[VIEWPOINT]How National Traits Flavor TV Shows

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[VIEWPOINT]How National Traits Flavor TV Shows

The Korean public television network KBS and the Japanese public television network NHK put on an almost identical program, a national singing contest, every Sunday around noon. The KBS program started in November 1980 and had its 377th broadcast Sunday. It is usually taped in advance. The NHK program is called the "Concert of the Amateur Singing Contest." It was started in 1946 and has been a lively broadcast.

The two programs are similar in many respects, but you can sense the differences between the two countries' national traits and culture when you watch them. Let's look at the similarities first.

Both programs have been loved by their publics for a long time. They are open to the public and taped in or aired from every quarter of each country. The hosts add hilarity to both programs. In Korea it has been the comedian Song Hae, 75. In Japan announcer Teru Miyata initially emceed the program. The fact that he later became a member of the Upper House of Japan's Diet indicates how popular the program was.

The KBS program is usually taped in the open air, but moves indoors in winter. The participants are drawn from both sexes and all ages. Many participants wear Korean traditional costumes, hanboks. From time to time they bring to the stage regional specialties or food they prepared themselves to give to Mr. Song. We cannot help but smile when once in a while a grandson of a participant comes up to the stage and gets some money from musicians on the stage.

Most participants perform with distinctive personality, moving and swaying along with the tune. We even see men and women in the audience dancing to the music. In such a free atmosphere the host, participants and the audience are united in their enjoyment of the show. One can sense the abundant individuality and naturally bright personality of Koreans.

The show is broadcast from 12:10 to 1:10 in the afternoon. Nobody seems to bother much if the show is slightly longer or shorter than one hour. Some past participants later became popular singers. Now the program has a real competition only twice a year; the rest of the programs seem to be just for fun. There are several winners on each program, with extra prizes including a gift voucher from the National Agricultural Cooperatives Federation. But the judging does not seem to be particularly serious.

The NHK program, on the other hand, is not like a festival. It is meant to be a real singing contest, and it is always a live broadcast from an indoor performing hall. Though the Japanese participants, too, are of all ages and both sexes it is unusual to see them wearing traditional costumes. The historical relics and regional specialties of the area where individual programs are broadcast are introduced, but there is not much direct interaction between participants and the host or musicians as in Korea. Recently a few participants have begun to add movement to their songs, but there is no dancing or beating time from audience members.

Of course participants and audience become united to some degree, but the mood is much more modest and muted than in the Korean broadcast. That is because the program is a singing competition, not an entertainment program.

The broadcasting hour runs from 12:15 to 1:00 in the afternoon and rarely misses the fixed schedule by more than a second. A Korean friend of mine told me that the show looked to be molded into a wooden box.

The winners, a champion and a special-award winner, are selected according to a very serious and strict evaluation process. There is no prize money for the winners. A special program once a year selects a national champion of the year. The program has produced a number of nationally famous professional singers, including Huyumi Sakamoto and Jiro Sakagami.

Thus, both peoples love their national singing contest programs. Koreans and Japanese look similar, since they are both of Mongolian racial heritage, and they have many things in common. Yet we can see some differences in the audiences and participants in the ways they enjoy and respond to the same type of program, due to subtle differences in nationality and culture. I think the difference has something to do with the different natural environments arising from geographical conditions and history.

Watching the two programs makes me think of how we can lead people with different ways of thinking to cooperate in the pursuit of common goals.

The answer should start with acknowledging the differences in national traits and culture. Then we have to appropriate the best elements from each other through cultural exchanges while maintaining mutual respect.

It is much more important for the new generations in the both nations to shake hands with each other for the peace of the world. In order to make it happen as soon as possible, and as a one form of cultural exchange, I am dreaming about a national singing contest jointly prepared by KBS and NHK.


The writer is the chairman of the Fuji Xerox Korea.

by Nobuya Takasugi

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