Teens battle in inter-Asian quiz show

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Teens battle in inter-Asian quiz show

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Studio G of Nihon TV was filled with tension. Six boys quietly waited for the program, “King of the Quiz ― Korea vs. Japan,” co-produced by the Korea Educational Broadcasting System and Nippon Television, to start recording.
The two teams, with three members on each team, were the final contestants from Korea and Japan. The Koreans ― Oh U-jung, Min Gyeong-jin and Hong Yun-gi, currently sophomores at Chuncheon High School ― were competing against Ishizaki Satoshi, Nanko Masaki and Doriya Hisatoshi, juniors at Urawa High School in Saitama province.
It was the first time any of them had ever competed in a television quiz show.
The show, originally called “Janghak Quiz” in Korea, has been seen as a respectable thing for a Korean high school student to participate in. It is a popular show among high schoolers and was aired by the broadcaster MBC in 1973, but was taken over by EBS in 1997. So far, 1,700 episodes have been taped and up to 11,000 people have participated as contestants. Over the years, the show’s prizes have been upgraded ― starting with fountain pens and bicycles in the 1970s and 1980s, it now offers laptop computers and MP3 players. The only thing that has not changed is its competitiveness.
“The only word we don’t know is ‘losing,’” a member of the Korean team said.
A Japanese team member shot back: “But we’re going to win.”
The quiz championship kicked off with the first question showing a picture of a historic site of the Incan Civilization. The participants were asked to answer where the site was located. The Japanese leapt on the buzzer and gave the right answer, Peru.
The Korean team fell behind in the beginning but soon caught up by giving the correct answers eight consecutive times, such as listing the diameters of planets bigger than Earth, and answering who starred in “The Da Vinci Code.” However, in the end, the Korean team was defeated by seven points when the Japanese team managed to quickly answer the last question ― the name of a “historical” figure’s girlfriend. The answer was “Olive.” One of the Korean competitors, Min Gyeong-jin, said he had never imagined that a cartoon character would be used in a question on the program.
Initiated by Nippon Television last June, the inter-Asian TV program pits competitors from the 26-year-old “Japan High School Quiz” show and the 34-year-old “Janghak Quiz.” The Korean and Japanese announcers, Kim Bum-su (of Janghak Quiz) and Ralph Suzuki (Japan High school Quiz), were selected to be the emcees of the show.
The winning team from the U.S. National High School Championship had also planned to join the quiz battle, but the U.S. team cancelled at the last minute due to security issues on long flights leaving from the United States.
It took 65 judges three months to formulate all the questions for the contest, and each question had to go through a screening process so that a certain team would not have any advantages. However, it was a challenging job to come up with the appropriate questions considering that there is a language barrier between the two teams ― although during the show, simultaneous interpretation was broadcast.
Both the Korean and the Japanese staff were concerned that tensions might arise due to the diplomatic issues between the two countries, but when the competition ended, six students between the two teams offered a friendly gesture by promising to keep in touch with each other. Both the Japanese and the Korean production staff have agreed on inviting more countries as competitors, making it an international quiz tournament starting next year. A Korean company, SK, has been airing a quiz program called “SK Zhangyuanbang” (a Chinese version of Janghak Quiz) over Beijing TV since 2000. Korean and Chinese students have already competed against each other in “Quiz Championship: Korea vs. China” and there are annual friendly camps for Korean and Chinese high school students. The quiz tournament between the three countries will soon also be supported by Nippon Television.


by Hong Soo-hyun
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