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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 May, 2003, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Sex museum opens in Seoul

By Caroline Gluck
BBC correspondent in Seoul

Sexual imagery at  Khajuraho Temple in India
Indian erotica is famous across Asia
South Korea's first sex museum has opened, challenging traditional views that in the past Koreans were a chaste, even prudish nation.

The Asia Eros museum displays more than 300 exhibits, some several hundred years old, from Korea and around the world.

Crowds of curious visitors arrived as the Asia Eros museum opened its doors in a quiet but upscale neighbourhood in the South Korean capital Seoul.

It claims to be the country's first sex museum and features erotic art from paintings, photographs and carvings, dating back through the centuries.

Some of the items are shamanistic sexual symbols. Other erotic images are displayed on everyday items such as plates, mirrors and coins.

Items from Tibet and Japan are also on display.

Confucian conduct

Scholars say that the 35-year occupation of Korea by Japan meant that erotica became more widely available and sought-after.

Attitudes towards sex have changed dramatically in South Korea, a country which still remains one of the most Confucian countries in Asia.

Confucian scholars stress chastity and urge their followers to be virtuous in their conduct.

Widows were taught never to remarry and one popular saying advised parents never to let boys and girls sit together in the same room after they turned seven years old.

Shift in values

But as the museum shows, the reality was a little different.

Its curator says he hopes visitors will learn about how their ancestors viewed sex.

The repressive sexual culture of the past has given way to more openness today.

Sex education is mandatory in schools, and more sexually explicit material is shown on television and magazines, as well as on the internet.

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