Korea Puts the “No” in Porno.

0 Posted by - January 12, 2013 - Uncategorized
This is blocked porn in South Korea

This is blocked porn in South Korea

Korea Bans Pornography

Porn is illegal in South Korea.   Yet, Korean citizens spend more money on pornography per individual than any industrialized country in the world.  Restricting pornography from adults in a democracy is an interesting story, but Korea’s fight against pornography is only a symptom of their greater struggle to define and express sexuality.

Koreans caught distributing or producing material could face prosecution.  Meanwhile, expats across South Korea curse the government for single-handedly disrupting their imaginary love lives.

Pornography has always been illegal in Korea.  The public disdain for pornography can be traced back to the days of dictatorship, and it’s currently reinforced through the strong influences of traditional Confucianism and the rapid growth of Christianity in Korea.  The war on pornography, however, escalated early in 2012.  Under the banner of protecting children, conservative watchdog groups aligned with the government to assist in hunting-down and blocking inappropriate websites.  Koreans caught distributing or producing material could face prosecution.  Meanwhile, expats across South Korea curse the government for single-handedly disrupting their imaginary love lives.

In December, the Associated Press picked up on the story.  They followed the work of Moon Tae-Hwa (문태화), one of 800 Nuricop volunteers who assists the government by tracking and reporting online porn in his spare time.  While he feels his work benefits Korean society, there are free speech advocates who deny his claim.  These advocates argue that bans on pornography violate the freedom of expression and do not reduce heinous, sex crimes.  In fact, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family reported that 18,000 people were arrested on rape charges in 2010, up from less than 7,000 in 2000.  Also, sex crimes against minors rose from 180 cases in 2000 to approximately 1000 in 2010.

Although the government won’t stop its fight against pornography, they concede the fight is an uphill battle.  Moon Tae Hwa admitted, “It’s like shoveling snow in a blizzard.”  Korea is the most wired country in the world.  Over ninety percent of homes access high speed Internet and over sixty percent of the population own smart phones.  Technology is pornography’s best friend.  The availability of technology might be one reason Koreans spend more money on porn per individual than any other country.  In 2006, the average Korean spent $526.74 per year on porn.  This was 3 times more than any other country on the list.  Japan was second on the list spending $157.00 per individual and America was further down, spending $54.00 per individual.

Even if some of the sources or numbers are skewed, the fact remains that numerous Koreans demand pornography.  Contrarily, the country of Korea wants to be perceived as a sexually modest or conservative country.  Over 6,400 Koreans were arrested between March and October of 2012 for distributing, selling, or producing pornography.  The government also banned hundreds of foreign porn sites and is working to limit pornography access on mobile phones.  While overseas reporters stop with the story on pornography, the battle with pornography is only one symptom of Korea’s struggle defining its own sexuality.

Red crosses dominate Korea’s nighttime skyline, but love hotels and DVD bangs litter the streets.

 

I live in an area known as Jangandong.  From my understanding, the area was once a center for prostitution in Seoul.  Since I don’t speak Korean, I can’t verify if those stories are true.    Remnants of those stories invade my life enough for me to believe they are plausible.  As I walk to or from work, it’s not uncommon for a man to ask me if I’m interested in a “sexy massage.”  On other occasions, questionable women cornered me and asked me if I’d go into a dark bar or hotel with them.  Finally, when my girlfriend and I wish to return home, we often tell the cab drivers to take us to Kyungnam Hotel.  The destination is instantly recognized in Seoul, and I don’t think it’s because the hotel has a bowling alley.  The cab drivers often display a devilish grin of intrigue when informed of our destination and seem disappointed when we asked to be dropped off across the street.

While all countries have these areas, Korea is peculiar.  Red crosses dominate Korea’s nighttime skyline, but love hotels and DVD bangs litter the streets.  Love hotels charge hourly rates and serve as hook-up spots for Koreans.  DVD bangs are private rooms where couples pay to watch movies, but use the privacy provided for other recreational activities.  Massage parlors and barbershops are also frequented for well-known extra services.  Publicly, Korea wears a mask of sexual modesty, but privately, Korea can’t suppress its sexual nature.  The use of love hotels and DVD bangs illustrate this point.  Korea endorses sexuality as long as it remains in the shadows.

There are practical purposes for DVD bangs and love hotels.  The youth of Korea live with their parents until they are married.  Due to the rigors of an intense education, competitive job market, and pricey housing, many Koreans do not marry until their late twenties or early thirties.  Thus, DVD bangs and love hotels provide a practical location for sex.  The desire for sex in Korea is apparent, but the transparency of having sex can be a problem.  On the other hand, there is no mystery or lack of transparency on the availability and use of such places.  The whole situation is a grand illusion that fools no one.

The secrecy of sex does not only apply to the youth of Korea, but it is also prevalent in Korean business culture.  In Korean culture, loyalty to employers rivals loyalty to a family.  Drinking and spending time with superiors after work is essential for success.  Based solely on my conversations and observations, employers commonly pressure their employees to visit questionable bars or even places of prostitution together.  If an employee denies these situations, he damages his reputation and job security within his company.

