‘Now on My Way to Meet You’, the subject of my individual research study, is by its very nature dependent on a ‘peripheral’ group. As explained in last weeks post, the South Korean hybrid talent show is aimed at challenging the prejudices experienced by more than 20 000 defectors from the communist North. Amongst the singing, dancing, skits and gossip, there is also a serious side to the show as cast members regularly discus their escapes and the families they left behind on the other side of the border.
The television show provides a platform for defectors to give a voice to their own demands and stories. The final minutes of each episode are dedicated to a ‘defection story’ . It would take a heartless viewer indeed not to be moved by these powerful narratives.
(Note: Again this week I struggled with finding an episode with English subtitles that was not part of a journalistic piece)
I was deeply moved by the above defection story. The visible emotion and distress of the audience, helps to convey the sincerity of the show in the sense that the cast, as defectors themselves, are sharing in the pain of the storyteller. I can appreciate that it is a television program, and it could potentially be constructed in the way that it is to maximise ratings, but I believe that the storytelling is genuine. While I think that as an Australian with a very new understanding of North and South Korean politics, I was equally shocked by the harsh nature of the North Korean regime and devastated for the man who’s sorrow and longing for his family brought on by an oppressive state is one that I will (thankfully and hopefully) not have to endure in my lifetime. While South Korean defectors were able to relate to the story and be sympathetic to the man s plight, I found myself more empathetic, saddened and full of pity.
While the television show itself undoubtedly provides the platform for storytelling, the ability for the stories to be shared online gives powerful support to the heartfelt appeals of those featured on the show. Indeed Russo and Watkins in their article Digital Cultural Communication: Enabling new media and co-creation in South East Asia discuss how ‘convergent information and communication technology has promised the delivery of multi channel, multi-platform content where choice is in the hands of the consumer’ (Russo and Watkins, 2005). This describes a shifting of consumption patterns and empowers audiences by enabling access to content on their own terms. There are sites that allow you to download and/or stream episodes, such as Hanbeat and a number of episodes on YouTube that can be viewed (though most are entirely in Korean). In addition, the ‘Now On my Way To Meet You’ cast have been catapulted into the blogosphere: here voted number one in the ’10 Most Amazing North Korean Defectors’, and here in a Marie Claire Australia photo shoot.
Allowing the defectors to tell their story on the television opens up a world of possibilities for the potential reach of their story and message.