Author: Ou-joon Kim
336 pages | 208*141mm
|Important! Please read before you order!|
|>>>This book is written in Korean.|
About This Book
Talking with 'Petty Creep' Kim Ou-joon
--The Wall Street Journal
Forget Ahn Chul-soo. The most important figure in Korean politics at the moment is Kim Ou-joon.
Mr. Kim is the irreverent, astute observer-of-the-scene who founded and co-hosts a weekly podcast that has gathered millions of listeners and become one of the most popular downloads on iTunes – in the world.
Mr. Kim, 43 years old, has been writing political satire online since the late 1990s. But with the podcast he started in April, he has gone from a small following to a huge one.
Called Naneun Ggomsuda – or “I’m a Petty-minded Creep” – the podcast features Mr. Kim and three politically like-minded and comedically well-matched colleagues holding forth in front of a microphone – and for the past few weeks, a live audience – for an hour or more.
They talk and joke about the issues of the day. They gossip. And they criticize President Lee Myung-bak and the ruling Grand National Party. A lot.
Indeed none of what they say bears any hint of the respect for politicians, business leaders and elders that is the veneer on top of which Korean society usually operates.
Profane and hilarious, Mr. Kim and friends – Chung Bong-ju, a former member of the National Assembly, Choo Chin-woo, a writer at SisaIN magazine, and Kim Yong-min, another political commentator – take almost as many shots at each other as they do at fat-cat politicians and business types.
Today, the latest episode of Naneun Ggomsuda was the third-most downloaded podcast on iTunes globally. And that’s several days after the episode was recorded this past weekend. Downloads are now averaging more than 2 million a week.
In a chat at a Hongdae coffee shop, Mr. Kim said the moment was ripe for his podcast and a rawer, freer civic discussion in South Korea.
Speaking in English he learned from a year living in the U.S. as an elementary school student, he said he predicted the podcast would be a success in a book he wrote this spring, called “Shut Up and Do Politics.”
“I wrote that the power of this podcast would be equal to the power of the three conservative newspapers (Chosun, Dong-a and Joong-ang) and the broadcast TV networks,” he said. “I think we’re halfway there.”
The podcast has been compared by some in Korea to American comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who have political comedy shows on TV, or talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh.
Mr. Kim says neither comparison works.
Instead, he is quite upfront about what he’s trying to accomplish with the podcast: making sure that the ruling GNP loses next year’s elections and that the next president is nothing like Mr. Lee.
“Our goal is to change the government,” Mr. Kim said. He noted that when he started the podcast he said it would run only as long as Mr. Lee is still in power.
What’s the main problem with Mr. Lee and the GNP? In Mr. Kim’s view, they’re out of step with where the country and its people are at the moment. South Korea has become a country of very well-educated people for which the economy and culture are not creating opportunities. Instead of realizing and acting on this, Mr. Kim says the Lee government has reinforced the nexus between government and big business that was the main economic tool used by the authoritarian governments of yesteryear to bring Korea out of poverty.
“The people feel this, but they don’t know exactly what it is,” he said. “We deliver heavy news in a light format.”
Naneun Ggomsuda has had two big scoops that made a difference in last month’s mayoral election in Seoul.
The first was Mr. Choo reported that Na Kyung-won, the GNP candidate, went to a luxury skin care clinic with a huge annual membership fee, about $90,000. Ms. Na admitted using the clinic but said she wasn’t a member. She has threatened a lawsuit.
The other scoop was that President Lee recently bought some pricey land, using his son’s name, on which to build a home after leaving office. Mr. Lee has since abandoned the idea. Both reports reinforced the impression that the GNP’s politicians are rich and out of touch with the masses at a time when welfare issues and the country’s unbalanced economic recovery dominate the headlines.
Mr. Kim said he feels good when other media picked up topics that were first discussed on the podcast. But he’s generally critical of the mainstream media, which he believes is intimidated by the Lee government and big business advertisers.
The domestic media, in turn, has mostly ignored the Naneun Ggomsuda phenomenon. Foreign media have become interested because Mr. Kim and his followers represent another example – like the rising popularity of Mr. Ahn, a doctor and software entrepreneur with strong political views, and the newly-elected independent Seoul mayor Park Won-soon – of politics-not-as-usual in South Korea.
“We exist because there is a hole in the public discussion,” Mr. Kim said. “That’s the reason we are thriving.”
That hole was created by a combination of factors, he said. The first is the performance of the Lee administration, which he said wound back the clock to the 1970s in terms of ideas, appointed a small circle of people to power, was unwilling to work with political opposition and communicated poorly with the public. The second was the way that the mainstream media, Mr. Kim believes, yielded to pressure from the Lee government and refused to criticize and investigate wrongdoing. On top of that, the rise of smartphones and social networking has helped like-minded people find each other, communicate and organize.
Of course, ever since Mr. Lee took office, South Korea’s opposition politicians and quasi-professional protesters (think certain NGOs and the left-wing unions) have been trying to foster a sentiment in the public that something’s wrong – and then use it for their own purposes.
Mr. Kim said the sense of anxiety is real and described it this way: it’s a form of repression rooted in what he says is the disconnectedness of the country’s leaders and the worst aspects of South Koreans’ adherence to Confucian top-down, male-first hierarchies.
“In political ways but also in cultural ways, people are tired,” he said. “They are tired of being polite. They are tired of always having to put on a second face. That’s why people react to our podcast. We make everyone laugh, not only at the president but at ourselves.”
In a mostly laugh-filled conversation, Mr. Kim turned most serious as he observed that this sense of anxiety or repression is worse in some ways than the physical repression practiced by the country’s military rulers in the 1970s and 1980s.
“People suppressed by physical violence didn’t feel low self-esteem,” Mr. Kim said. “Some of them felt proud after being arrested or beaten. But when you feel you can’t speak out because your job or your money is at stake, then your self-esteem goes down. You feel guilty and frustrated and you shut your mouth and you end up not wanting to think about it all because you think you are a small person.”
That, Mr. Kim says, is what most upsets him about Mr. Lee, the ruling party and the other leaders in South Korea, including those in business and universities.
“They are making people think they are small,” Mr. Kim says.
He said the podcast has become a release valve from all that. However, there’s a risk that Mr. Kim and his band of comical commentators will ultimately be seen as mere partisans out to raise a symbolic middle finger (with literally profane language) to Mr. Lee, the GNP and the rest of South Korea’s establishment.
Mr. Kim says he knows that some in power will simply dismiss Naneun Ggomsuda as a vulgarity. Plenty of others, he thinks, will be attracted by the humor.
And so far, the download numbers suggest Mr. Kim is right. For the past few weeks, he and the commentators have been recording the podcast in front of audiences at university auditoriums. They’ve sold T-shirts on the side for a little cash, but Mr. Kim vows not to sell commercials on the podcast. The group will soon return to a rented studio with an air conditioner that is so noisy it has practically become another character on the show.
“The characteristics of the hosts are charming, so people are talking about this, too,” Mr. Kim said, seeming to make another serious point.
And good looking too, right?
“I think so,” Mr. Kim responded, waiting a beat before breaking into a huge laugh.
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