Most people agree that ‘Infinite Challenge’ of MBC is one of the best entertainment programs in Korea. The characters have challenged themselves to do new things for seven years, like the program’s name. It is called the best program because of each character’s effort. However, there is one more reason. The reason is that it describes social issues stimulating viewers’ curiosities. In addition to ‘Infinite Challenge’, recently we can find that many different media criticize and satirize social issues. The biggest examples would be ‘I am Ggomsu’, the ‘High Kick’ series and ‘Gag Concert’.
For example, one of the sitcoms, the ‘High Kick’ series’, shows social issues to the public, so it receives attention from them. In High Kick 3, many social issues appear indirectly such as the lost teachers’ authority, welfare budget cut, and the so-called 0.88 million won generation .
In particular, an actress performed as a poor college student in a very convincing way. She had a debt of 30 million won because of taking out a student loan. Now she is finding a job. In other words, she is in the most typical twenty-something person. When you watch her, you can realize that the author wants to show the current situation in which the young people in their twenties are living while battling with unemployment problems and harsh reality, yet they would be bright and challenging.
There were always social problems, as mentioned above. Also, the press has to tell the public about social issues and the media has to criticize and observe the social issues. However, the proper functions of the press and media were paralyzed for several years. As a result, we couldn’t see the people talk about social issues as satire or see programs to show social problems directly to the public. There is research proving this phenomenon. According to Freedom House, which is a conservative human rights groups, the research found that South Korea ranked 70th among 196 countries in Freedom of the Press. The ranking has continued to drop since 2008. It seems ironic that we boast that Korea is in the top 10 economic powerhouses in the world and that it is gradually joining the ranks of advanced countries in this situation. The public subsequently started to search for alternative ways to give opinions.
Owing to the popularity of ‘smart devices’ and the development of a diverse media, various ways for criticizing and satirizing social issues emerged. In particular, the power of SNS (Social Network Service) is great. People can get information which people with different ideas posted through SNS in real-time. For example, owing to the writing by Kim Yoh-jin (actress) on Twitter, the dispute of Hanjin Heavy Industries was widely known to the public. Though this problem could fade away, we can see this problem through SNS. Besides, recently a medium with a completely different paradigm appeared. It is the podcast. In the Seoul city mayoral by-election in last October, voters in their 20s or 30s showed high voter turnout. It is said that they were affected by ‘I am Ggomsu’, one of the iTunes podcasts. The hardball criticism and satire ‘I am Ggomsu’ aroused its audience members, who were indifferent to the politics, giving them enthusiasm. The public were dissatisfied with the way in which the government controls diverse opinions and more and more people distrust the existing press. Above all things, they fully realized that their voting could change the real situation.
People and various programs in the media have always criticized and satirized social issues after democratization, but recently they fell away. The reason is that the government reinforced censorship of the media. The already-established powers are endeavoring to control the new current. They have already tried to put censorship on the program ‘Infinite Challenge’ several times through the Korea Communications Standards Commission. Recently they were preparing a bill to control SNS.
However, there is nothing we can do to stop running water. If the channels to criticize are blocked up, the public will create another alternative channel, as history has shown.
<Interview with Na Mi-su, Professor in the Dept. of Mass Communication>
Recently, the programs to criticize social issues with satire and jokes have increased. What do you think of this situation?
These programs have always existed. I think their popularity depends on the point in time. Then, why now? They reflect an undesirable and unfair society in which people become increasingly dissatisfied. In this situation, the public gets vicarious satisfaction through these programs thinking that ‘they complain instead of me’.
According to Freedom House, Korea ranked 70th among 196 countries in Freedom of the Press. This ranking is as low as that of African countries. How do you feel about this result?
Korea is one of the OECD Countries and an economic power. However, as far as the freedom of speech is concerned, it is a backwards country. As you can see from the appearance of new channels, the voices of the conservatives are getting louder. As a result, though the number of media outlets is increasing, they don’t express diverse opinions.
Then, what is the solution to this serious problem?
All the people should have open minds and let all kinds of opinions be voiced. Through self-purification and wise judgment among the various voices, the public must form their own opinions.
0.88 million won generation came from a book title. Specifically, non-regular worker’s wage is 1.19 million won. Moreover, the income of 74% of 20-somethings is 0.88 million won. Also, they are an unsafe generation to accept winner-take-all for the first time among several generations in Korea.