The Supreme Court of South Korea has made a ruling. The court overturned a previous decision regarding the sexualization of minor characters in “anime style” images. The Lower Court had previously ruled that it would be “unreasonable” to prosecute the distributors of these images and videos because the drawn characters were only “young looking” and their appearance did not necessarily denote minor status and that more evidence would be needed to determine the ages of the characters shown in the pornographic images if they were to be considered illegal content.
That ruling has been overturned. With the court stating that, “In the perspective of a common individual in our society, the contents of the videos demonstrate what can be seen to be teenagers.” This recent decision comes after a retrial of a man , only identified as Lim, that was charged for distributing and profiting off of child pornography from 2010. He was given a fine but after the lower courts ruled that it was unreasonable to charge him for animated pornography the case was brought to the South Korean Supreme Court and the latest ruling was given. This comes after a 2014 law in Japan that targeted animated child porn. The Japanese law did not extend to anime or manga. However, it seems this latest ruling in South Korea may. It’s still rather unclear as to how this latest decision out of South Korea will impact the wider community of anime and manga artists and consumers.
The case touches on a longstanding controversy between fans of anime and manga online with those who despise the medium. With one side arguing that “lewd” images of characters in anime that are underage constitute child pornography and should be shamed and criminalized. The other side arguing that no one is harmed in drawn anime and manga images. That these images should be allowed to be produced for the sake of free speech and concerns that legislating the artwork they enjoy will stifle the creativity of anime and manga artists. The future is uncertain in South Korea. However it’s likely this new development will once again reopen the long standing issues of sexualized depictions of anime characters online.