Vietnam bans romance novels amid reports on 'poisonous,' 'filthy' books

By Hieu Trinh, TN News

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 Chinese romance novels displayed on shelves at a bookstore. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre

Vietnam's publishing authority has ordered local publishers to stop releasing romance novels, following media reports that such books, particularly those imported from China, are "poisoning" young people. 
The Publishing and Printing Department under the ministry of culture said its decision was prompted by the fact that some publishers have recently printed many romance novels, including homoerotic romance, with "clichéd, useless, obscene and offensive" content.
Most of the questionable books were translations, the agency said in its latest letter to publishers.
It also asked them to review all their published books as well as those they are working on, and remove anything "indecent and unsuitable." 
Publishers have to select books which have "healthy" content and are "suitable with Vietnamese habits and customs," according to the letter.
Speaking to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Chu Van Hoa, director of the publishing department, said the ban is "just temporary." 
"We do not shut down any genre of books, but the government needs to regulate an activity related to culture and people's way of thinking so that it can benefit people."
Hoa was quoted as saying that in the future, only those publishers which prove to be capable of selecting good books are allowed to publish romance novels again.
Previously, the department flagged down three Chinese erotic romance titles, two of which have been suspended.
Since early this year, local media have severely criticized Chinese romance books, including danmei -- the Chinese name for gay romance novels.
They said most of the books, which are originally Internet fictions, are "trashy" with vulgar contents, giving young people unrealistic ideas about love and relationships, and even promoting rape.
They also reported the genre's readers are as young as 12-13 years old, despite their mature content.
The books account for a majority part of publishers' sales, as they are printed in bigger quantities and priced higher than other genres, according to local media.

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