[ENTERTAINMENT]What's the Big Deal? Jo Knows the Answer

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[ENTERTAINMENT]What's the Big Deal? Jo Knows the Answer

Talk about a wry sense of humor. "Let me tell you a really funny story I heard a few days ago," began the TV personality Jo Young-nam. "Once upon a time, there was a small island nation. The people were extremely poor and on the verge of starvation. At one of the country's ministerial meetings, an official suggested they start a war against the United States to get rich, citing Germany and Japan as models to follow. They agreed to declare war in three days. But guess what happened. On the designated day to launch the war, the prime minister was found dead - a suicide. He left a note saying he couldn't endure the doubt that his nation would really be defeated by America." The celebrity explained that he nearly laughed himself into convulsions when he heard it.

Maybe you had to be there. Though the joke is quite incontrovertibly distasteful, Jo, an emcee, singer, author and artist, is generally well-liked, and known to be quirky and funny. That he can laugh at the story reflects his carefree and optimistic lifestyle. His signature attitude is "What's the big deal?" In fact, his big deal comes Saturday and Sunday at the Seoul Education Culture Center, when he performs a concert to mark the 35th anniversary of his debut as a singer. Jo held a similar show in March.

Jo was born in 1944 in North Korea's Hwanghae province and went south during the war as a refugee. After studying classical singing at Seoul National University, he made a name for himself by performing for U.S. troops in the 1960s before cutting his first recording, a version of the U.S. hit "Delilah," in 1968. Now Jo is known for his trademark plain and artless appearance and speaking style as an emcee for TV programs. Though he failed to record many hit songs, he has distinguished himself as a writer; along with a few books, he has penned columns for newspapers and magazines. His writing style mirrors his emcee approach: straightforward and blunt.

A 1979 graduate of Florida's Trinity Divinity College, Jo is quite outspoken about his Christian faith. He describes his take on Jesus in his book "Yesu-eui Satbareul Japda," or "Holding the Thighband of the Wrestler Jesus." Published last year, the book describes Jesus as an exorcist. Jo said it helps readers to gain a closer and friendlier relationship with the Nazarene.

As a painter, Jo has held several exhibitions. His works cannot be described as artistically stunning, but they have catchy motifs.

"I don't know what drives me to write or paint," Jo says. "But you can't always use logic to explain everything that happens in your life." The terrorist attack against the United States and its repercussions have dampened cultural activities worldwide, and attendance at Jo's upcoming concert may also be hurt by the widespread anxiety. But for Jo, optimism prevails: "I can live decently enough without holding concerts, but I just can't help it, I have a passion for the stage; that's all." For concert information, call 02-337-8474.

by Choe Jae-hee

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