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A ludicrous regulation

Feb 20,2019
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family is being bombarded with criticism after they published new guidelines for gender equality on television. The specific line that was most problematic was, “Programs should refrain from featuring people whose appearances are exceedingly similar.”

This is quite similar to the situation that the Ministry of Health and Welfare faced last year, when they tried to restrict online mukbang content to cut the obesity rate in Korea. The idea of state restrictions and censorship on how celebrities look, and what the audience should prefer, is just as outrageous and dangerous as it is impossible to actually limit what people like.

The most problematic lines were, “Most of the stars featured on music programs are from idol groups, whose musical stylings are just as limited as their appearances,” and “Most of the idol groups have similar skinny bodies, white skin, hairstyles, makeup and costumes that expose a lot of skin.”

Some have pointed out that these so-called guidelines are nothing different from the oppressions of the military dictatorship in the past. “It’s no different from the hair and skirt restrictions from the military dictatorship era. There are no objective standards to people’s looks […] Is Minister Jin Sun-mee the female Chun Doo Hwan?” wrote Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the minor conservative Bareunmirae Party on Facebook Saturday.

The Gender Ministry’s guidelines came as a revision of an existing guideline from 2017. The previous guidelines had been set according to five major goals set for the entire broadcasting industry, that it should “break gender stereotypes, not deal with sex crimes or domestic violence in a suggestive way, and be sensitive to sexist language.”

It is not that we are unaware of the negative effects looks — especially the kind induced by celebrities on TV — or the massive influence television has on breaking down gender stereotypes. But for the government to think they can set a guideline for how celebrities should look is clearly outdated. This even goes against the norms of the progressive government, which emphasizes the importance of freedom.

This issue should not be overlooked just because the guidelines are not compulsory, as was stated by the Gender Ministry. They may have said the guidelines were “only meant for television stations to take into consideration,” but this is the evidence of how the state views its people and the media.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 19, Page 30