by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
JTBC’s drama Seonam Girls High School Investigators caused a stir when it aired a kiss scene between two lesbian students on Feb. 25, report Agence France-Presse.
In the scene, two female high school students share a passionate kiss in the library before they end their relationship, afraid that they will be judged for their sexual orientation. It was reportedly the first kiss between two female characters to be broadcasted on South Korean television.
The Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) said on Friday that it had received complaints about the scene from conservative viewers and were investigating the matter.
“We will decide whether this is an issue after we look into it, and whether there is any violation of broadcast policy,” the commission said in a statement.
Although homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea, it still remains a highly controversial subject due to the country’s deep roots in Confucian and Protestant ethics. As a result, there are only a few openly gay public figures Korea, such as actor Hong Seok-chan, who was immediately fired from his prime-time network shows after publicly coming out in 2000.
However, the landscape of South Korea’s television industry is slowly changing as its dramas and variety shows continue to gain popularity worldwide. According to AFP, a few drama productions have already begun tackling culturally sensitive issues, such as teen pregnancy and homosexuality. Earlier this month, MBC’s Kill Me, Heal Me included a kiss scene between Ji Sung and Park Seo-joon, though, the kiss was mostly for comedic effect.
An unidentified representative of Seonam Girls High School Investigators explained that homosexuality was the first topic the producer Yeo Woon-hyuk wanted to broach. He said, “[Yeo] of course worried about the reaction to the scene, but ultimately decided that it was a topic that needed to be discussed.”
The representative also added that the production team included the kiss scene because they wanted to address the unfair treatment gay students face in their classrooms.
“We do not believe it is our prerogative to judge whether these students are right or wrong. We therefore went ahead with the scene in the hopes that diversity can be accepted and embraced,” the representative said.
The scene has triggered a mixed response from Korean netizens. While there were some conservative viewers who expressed their distaste for the kiss scene, many commenters supported it, arguing that there have been more controversial scenes in the history of Korean television.
“I like how the KCSC will let cancer, affairs, pre-marital pregnancies, and divorce dramas all pass but gay love makes them shake in their boots,” one commenter wrote, according to Gay Star News.
Another commenter wrote, “It’s not even a bed scene, it’s just a kiss scene. Are they saying that it’s more erotic because it’s done by two females? The public, major broadcast station was even airing a bed scene between high school students and them having a baby, why doesn’t the Commission review that instead?”
Others pointed out that if two men could kiss on dramas without repercussion, then women should be able to do so as well.
“If male actors had done a kiss scene, would the Commission be looking into this? Why is it that men can kiss each other but when women kiss one another it becomes an issue?” one netizen wrote.
The Seonam Girls High School Investigators controversy comes after South Korea’s Constitutional Court abolished an adultery ban, which had been criminalizing extramarital affairs for 62 years.
Featured image via AFP/JTBC