Is TV Fixing Korea’s Future?

Is TV Fixing Korea’s Future?


No country is perfect. As for South Korea, it has been pretty occupied for the last few centuries, turning a third world war-torn country into the 11th biggest economy in the world. So clearly elements of social growth have been either neglected or has not had enough time to catch up with international standards.

South Korea’s biggest problems are related to population and family.

  • Adults are still relying on their parents for financial support causing Kangaroo families.
  • The marriage rate is at a shocking new low (only 6 in 1,000 wed).
  • The birth rate is getting worse (1.24 births per woman).
  • Women sacrifice their jobs for their children (only 4 in 10 are double income households).

At this rate, Korea’s future is worryingly bleak. To ensure a financially secure and safe future, these these large scale social issues have to be addressed, but how?

Entertainment As An Influential Medium

Commercials are ignored, educational classes are useless and taxing singles is just a ridiculous idea. Instead, the regular use of charm and humour can be a great way to mass influence the public. Entertainment programs on TV can access your homes, computers, phones and heads. If done well and if the shows become popular, TV can influence personal life decisions.  

TV Tackles Single Life

Reality entertainment shows have been taking off, and in particular family orientated shows to do with relationships between children, parents, spouses etc. For instance shows like MBC’s Dad! Where are you going? and KBS’ Superman is Back deal with the joys of child-rearing in order to encourage viewers to have children. (Read more about it here).

However, the abundance of spinoffs and season re-runs almost allow viewers to live vicariously through the shows. After all, just because you watch football doesn’t mean you’re a pro athlete.

So as a new tactic, the pursuit of single spouseless, childless life is presented as somewhat empty.

A new reality show Mi-un Oori Ssaegi (‘미운 우리 새끼‘ ) is where the real lives of a handful of single celebrities in their 30~50s are tracked, and their mothers watch their celebrity sons from inside the studio.

The title of the show is a play on words. Mi-un OH-RI Ssaegi literally is ‘The Ugly Duckling’. Yes, the tale by Hans Christian Anderson about a duck growing up to become a beautiful swan. Only the title of the show tweaks the pronunciation, so that it is Mi-un OO-RI Ssaegi, which translates to ‘OUR ugly baby’.

The title of the show is enough to express the love-hate relationship that the parents have with their unmarried and childless sons. However, with the use of editing, music, and graphics, it is clear that the tone of the show is in no way glamorising this lifestyle. In fact, the main theme amongst the mothers in the studio is them worrying about their child’s future.

So Is It Working?

Exposing private and domestic issues on reality TV gives viewers the opportunity to safely explore their options by observing the life choices of others. They can watch and interpret what other people have done to be happy, so they can take it as a template for their own future happiness. So far, these broadcasts have laid out both the push and pull factor of earning money, getting married and having children. Although this alone won’t save Korea from future extinction and economic collapse, at least they are giving it a shot.

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