[ENTERTAINMENT]The dark side of 'Midnight TV'

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[ENTERTAINMENT]The dark side of 'Midnight TV'

The ratings may be high, but so are tempers. "How much do Korean celebrities have to endure from pesky photographers at their doorsteps? We don't need to know the color of the stars' excrement. Please stop the program right away," complains an angry poster on the "Anti-Midnight TV Entertainment" Web site, a site that calls for ending SBS's weekly entertainment news program, "Midnight TV Entertainment." The person goes on to say, "I don't understand how visiting celebrity couples' kitchens and filming them making rice cakes together can be considered a newsworthy story by a so-called major broadcasting company in Korea." When there are no major incidents to report, the program often covers stories about celebrities' housewarming parties, births of their children and even court appearances by couples going through divorce trials.

Kwon Young-e, a promotional staffer at the SBS Viewers Service department admits there have been "moral" concerns about the program.

"We get complaint calls once in a while, but we just pass along the message to the producers," she says.

There are several news programs reporting on celebrity goings-on and gossip, but "The Midnight TV Entertainment" has been particularly notorious for the extreme degrees it goes to in chasing after Korean celebrities.

For example, the program has been airing for the last six months the story of Shim Eun-ha, the popular movie actress who recently announced she would quit acting because of the months of being chased by reporters from local tabloids and entertainment programs who wanted to find out more about her new boyfriend. "It was like they were writing a dissertation," says Kim Hyun-jin, 23, a member of the protesting Web site. "They were updating Shim's story for almost 10 weeks, giving every possible guess about what might be happening."

The week Shim finally announced she was quitting show business, the press made a full report of the actress's activities for the previous seven months. It all started the day she was found to have flown to Los Angeles with a mystery man. The next day, the three major sports newspapers said that Shim was secretly dating the Major League Baseball player Park Chan-ho. The news turned out to be false, but "Midnight TV Entertainment" aired the story anyway, under the guise of criticizing the newspaper coverage.

Despite the numerous complaints by media critics and local civic groups, however, the program has managed to keep its prime time spot for the last six years, since it began in February 1995.

Perhaps the most interesting part about these entertainment news programs is their mutually parasitic relationship to the Korean entertainment industry as a whole. The entertainment news programs often air stories about TV advertisements and music videos that are being shot overseas with celebrities in them.

But what about their errors? "The program runs apology reports once every three months," says Kim, the Web site advocate. "But if they continue running these irresponsible news items, it's obvious that they don't feel that sorry about anything."

by Park Soo-mee

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