Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bread and circuses - the 3S policy

South Korea was ruled by a strongman/military dictator for most of its history. It didn't have truly democratic election until 1992, and then, didn't elect an opposition leader until 1997 when Kim Dae Jung was elected to the presidency.

One of the cultural products of Chun Doo-hwan’s military regime in the '80s, was its "Sex, Sports and Screen"― the “3S”― policy. The three were made into major sources of entertainment for the public, to take their interest away from politics ― after Chun’s military coup took power in 1980 while crushing the democratisation movements nationwide.

During Chun’s eight-year dictatorship, pro baseball and soccer leagues were established for the first time in Korea. In 1981, Seoul won the rights to host the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 1986 Asian Games. Colour TVs were distributed country-wide, the sex industry boomed, and the nightly curfew was officially abolished. People started hitting movie theatres and bars late at night. Some of the most striking cultural legacies of Chun’s military regime are, inarguably, the vast number of racy erotic films produced in the time period. Almost all of the released films had sexually suggestive themes, with explicit posters and titles. Movie theatres put up promotional film banners that screamed sex: It usually consisted of pictures of women moaning in pleasure, revealing their cleavage and other parts of their bodies. The titles included Between the Knees and Prostitution.

"It was pretty much a carrot-and-stick method,”
said film curator Kim Sang-cheol of the Korean Film Archive. “While being extremely repressive politically, the regime thought it was necessary to provide an alternative outlet for the public to express their oppressed desire. The outlets took the forms of live-TV sports broadcast and sexually suggestive movies.” According to curator Kim, no movie was allowed to be socially conscious or critical of the government in any way under Chun’s regime. The only subject-matter that was approved by the censors was, ironically, sex and nudity.

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