.

W. A. Trent, we should be penpals or something. Preach.
b1gay4 29th-Jan-2013 07:46 am (UTC)
iksagor 29th-Jan-2013 07:51 am (UTC)
The religious objections are hilarious.
nobodyelse_care 29th-Jan-2013 07:51 am (UTC)
Meh, I was raised to hate porn (and the sex industry in general) so I'd prefer to live where porn is illegal.
umbrella_smile 30th-Jan-2013 12:08 am (UTC)
How sad for you.

EDIT: It was just pointed out that you are the same person who ratted out your sister for having a threesome. Fuck off.

Edited at 2013-01-30 12:13 am (UTC)
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