Dream house not finding home on TV

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Dream house not finding home on TV

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A still from “Jibdream.” The newly launched reality show offers a three-story house as its grand prize, but has infuriated viewers, who are sympathetic to the contestants’ plight. The family featured in the photo is a husband and wife with three children, two biological children and an adopted child from Bangladesh. [JoongAng Ilbo]


Turn on the TV these days and you are bound to encounter a reality show, whether you want to or not. Prompted by the craze of “Super Star K” in 2009, Korea’s answer to “American Idol,” Korean broadcasters have been devising their own reality show formats where people compete to lose weight or gain stardom as TV anchors, singers and actors.

The newest show by local broadcaster MBC is unprecedented in Korea. It offers the prize of a brand-new, three-story wooden house. The house has an estimated value of about 350 million won ($318,181) and is currently being built in Yongin, Gyeonggi.

The show - entitled “Jibdream,” a portmanteau of “jib,” or “house” in Korean, and “dream” - began airing this month. More than 13,000 families applied to participate and 16 families were selected. The families compete by solving quizzes every week, and contenders for each successive round are selected based on their accumulated scores.

It would seem to be a tempting format for viewers and contestants alike. According to a news report released last year, purchasing a house in Seoul can be like an impossible mission. It would take about 19 years and four months for an ordinary employee making 3.9 million won ($3,545.50) per month to buy a 106-square-meter apartment in Gangnam, a wealthy area in southern Seoul.

The show consists of two main parts. One segment shows clips of overseas families and the other segment shows the families competing to answer questions. The clips introduce families in European countries such as the Netherlands, showing images of their houses and daily lives, and the questions are based on the clips. After the clips are shown, the contestants answer questions such as “What do they have in their drawers?” or “What is the newfound hobby of this girl [referring to a teenage girl in one of the overseas families]?”

The families on the show have diverse backgrounds and compelling stories that would seem to have the potential to resonate with viewers. There is one couple with two biological children that adopted a child from Bangladesh despite the family’s financial difficulties. Another family defected from North Korea and is struggling to build a new life here. Then there is a man who, in order to take care of his ailing parents, chose to become homeless and put his own house up for sale.

But the show’s single-digit ratings suggest that viewers are less than enthusiastic. On its first night, July 10, the audience share was 6 percent. By the second week the figure had slipped to 4 percent and on Sunday it was 2.4 percent. Those numbers are far lower than for TV documentaries, which usually come in at between 3 percent and 10 percent.

Although some of the criticism has to do with the show’s format, the majority of negative comments seem to be based on sympathy for the families competing for the grand prize.

And many of the viewers posting comments on the show’s Web site have urged MBC to shut the show down. “The show makes me feel bitter,” one such viewer, Lee Hyun-hee, wrote. “It seems like they [the families] are being mocked in exchange for a house.”

The sentiment is echoed by culture critic Ha Jae-keun. “People watch reality shows to dream that they can live better lives, but the show is more about eliminating families that are trying to win a house,” Ha said. “Viewers can’t stand the feeling of desperation they [the families] feel about not being able to have their own house.”

There is another element at play as well. “Jibdream” and many other new Korean reality shows focus only on the dramatic elements of a contestant’s story to draw viewers. When the reality show “Korea’s Got Talent” introduced contestant Choi Sung-bong, who has since been dubbed the “Susan Boyle of Korea,” it focused on his background as an orphan without revealing that he had since received vocal training.

But Ha says that viewers are tired of these attempts to tug at their emotions. “Viewers will be immune to such sad and pathetic stories,” Ha said.


By Sung So-young [so@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

[문화노트] 집 장만도 서바이벌? MBC ‘집드림’ 잔인하다

이야기를 시작하기 전에 퀴즈부터 풀어보자.

 여기 네 가족이 있다. 당신은 이 중 한 가족만 골라 상을 줄 수 있다.

 ① 목숨을 걸고 아이들과 함께 북한을 탈출한 ‘새터민 가족’

 ② 어려운 형편에도 방글라데시의 한 소녀를 입양해 키우는 ‘입양 가족’

 ③ 이혼 후 생계전선에 뛰어들어야 하는 처제와 아이들을 좁은 집에 받아들인 ‘한 지붕 두 자매 가족’

 ④ 아픈 부모님을 돌보느라 집까지 팔았다가, 순대장사로 재기하려는 ‘순대 아빠 가족’

 모두 형편은 어렵고 집 한 채 가지는 게 꿈이다. 상으로 주어지는 건 바로 ‘집’. 그 누가 마음 편히 답을 고를 수 있을까.

어려운 사람들의 집 장만 꿈을 경쟁에 부쳐 비판을 받고 있는 MBC ‘집드림’. “주말 오후에 볼 만한 공익 예능을 만들겠다”며 10일 첫 선을 보인 MBC ‘우리들의 일밤’의 새 코너 ‘집드림’이 논란에 휩싸였다. 2400여 명의 무주택 신청가족 중 열여섯 가족을 선발, 퀴즈 토너먼트를 통해 우승한 최후의 가족에게 3층 규모의 단독주택을 준다. 제작진은 “집에 대한 개념을 행복하게 바꾸기 위해 기획했다”고 밝혔다.

 그러나 첫 회부터 쏟아진 시청자들의 비난은 혹평을 넘어 분노에 가깝다. 집이 없는 시청자들에게 심한 박탈감을 주는 것은 물론, 앞서 말한 잔인한 퀴즈를 모든 시청자들에게 던지고 있는 모양새이기 때문이다.

 이 가족을 응원할 수도, 저 가족을 응원할 수도 없는 난감한 상황. 이쪽 편을 들자니 저쪽의 눈물이 생생히 그려진다. 주택 소유 여부와 관계없이 보는 이는 괴로운데, 어째서 ‘공익’이며 ‘예능’이냐는 얘기다.

 출제되는 퀴즈가 오로지 운에 달렸다는 점도 문제가 됐다. 네덜란드의 한 가정을 찾아 그 집 아이가 좋아하는 장난감이 무엇인지, 창고에 뭐가 들어있는지 등을 맞추는 문제는 실소를 자아냈다.

 결과는 시청률이 보여준다. 1회 6%대를 기록했고, 2회 때는 더 못 미친 4%대가 나왔다. 시청자 게시판에는 프로그램을 옹호하는 의견은 찾아볼 수 없다. “공짜로 집 주는 ‘좋은’ 방송이니까 수혜자가 될 수도 있는 가족의 가정사 정도는 방송에서 마음대로 써먹어도 된다는 건가. 게다가 열심히 살아온 분들 데리고 운발인 퀴즈나 풀게 하니 분통이 터진다”는 식의 글이 올라온다.

 TV만 틀면 오디션 프로그램이 쏟아지는 시대다. 1등만 조명되는 부작용이 우려되는 가운데 “일반 서바이벌 프로그램과는 다르다”며 ‘집드림’이 등장했다. 오디션 프로그램을 거친 이들은 경쟁을 거치는 동안 내공이라도 쌓으며 성장할 수 있다. 집드림을 거친 가족들에게 쌓이는 내공은 무얼까. 눈 앞에 왔다가 사라진 행운을 지켜보며 ‘절망내공’이라도 쌓으라는 건가.

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