Korean Cinema vs. Korean Television

I’m an avid watcher of Korean television dramas. I think that all of my TV reviews are only Korean shows.

In my previous article, I talked about why I love Korean Cinema. Korean cinema not only intrigues me, it sometimes downright scares me. The thrillers I’ve seen so far, such as I Saw the Devil, Thirst, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance, just to name a few – haven’t been afraid to push the boundaries and then some. Even in other movie genres, be it comedy or tear-jerking dramas, I’ve felt that Korean cinema shows you life as it is.

A scene from I Saw the Devil

This is where I get confused about Korean cinema and tv dramas. Every single drama I’ve seen so far has been PG rated. Correct me if I’m wrong, if you’ve seen any Korean drama that is at least rated R, do tell me. I would love to watch it.

Anyway, the dramas I’ve seen have all been very well produced. Some of the stories have been very intriguing and although some plots left me hanging, they have been entertaining. What I’ve noticed is that in every single one of these dramas, there has been a huge lack of normality. There are hardly any hugs, any physical connection; heck, you’re lucky if you get a peck on the lips. In other words: a whole lot of sex is missing.

My argument is not that we should have explicit content all the time. Sex is a part of being human, sex to me is natural. I’ve seen sex scenes in Korean movies that hardly leave anything to the imagination. So why is it so hard to see the heroine and hero in a tv drama make out?

All that angst and after 19 episodes, all we got was one very dissatisfying peck… (scene from Cinderella’s Sister)

I know that some of it comes from the social conduct that exits in Korea. The elderly are very strict and old school. It’s my general understanding that the country has always been a little oppressed. Sex seems to be a very big taboo.

Somewhere along the line, Korean cinema got free of the oppression and started to create content that is so shocking, it stops being it. So why are Korean tv dramas still so 50’s? The conclusion I’ve attained is that a person can choose to watch a movie in the cinema, you can protect children and youths getting in. But if Korean cinema is being ballsy, why can’t Korean dramas as well?

I wonder if Korean television is missing out by not allowing more natural stories to be developed. Aren’t Korean tv- writers, producers and directors a little frustrated? I feel like they are getting blocked from portraying the stories they really want to portray. It’s not that unusual to hear that a drama gets a warning for showing kidnappingor that portraying homosexual relations cause a stir, but on the cinema screen it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

In movies it’s okay, but in dramas it’s a big no no! (Scene from A Frozen Flower, promo from Life Is Beautiful)

For now I’m happy that Korean cinema is free to do what they want. I hope that the tv dramas get a little more freedom. Not that I need sex scenes to make a drama great, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a little more snogging.

Part of the Korean Film Blogathon by newkoreancinema.com


Music is all I do: I work in music, I write about music, I listen to music.

14 Responses

  1. ROXY says:

    I absolutely agree. Perhaps it has more to do with the kind of organization that regulates TV vs the ones that regulate cinema? Like you said, cinema has more of a control over who watches what. People can choose not to watch a movie. On the other hand dramas are on national TV. Anyone can come across them by mistake or it might be at a time children are at home, etc. The same happens with music. Remember Mirotic? TVXQ had to make a “clean” version for the live shows >_> Seriously? When all they said was “Under your skin”. Also with G-Dragon’s performances that the industry thought were too steamy ’cause he had the girl tied to the bed.

    I find it to be too much of a double standard. We know kids are exposed to these things on the internet, manga and written media. Why so restrictive on TV? I would certainly be frustrated if I was a TV producer. But as westerners we might never understand.

    Regardless, it’s very interesting to see how the cinema has advanced so much when the rest of the media world has stayed on the PG-to-a-fault zone.

    • Dani says:

      @ROXY, I completely agree with you. But since kids are exposed to these things everywhere, should there not be a place where they can be protected? DO kids really need to know and see everything? Just a thought.

      • ROXY says:

        @Dani, It’s true. Kids shouldn’t be exposed to everything. There’s a stage for everything. But they take it WAY too seriously. Dramas need to be a little more natural. They’re so dexterous and stiff sometimes. Maybe this is why they do so much of the tragedy O_o Pain is easier to portray and it doesn’t necessarily need personal-intimate contact between the characters? (And by intimate I mean real felt hugs and the like.)

