Posted : 2013-03-18 20:14
Updated : 2013-03-18 20:14

Bare yourself at own risk

A decree penalizing "overexposure" is to go into effect on March 21 amid a debate on the clarity of the term. Those caught "overexposing" themselves may face a fine of 50,000 won ($44.85). / Korea Times file

By Kwon Ji-youn

Lee Mi-young, 24, an account coordinator at Google Korea, is in a dilemma over an outfit she bought for a special dinner late this month.

The cause is the "overexposure" decree that will go into effect on March 21. She has to brave a fine of 50,000 won ($44.85) for a night of roaming the hip district of Gangnam in her little black dress.

The chance is that Lee is not alone.

Seoul is packed with women sporting tops and, apparently, little more. These women varnish their legs with stockings or leggings, and their sweaters barely conceal their backsides.

This trend, namely the "bottoms gone missing" look, is common in the entertainment profession. Celebrities appear at public venues wearing miniskirts or micro-shorts, showing off their legs.

Girl groups attempt to make it their trademark.

The members of Girls Generation, a leading girl group, wore micro-shorts to flaunt their legs while performing the "crane" dance, during which they whipped their legs around.

Bare legs do not scream "sex," unlike low-cut or cropped tops.

Celebrities known for their scanty attire criticized the decree. Lee Hyo-ri, a singer considered a sex symbol, posted on Twitter, "Is it true about the overexposure fine? I'm dead." Kwak Hyun-hwa, 32 and notorious for her sex appeal, asked, "What am I going to do?"

There is an interesting comparison being made between President Park Geun-hye and her late father, former President Park Chung-hee.

In her first Cabinet meeting on March 11, the new government led by President Park endorsed the regulation designed to impose fines on those caught "overexposing." It also called for a fine of 80,000 won for the crime of stalking.

Late President Park Chung-hee banned women from wearing miniskirts that reached less than 10 centimeters above the knee. The senior Park's 18-year reign ended in 1979 when he was assassinated by his aide.

One netizen commented, "Now with the decree, it's a matter of time before the government begins intense regulation (on the public)."

Another tweeted, "It's the fact that the (new government's) first Cabinet decision is to pass a decree that is the vestige of a dictatorship that makes me laugh."

"Personally, I think it violates our freedom. It could easily be understood as a revival of the Park Chung-hee regime," said Hyun Ji-hye, 24, a student at Sogang University. "I don't think it looks good when people dress scantily, but it's not really anyone's business."

Scholars and legal experts also expressed disapproval, claiming the amendment "goes against the course of time."

"When I heard the phrase ‘overexposure,' I thought they were speaking of cropped tops and shorts. I thought, ‘this regulation is a stretch,'" said Prof. Kim Kyung-hoon of the Department of Police and Law at Kwangju Women's University.

The question is how the decree defines "overexposure."

"It's difficult to understand what it means to overexpose, or what it refers to when it says to hide places that should be hidden," said Prof. Jeong Byeong-gon of Nambu University's Department of Police Administration.

"If the clause is going to be unclear, then I believe it would have been better to delete the clause altogether."

The decree defines overexposure as "showing too much skin while in public places or causing embarrassment or displeasure by revealing body parts that should be kept hidden."

In the face of public outcry, the police said in a statement that the decree has been in place since 1963. They said the amendment is aimed at simplifying the legal procedure and making the penalty lighter.

The police tried to reassure the public that the revision does not apply to miniskirts and tank tops, but concern is still growing over excessive governmental control on people's private lives.

Because the term "overexposure" is vague, it is questionable whether the decree is in fact a mitigation of punishment or just another way for the government to increase its revenue by collecting more penalties.

If the decree was designed to mitigate punishment and simplify procedures, then, as a netizen asks, "Did the government just announce we can dress anyway we want for 50,000 won and stalk anyone we want for 80,000 won?"

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