You would think that my first post about Korean Television would be about a majorly addicting Korean drama. But as I was mulling over in my head where to begin on such a topic, Screening Humanity came on and I realized that I'd much write about this little gem.
Screening Humanity is a daily event for me. My DVR captures it when it's on early in the morning so I can turn it on whenever I want during the rest of the day. Lately, it's been my companion during nursing sessions with Natalie.
Hold on, what IS Screening Humanity you say? well, let me tell you.....
It's Een Seng Guk Jang......or Screening Humanity in English (if you've clicked over, you'll find a synopsis that really tells you nothing of what the show is about. I love Konglish, don't you?) "Screening" as in watching a movie Screening of "Humanity" as in the Lives of People. I think a better translation of the title would be "The Theatre of Life". Much better right?
Anyway, It's a daily, 30 minute reality show. No, no hot tubs or anything beeped out here. A camera crew follows people around for several months and then edits the footage into compelling episodes that a serene female voice narrates. The episodes usually connect the whole week, so Monday thru Friday of one week, you'll follow the story of a particular person or family. What's interesting about the show is that besides showing you what regular life in Korea is really like, you get to see different groups of people in Korea's community who don't normally get scripted into a drama.
Some of my favorites ones were about:
- A single mom having her first child at the age of 40. She was a former famous TV anchor woman and doing such a thing might have brought judgment on her. All the same, she wanted her story out there so that other single mothers would be encouraged by her. The camera follows her as she prepares for the birth, gives birth, enjoys her miyukgook and through the first few months of caring for her baby. Boy does she cherish that baby. And it was great to see how far Koreans new mothers have come in terms of educating themselves on what's really best for their child instead of following a bunch of old wives tales.
- A woman who purposely got a divorce in her late 40s so that she could move in with her mother suffering from dementia and her younger sister who has Downs Syndrome. I think it was the only way she could fully tend to them and not worry about her husband or in laws. She made money for her little family by living out her dream of being a singer (in clubs)at night. It was difficult to see how far Korea still has to go in supporting individuals with disabilities. At the same time though, it was heartening to see how Korea is trying to become more aware by airing these issues.
- A guy from England followed his true love to Korea and married her. They have two hapa kids now and they all speak with an English accent. He eats Kimchi chigae everyday and tries to get along in a place he considers his permanent home.
- A 19 year old girl seeing her mom through the last stages of lung cancer while still trying to finish her first year of college because it's her mom's last desire to see her attending college. The show starts with the two in the hospice. By the end of the second show the mom has passed on and the girl struggles to go through the funeral on her own. She doesn't have any siblings and lost her father to cancer 4 years before, so she's all alone now.
- Three children who recently lost their mother in a sudden death, live with their father. The thing is, their mother was from Ghana, so they are half African. As his daughter approaches preteen and starts showing signs of being ashamed of her ethnicity, her father tries to help her and his two sons build confidence in who they are. This is actually currently running, and it's heartbreaking because the kids miss their mother so much and try so hard to get along in an extreme homogeneous society. It's such a jumble of raw emotions, I have a hard time forgetting these sweet kids when I turn off the TV.
I could go on and on. I really love this little show. I've been watching for over a year now and am grateful for this window into the Motherland and her people, in action, in daily life. I know, I know. It can't be complete reality because of the whole observer changing the behavior of the observed and everything, but still, it's something I can't see or know otherwise.
You can check it out too if you get KBS World where you are. We're lucky in Hawaii, we get 4 Korean channels with cable, so KBS World is on all the time, I don't know what it's like where you are in terms of Korean channels.
Anyone else watch it?