Prostitution runs rampant in South Korea.  Husbands commonly seek prostitutes outside of their marriages and young girls seek money for sex even if they are not officially prostitutes.  Many foreigners have noticed that prostitutes are easier to find than pornography.  Koreans condemn this behavior publicly.  But in the shadows, this behavior is prolific and expected.

Other issues contribute to the absurd dance around sexuality in Korea.  Gender inequality, for instance, is so severe it forces younger women to consider sexual acts to supplement their income.  An outside observer, however, can only wonder if by suppressing sexuality publicly the Korean government is reinforcing more dangerous habits privately.  Prostitution, sex trafficking, rape, and sex crimes against minors are serious problems.  Pornography is simply a pimple of a greater dermatological issue.  Sometimes, popping a pimple doesn’t help.  It only increases the chance of an outbreak.

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Editor’s note:  By writing this, I’m simply asking questions.  I do not think Korea is inferior to other countries.  In fact, I see various parallels in Korea to what I saw living in the Southeastern United States.  Also, there are millions of faithful Korean husbands and millions of dedicated students who do no participate in any activities I described.  I’m merely pointing out that these activities exist, and they are not rare occurrences.  Furthermore, Korea is not the only country who shares these struggles.  This is not meant to demean South Korea or its people.  I’m simply pointing to contradictions that I find puzzling.  I hope this simply stirs fruitful discussion among readers.   Individuals in every country cheat on their spouses, seek prostitutes, or leverage sex for money.  It’s how Korea pursues these avenues that I find interesting.

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Additional Links

ProxFree - This website will get around any online blocks by the South Korean Government.

Hotspot Shield – Downloading this program will give you private browsing capabilities and allow you to surf the web freely in South Korea.

Korean Times – Koreans Like Porn

Korea and the World- Sex Trafficking and Korea

Korea Bang – Korea Declares War on Pornography

Associated Press- Fighting Porn like Shoveling Snow in a Blizzard

Human Trafficking- Human Trafficking in South Korea

The Korea Herald: Should pornography be censored? (thegrandnarrative.com)

English Chosun – Koreans are the biggest clients of Prostitutes.

The Korea Times -  High ranking officials caught in a massive orgy. 

  • Jeremy Sherlock

    Well written mate. These contradictions puzzle me every day that I live here. It seems that if it’s not mentioned, it doesn’t exist. I live in Guri and every street in the market across the road from my apartment has numerous ka-yo-jang’s or ‘special’ karaoke bars. There are special everything in this country. Special barbers and DVD bangs like you mentioned, special coffee, special screen golf etc, etc. I think trying to repress what is clearly an issue only makes it worse. I work in a public school and my co-teachers are mostly married older women. I frequently hear about their marital concerns and often wonder how much ‘special’ situations contribute to these concerns. Of course not every marriage is affected by the unspoken but universally known and accepted existence of available prostitution and meet-up venues. However, it is common problem and I agree that a ban on pornography is merely a gesture rather than a real means of tackling a much larger issue.

  • http://endlessframe.wordpress.com endlessframe

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this issue. There are many hypocritical things that our outsider eyes allows to spot, but very few garner as much public attention or further more directly affect my life. How can pornography be illegal but yet a street exists, 15 feet from a major subway stop, that is lined with prostitute filled windows. Furthermore, their entertainment industry is partially (mostly?) built on sex and sex appeal. As catchy as some of their songs may be, Girl’s Generation is not famous for their music and Rain is better known for his abs as anything else. However in a country where 90% of people have been physically altered via plastic surgery, appearance matters. Appearance matters, even if it’s a superficial gesture like banning porn, or abortion. They want to be seen a bastion of purity amidst the other first world “deviants” but it’s a ruse and even the briefest inspections belie the true nature of the nation.

    • http://kimchibytes.wordpress.com brentdsheffield

      Looks like there is someone else in the world who not only takes better pictures than me, but is a better writer as well. Well said! Reddit won’t accept this article on their Korean Page.

      • http://endlessframe.wordpress.com endlessframe

        Flattered, but not quite brent, you have an excellent publication here man. I was just responding to your excellent point, you said pretty much everything that I thought when I uh *heard* about the ban.

  • http://kimchibytes.wordpress.com brentdsheffield

    I like you tied the importance of appearance back to this issue. It seems like every questionable thing I see in Korea is tied back to the Confucian principle of “saving face.” Thus, dealing with pornography on the surface publicly “saves face” while the real issues boil underneath the masks and public announcements.

  • koreanwikiproject

    The difference between porn sites and the prostitution industry is the police don’t get a cut from the former. There are fliers in the streets and police could easily find these places, but they turn a blind eye.

  • Pingback: The Myth of White Guys and Asian Girls | Kimchibytes

  • http://thenomadiceagle.wordpress.com TheNomadicEagle

    google hotspot shield and install places your pc IP outside korea and boom you have no ban on porn no more.

  • Pingback: The Myth of White Guys and Asian Girls | Kimchibytes

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