Kim Je-dong on talking, and listening

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Kim Je-dong on talking, and listening


Kim Je-dong started off as a comedian, but being knowledgeable and eloquent on various topics, he has been more active in hosting talk shows. [KWON HYUK-JAE]

Kim Je-dong started off as a comedian. But he’s now more widely known as a talk show host who is down to earth and knows how to really talk to people, sympathize with others and give witty yet wise advice on life.

Known for his volubility, Kim has hosted numerous TV shows and even launched his own talk show, “No Break,” in 2009 and toured the country. So far, he has staged 273 shows, performing for nearly 300,000 people. Not afraid of revealing his liberal political inclinations, Kim has joined various protests, which in some cases have sparked controversy and resulted in him being asked to step down from a show.

His latest major TV activity has been hosting the JTBC talk show “Talk to You,” which just celebrated its one-year anniversary. The program airs at 11 p.m. on Sundays. Kim describes “Talk to You” as “a program where those who are treated like extras rather than protagonists in their own lives get together and raise their voices.”

“And becoming the ‘microphone’ that delivers their voice is my part of the job on the show,” he explained. “They should be the protagonists in their own lives, and what I do is only helping them get back on track.”

Unlike other talk shows, there’s less talking from the host on “Talk to You” and more from the audience. For every episode, Kim is accompanied by a celebrity guest. However, the producers say that the show is strictly “people-oriented.”

To learn more about the unconventional show, the JoongAng Ilbo sat down with Kim for an interview ahead of his show’s one-year anniversary. Here are some edited excerpts.


JTBC’s talk show “Talk to You,” hosted by Kim, just celebrated its one-year anniversary. [JTBC]

Q. Did you have concerns that the show might become plain or boring by focusing more on the personal stories of the audience and having them talk more than you?

A. You might be surprised, but the main objective of “Talk to You” is having fun, and that, as far as I’m concerned, is the best thing I can do. I believe anyone’s life can become a best-seller when written as a book, or become a box-office hit when turned into a film. We have so many dramatic elements in our lives that it can never get too boring.

My job on the show is to skim off that anxiety from audience members who think there is nothing exciting about their lives or believe the life stories they are about to tell are not interesting. When they are confident that they won’t get criticized or laughed at no matter what they say, they’ll open up a bag full of dramatic life stories that make people burst into laughter or tears.

But of course, I’m not afraid of the so-called “awkward pauses” in our conversations. In fact, I don’t want to call them awkward pauses. I believe earnest and genuine stories come out after such pauses, and pauses are also part of the conversation. They speak for themselves.

You’ve hosted the show for a full year. How do you feel?

I’ve realized that there are so many people out there who are eager to talk. Every week, more than 4,000 people sign up to come on the show, but we can only accept 300 to 400 people.

I am so grateful for those who come all the way here from other cities by driving for six to seven hours.

You are an outspoken liberal. How does it affect you as a public figure?

Before talking about what kind of benefits or disadvantages I get from revealing my political inclinations to the public, I want to say that everyone should have their own political views, and I personally believe that revealing them coincides with the spirit of the constitution.

When we talk about issues like rearing children, education, tuition fees and so on, we have to talk about politics in the end. All these issues end up with politics. And what I did was not avoid those instances and just answered with what I believe in or what I think.

Those who tell me not to talk about politics are mostly those who are working in the field of politics. To me, it just sounds like, “Stop talking about politics and being interested in what we do so that we can do whatever we want.” I think that’s their real intention. Sometimes, people ask me why I don’t criticize the opposition parties. That’s because so far, they have acted like they don’t have a presence, and I just don’t know what they are doing.

Moreover, I believe it becomes satire when you criticize the ones with power. If you criticize the weak, it becomes mockery and contempt.

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