Worries about violence or hot scenes in Korean films are increasingly spreading among the public and film critics.
The film banned from screening in Vietnam because of violence, The Roundup (2022), has at one time become a box office phenomenon in Korea, when it sold 10 million tickets after just 25 days in theaters in May 2022. This time, the sequel to The Outlaws (2017) is labeled 15+, but children under 15 are still allowed to enter the cinema if accompanied by a parent or guardian.
The first creepy scenes appear just minutes after the opening, when the villain (played by Son Suk-ku) brutally cuts off a victim’s ear and stabs him to death. For the remaining 100 minutes, the film has no shortage of scenes of violence and gore.
Actor Son Suk-ku (right) in the movie The Roundup. Source: ABO Entertainment
The cruel character played by Son Suk-ku frequently appears in a blade that terrifies and attacks his targets. With the exception of horror movie fans, it’s probably not easy for the general audience to appreciate the violent scenes in The Roundup, let alone explain it to the children who go with them.
When it comes to recent violent “redundant” Korean films, The Roundup is not an isolated case. Some movies like Christmas Carol or Project Wolf Hunting are also labeled “prohibited under the age of 18”. According to the Korea Herald, many moviegoers in Korea went to theaters to watch the films but left midway, complaining that there were too many violent scenes.
The Korea Media Rating Board (KMRB) is the body responsible for labeling movies in theaters in the country. Accordingly, The Roundup (2022) labeled it over 15 years old because of the “intermittent or detailed description” violent scenes. The unit said that although “indirect scenes” cutting off an arm of a corpse, killing and wounding with a weapon were “depicted rather violently”, they were “not detailed” and the level of violence was not clear. The force and feeling of fear is “a bit high”.
According to the panel’s criteria, other films would be labeled like The Roundup if they contained “physical violence, torture, and killing using discontinuous use of body parts or tools or depictions detail”; where “physical abuse and bloodshed are not shown continuously or directly”; and “sexual violence is shown indirectly in the context of the film”.
The problem is that this review subcommittee is made up of only nine people and has to evaluate hundreds of films a month, leading the public to question how well-reviewed works are. For example, in October 2022, 286 films were reviewed by this subcommittee, including animated films, but only 121 Korean films.
Faced with this situation, culture critic Kim Hern-sik (South Korea) commented: “In the age of streaming movies, Korean producers and audiences, especially in their 20s and 30s, are quite indifferent to the level of violence. However, when online video is less controlled, cinemas need to be more strict, which often welcomes teenagers.” This critic thinks that labeling over 15 with The Roundup is a mistake by the authorities, especially when many families want to go to the theater after more than 2 years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Scenes from the movie Christmas Carol. Source: Korea Herald
Using violence to lure customers?
According to Ha Jong-won, a professor at Sun Moon University, the use of violence is the easiest and simplest way to describe an outbreak or conflict in a film. It was also easier for actors to express anger or fear in the face of violent scenes, rather than scenes that required a multitude of complex internal emotions.
“The habit of using violence is a typical narrative formula. At first, violence is used to present conflict and get the viewer’s attention. Then the conflict becomes more serious, when the story evolves and involves more people,” said Professor Ha Jong-won.
Professor Ha Jong-won also pointed out the problem that some protagonists, although law enforcers, use violence as villains, even illegal ways to achieve your goal. The professor warned: “Research has proven that movies and TV shows influence perceptions of reality. Seeing the real world through these pervasive violent videos makes us distrustful. into society and fear others”. The professor also mentioned the “evil world syndrome”, that people may perceive the world as more dangerous than it really is, after long-term exposure to violent content in the media. mass news.
Culture critic Kim Hern-sik admits that in the past, Korean cinema did not have many violent content and images. While movies about murderers have long been a genre in Western cinema, it’s not yet in Korea. However, as online platforms developed, hit Korean films such as Parasite or Squid Game containing many violent and provocative scenes were still warmly received around the world. That contributes to the producers pursuing images that are unpleasant and somewhat “rough” in order to easily arouse the audience’s emotions such as fear or anger.
Increasing competition in the movie and streaming industries is also a reason why some producers use such images. According to culture critic Chung Deok-hyun (South Korea), being used to European and American films on online platforms also makes Korean audiences “easier” with violence and hot scenes in the film. Therefore, Korean film producers have to try to attract audiences with higher or higher levels of violence.