It’s just an entertainment show
The symbol of the 170-day strike at the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, which began in late January, was not a news program or a drama. “Impossible? Possible! The Unlimited Challenge!” is a popular entertainment program by MBC, and it was the symbol of the strike. After the program’s producer Kim Tae-ho joined the strike, the show was canceled, while other entertainment programs from the broadcaster were aired. And viewers confessed one after another that they were experiencing withdrawal symptoms. I often sat in front of the television at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday with my family to watch the show, so I also felt somewhat empty.
The strike finally ended and the fun of watching the show returned, but the program recently faced a crisis after a plan to open the “Super 7” concert in November was canceled. The concert was planned during the strike period that the members of the show wanted to create an opportunity to directly communicate with the fans. And the plan became the subject of controversy starting last week. After the ticket price of a VIP seat was announced at 132,000 won ($117), viewers complained that the show members were going after profits.
The ticket prices were lowered to 99,000 won, but the criticism continued. The concert plan was scrapped, and Gil and Gary, members of the singing duo LeeSsang, declared that they would no longer appear on entertainment programs. “I wanted to make the best blockbuster concert in Korea,” Gil said. “We had a plan to donate the profits.”
Following their announcement, cyberspace was flooded with Internet users’ messages, demanding the two singers return to the entertainment programs. “The show is not a volunteer group,” one viewer wrote. “It’s like a beggar to hope for a free concert,” another viewer wrote.
The controversy highlights an aspect of Korean society. An extreme sway of the opinions from one end to the other end was recreated.
The fundamental reason behind the situation is that the fans treated the show as something more than a simple entertainment program. Until now, the show had held a few free concerts. Profits were used to support needy neighbors. The members of the program donated profits from selling calendars produced through the program.
The various activities linked to the show, whether they are small or big, expanded the social meaning of the entertainment. And the image of the public service also angered the viewers for planning a concert with pricey tickets.
The show had experienced a similar episode in the past. In July 2009, singer Yoon Jong-shin tried to sell the original music of his song, which was created in collaboration with a member of the program, on one of the show’s episodes. After the move, netizens bombarded him with the criticism, calling him a singer mad about money. A short while later, Yoon surrendered and said he misjudged and promised to donate profits to the program.
And yet, “Impossible? Possible! The Unlimited Challenge!” is not a nonprofit charity, and the entertainers on the show are not social entrepreneurs. The members do not deserve criticism even if they split the profits from a concert or sale of original music. “Workers are paid for their labor” is the basic rule of a capitalist society.
Of course, praise is deserved when members contribute profits from a concert to the society. But there is no ground to criticize them for not planning a free concert or not dominating their profits. A good deed shines when it is done by free will.
I have read a report in the past that entertainment programs serve as a pain reducer for some cancer patients. The shows also give joy to families in economic hardship, youngsters desperately searching for jobs and students struggling to pass exams. It is more than enough for the entertainment programs to make them smile.
I believe a well-made entertainment program is much better than an okay-made current affairs program because it reduces the number of angry birds above our heads and softens the competitive atmosphere of our living.
A society where political correctness prevails is a difficult place to live, and a society where my comfort level is forced on others is dangerous. Furthermore, we must not use the standard on entertainers who cross the delicate line to make you laugh. We must not force social responsibilities on them.
Yu Jae-seok, Pak Myeong-su, Jung Jun-ha, Jung Hyeong-don, No Hong-cheol, Haha and Gill are the seven members of the “Impossible? Possible! The Unlimited Challenge!” and if the seven men had to stop their challenge, there would only be one reason. It’s when they can no longer make you laugh.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kwon Suk-chun