        There’s also the teenage bracket who see these dramas and assimilate them as true. They imagine love like in the dramas and it’s not healthy either. There’s always several sides and consequences to everything I guess.

    • amy says:

      @ROXY, sex-related censorship is kinda all over the place. Janet Jackson’s nipple anyone? If I had a dollar every time I see a lightly-dressed woman, that shows all of her boobs by only covering her nipple (but she doesn’t show her nipple like Jackson, booyah!) on local tv – I’d be pretty rich. LOL

      Gotta admit the DBSK “under my skin” thing is kinda extreme… and hilarious.

      Afternoon Delight. xD

      • julili says:

        @amy, Ithink that there should be a more open discussion about sex-related censorship.
        Sure, there are some things children shouldn’t see, but if you put such a taboo on sex then what message do you give?
        But then again, it’s so difficult to know where to draw the line. Different children react differently to what they are exposed to.

        • amy says:

          @julili, I’m fine not putting a taboo on sex. If you’ve got a 17 year old that is waking up after an implicit night of sex, it’s not avoiding the subject and it allows for those who know to know, and those who don’t to just think she/he just slept.

          My main problem is with 11-year olds who watch things like Gossip Girl or something, where there’s a lot of rubbing and close-ups. A show like GG is very glossy and actually undermines the importance of sex.

          If i had a pre-teen, I’d also be losing sanity if they were watching a show like that. LOL And we’re not even talking about shows like Mother at 16, or other stupid MTV shows. It’s not even that they’re glamorizing teen pregnancy, because any intelligent person realizes it’s a horrible thing to do – but teens just think of being able to be on the show.

    • julili says:

      @ROXY, There is a lot of double standards in Korea.
      Take homosexuality for example, society looks down upon it. It’s not oki for a public person to be gay; yet they think it’s fun to see men crossdress and fans expect fanservice from same gender idols. So, it’s oki when it’s pretend but not when it’s real?
      What kind of message does that give to the youth?

      What frustrates me about the dramas is that it’s so painfully obvious they are keeping it PG. I know that Korea as a country isn’t that touchy-feely but come on! Are u really going to tell me that two people that love each other don’t want to kiss?
      As Amy said, there isn’t always a need for a sex scene to make a story great. I just want some more natural kissing gdi! Not some awkward peck on the lips. I want some french!

      • Harper says:

        There are kdramas with French kissing and almost close to a *TINY* bit of snogging.

        I realise it’s high school dramas that do the whole “pecking”=kiss thing but if you watch adult kdramas they’re definitely more touchy feely with physically intimate scenes.

        A few examples: The world of the Married(very close to korean movies explicit scenes tbh) . Oh my Venus. Goblin(granted the more touchy feely physically intimate scenes happened in the last episodes but still…)

  2. amy says:

    I’m gonna be the prude here saying that I do understand network television having to keep it PG… not only for exposure to the public, but also for commercial reasons. I also understand American network tv having to sneak in slightly more explicit relationships than they used to, having to compete with cable channels like HBO or Showtime.

    It’s both ways, many shows – especially the ones with over two or three season on cable — push for syndication… in the process those shows that once roamed free on cable, must be toned down for network tv. At least it’s what I noticed from The L Word, Sex and the City and Dexter. They may not have been blurred out, but throughout their run, they toned down nudity and sex scenes.

    Have no issue with sex on film or tv, but I think it must be shown only if it’s got a purpose to tell the story. Not to attract and audience, or be mere eye candy… which is what is mostly used in American tv shows.

    I haven’t watched too many Kdramas, but I’ve never seen an Asian drama – in general – that has needed to be explicit to tell its story – not even a makeout scene, and when it was needed, it was implied, which was fine for the story.

    • ROXY says:

      @amy, They don’t have to be sexually explicit. I also agree that sex scenes should have a purpose not just to show skin and keep people looking. But I wish dramas were more natural. Every time I see Yoonho patting Daji’s head in Paradise Ranch, instead of a hug, a kiss or SOMETHING slightly more emotional, I cringe! (And that might not be the best example xD sorry)

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