Lesbian kiss on Korean drama sparks debate

SEOUL (AFP) - An unprecedented lesbian kiss between two high school students on a popular South Korean TV drama has fuelled a debate about portrayals of sexuality in a rapidly modernising society with deeply conservative roots.

The broadcast and internet regulatory body, the Korea Communications Standards Commission, said on Friday it had received complaints about the scene which aired on Wednesday's episode of Seonam Girls High School Investigators. "We will decide whether this is an issue after we look into it, and whether there is any violation of broadcast policy," the commission said in a statement.

Homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea, but carries a significant social stigma, with few openly gay public figures.

The country's prolific TV drama industry, which has become a major cultural export, largely pumps out multi-generational, family-focused soap operas with similar tragi-comic plotlines.

In recent years, some productions - especially those on cable TV - have sought to include more culturally sensitive social issues such as teenage pregnancy.

A few have experimented with gay characters, and just this month there was a kissing scene between two male actors in the drama Kill Me, Heal Me. But the Seonam Girls High School Investigators scene was the first of its kind between two female characters, and so caused something of a stir.

A spokesman for the JTBC cable channel which produced the show said the kiss had been included because it was "necessary to the plot". Several media outlets quoted an unidentified member of the production team as saying the series had been devised with a view to touching on the issue of homosexuality.

"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," the producer said.

Previous television forays into programming focusing on minorities have come unstuck.

In 2012, KBS Joy, an entertainment subsidiary of the national KBS TV, pulled the plug on a newly-launched talk show aimed at the transgender community after just one broadcast triggered an outcry from conservative groups.

The television controversy comes a day after the country's Constitutional Court struck down an adultery law which for more than 60 years had criminalised extra-marital sex, in another reflection of shifting cultural attitudes.