Debate Over Rating System Is Expected to Continue With Opening of New Theaters
By Kim Tae-jong
Theaters to specifically show domestically banned films will open in April, hyping moviegoers' expectations.
About 20 theater owners nationwide will apply to show films rated as "restricted screening". But, problems will remain, even if they win approval.
"I think many movie fans want to see a variety of movies", said Han Sang-yun, the president of Unikorea, Inc., a film distributing and production company. "The movie first screened with a `restricted screening' rating will be `Caligula.' We also plan to screen other foreign movies along with the domestic films we will make. They will receive the same rating. But I don't think all films we will import or make will be just porno movies".
The movie "Caligula" was made in 1979, which is about the sexual perversion of the notorious Roman Emperor Caligula. It was first released here in 1991 with about 60 minutes cut from it.
The "restricted screening" rating was introduced in January 2002. It allowed the screening of controversial films, which the Korea Media Ratings Board (KMRB) refused to rate. Screening objectionable films in local theaters was impossible before the creation of the "restricted screening" rating system. A less palatable option was just to cut the objectionable parts or blur it digitally.
However, some movie critics say the movie with a "restricted screening" rating acts just as a ban on the film, because no theaters for such films currently exist.
Even if specially designed theaters open, the screen quota system is of problem for them, which requires cinemas to fill 40 percent of their schedules with local movies with restricted rating. And such movies are prevented from being advertised outside the theaters.
"I also believe that such theaters should exist", said Cho Hee-moon, a member of the rating board. "But, I think a mass influx of porno movies in the name of `freedom of expression' will condemn such theaters. We should think about the problems such theaters will bring us. We could be just providing places for illegal porno movies".
In May 2002, the North Korean animal documentary, "Tongmul-ui Ssangbutki (The Pairing of Animals)", was the first film to be given the "restricted screening" rating.
But, when "Chukodo Chowa (Too Young To Die
)", a septuagenarian love story with graphic sex scenes, was again given the rating right after the appeal to reverse the first decision, it generated a huge controversy among the local film industry due to the decision made without a proper place for screening the film.
Before the movie by director Park Jin-pyo
was screened in 2002, KMRB twice declared the movie "unfit" for public viewing. And the production company had to slightly lower the color tone of the entire movie to get an "18-and-over" rating.
Compared to domestic films, imported films have to go through much tougher procedures to meet local audiences if they contain sexual or violent scenes.
Twelve seconds of Quentin Tarantino's latest martial-arts film "Kill Bill Vol. 1" had to be cut so theaters could get an "18-and-over" rating, after having received the "restricted screening" rating when it was first submitted to the KMRB, even though the film's importer Taewon Entertainment had received a passing grade from the Movie Import Recommendation Board in KMRB.
All the foreign movies should first have a passing grade from the rating board？ import recommendation committee, and should also receive their ratings.
The committee rejected the application of "Tokyo Decadence", a 1992 film by Ryu Murakami that revealed Tokyo through the eyes of a prostitute.
The move to have theaters show films with a "restricted screening" helps ease the tension over a film's rating between the rating board and the domestic film industry. Applying the current rating system still raises the question of who can decide which movie is fit for public, since sex and violence can be categorized as artistic expression.
The following is a list of films to have received the "restricted screening" rating since its inception in 2002.
May 2002 "Tongmul-ui Ssangbutki (The Pairing of Animals)". North Korean animal documentary.
July 2002 "Chukodo Chowa (Too Young To Die
)". Romance, drama.
Jan. 2003 "Chugulae Salai (Dying or Live)". Action comedy.
Aug. 2003 "Haute Tension (Korean title: Extension)". Horror.
Nov. 2003 "Kill Bill Vol. 1". Martial-arts.
Feb. 2004 "Caligula". Erotic drama.