Globalizing Korea’s entertainment gene
In the United States, golf is a popular sport anyone can enjoy. It is easy to find courses operated by local community centers. Sometimes I go out by myself and play a game with locals. At first, it was awkward to play golf with strangers, but I taught them the so-called “Las Vegas Draw” game I used to play in Korea. I prepared five sticks - two with red marks, two with green marks and one with a black mark (the joker). Each player picks a stick at every hole and makes a team with the person who picks the same color. We make bets on the round, and everyone gets excited about the game. They often say Koreans are geniuses to make such an entertaining game. But in Korea, even a novice player knows the rules.
Karaoke was invented in Japan, but karaoke clubs prospered in Korea. When I take American friends to karaoke, they are often impressed at how much Koreans love to sing and dance. They even wonder if Koreans are aspiring musicians. They are astonished by the spectacular tambourine plays. When Koreans go out drinking in groups, they often “go all the way.”
I nearly forgot about the entertaining DNA of Koreans after living in New York for three years, but Psy’s sensational popularity reminded me that Koreans know how to have fun. Psy is not your typical good-looking young idol star. He doesn’t have great vocal talent or astonishing dance moves. But he knows how to have fun and goes all the way, and the world is crazy about his song and dance. “Gangnam Style” was not particularly targeting the global market. In fact, Psy was focused on the domestic market at first. The lyrics only have two English phrases, “style” and “sexy lady.” But today, 400 million people around the globe are singing along.
We need to come out and admit that we are natural-born entertainers. Koreans cannot stand being bored even for a second. I wasn’t so aware when I was in Korea, but now that I live abroad, I realize that Koreans know how to have fun. But parents are still infatuated by the SKY college dream, desperately wanting to send their children to one of the top three universities in Korea.
Korea’s karaoke clubs are equipped with world-class machines. Why not bring these machines to the auditoriums of elementary, middle and high schools around the country instead of just using them at bars and clubs? How about hosting a talent show every month and having students represent different countries? What about hosting a game competition at school computer labs, instead of letting students play games without their parents’ knowledge? Every year, my son’s high school invites residents to the student band competition at the auditorium, and the event always reminds me of these questions.
* The author is the New York correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Jung Kyung-min