South Korean TV dramas are renowned for featuring complex, tragic love stories, but viewers of the series Seonam Girls High School Investigators were in for an unprecedented act of romance on Wednesday, when South Korea's first-ever on-screen TV lesbian kiss sparked debate about portrayals of sexuality in a country that, in spite of its growing modernization, still holds dear to deep-seated values of propriety and traditionalism.
The country's broadcast and internet regulatory body, the Korea Communications Standards Commission, said on Friday that there were complaints about the kissing scene between two schoolgirls. AFP reported the commission released a statement:
We will decide whether this is an issue after we look into it, and whether there is any violation of broadcast policy.
Homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea, but there is a heavy social stigma attached to it. According to AFP, the K-drama industry — as it's sometimes known — has been making strides to address culturally delicate social issues, like teenage pregnancy and, like in this case, homosexuality. Earlier this month, there was an allegedly-unscripted gay kissing scene, albeit between two male actors, in the series "Kill Me, Heal Me," but AFP reported that the on-screen lesbian smooch, the first of its kind, caused more controversy.
The scene caused such a stir in the East Asian country that the producers penned an op-ed with a title that translates to "Lesbian kiss scene, let’s get variety acknowledged” in a local newspaper, explaining the rationale behind their decision to incorporate the kiss. Translated into English, the piece detailed:
We produced this project in aims to raise acceptance of diversity. We do not think that it is up to us to decide whether homosexuality is right or wrong. Homosexuality was the very first topic that [director] Yeo Yoon Hyuk had wanted to touch upon when we were in the midst of preparing "Seonam Girls High School."
Although Yeo worried about the reaction, he wanted to push forward with a topic that should be dealt with. The homosexual students that we actually met with told us that they do receive unfair treatment at school because of their sexual orientation. We came to produce this drama in hopes that diversity will become accepted.
Though there were dissenting opinions, a number of netizens were supportive of the cultural progress it signified. One pointed out the regulatory commission's tolerance of other controversial themes in Korean dramas, questioning their reviewing of the scene:
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.
The contentiousness of the scene comes on the heels of South Korea's Constitutional Court decriminalizing adultery, in what could be a further indication of the country's evolving cultural values.
Image: Kim taetae/Youtube (2); Getty Images