South Korea: Online Political Satire Show Draws Millions of Downloads

A hilarious satirical talk show, ‘Na-Ggom-su’ has gone viral in South Korea. The show, which is only available online, is filled with wild jokes and expletives, and lampoons the country’s President Lee Myung-bak and the ruling Grand National party.

The four hosts of the show openly say that they have “dedicated” their show to Mr. Lee whom they often mockingly call “His Highness”. They named the show “Naneun Ggomsuda” (I’m a petty-minded creep”), a nickname vocal critics gave to the president. (People prefer to call the show by its acronym “Na-Ggom-su”).

It has been only eight months since its launch, but this low-budgeted political show has become incredibly popular. Each episode has been downloaded by more than two million people, six million people have listened the show and roughly  10 million, about one fifth of the whole population, know about the show. After the release of each weekly episode, it ranks as top podcast of the day or week in iTunes.

Image of the four hosts of the show. The Naggomsu team holds the copyrights, used with permission.

Image of the four hosts of the show. The Naggomsu team holds the copyrights, used with permission.

Case in point

Naggomsu’s latest episode (#26) starts with a Christian hymn “Nearer, my God, to thee”. But when listened carefully, the lyric is about the Naegok-dong, an expensive piece of land the President allegedly purchased under his son’s name to build his retirement residence.

While the melody, rhythm, and even the song’s sentiment is the same as the original hymn, the song’s title is “Nearer, Naegok-dong, to thee”. Fans went crazy for this parody and have created numerous memes, while the Christian community has filed a complaint on the use of the sacred hymn.

The show’s opening comment is witty: “You folk need to know where your daily stress comes from: it actually comes from politics. Having an interest in politics and participating in voting – that should be done for you, for your own good so you can relieve your stress.”

When talking about the former mayor of Seoul, Oh Se-hoon, the host cackles and blurts, “when he stepped down [after he lost in the election] he gave s**t to his party, the ruling party. Actually he distribute his s**t to everybody around him”. Then the other host chimes in, “we shall call him the s**t-distributer”. Another mockingly cries out to Mr. Oh, “My friend, I am the only one left for you. Call me when you feel lonely”.

The issues they touch on range from lighter, funny cases to much sharp analyses on serious social issues. With former and current investigative reporters on board, the show often breaks exclusive stories on numerous allegations.

Episode 26 reveals the authorities’ unsuccessful manipulation of the voting rate on the recent election day. According to the show's report, the election commission suddenly changed the voting locations; its homepage, particularly the web page where voters go to look up their election locations, had stopped for three hours on the morning of the election day. The host says it was neither a DDoS attack as the authorities claim, nor a connection error caused by heavy traffic, since it was early in the morning. The host concluded it was to confuse and discourage young, liberal voters who hurriedly go to vote before work.

Several weeks ago one of the hosts, investigative reporter, Mr. Choo, broke an exclusive report on Na Kyung-won, the governing party’s candidate in the latest Seoul mayoral election. Mr. Choo’s revelation on Ms. Na’s frequent visit to a luxury skin care clinic with an annual membership fee of 100 million won (USD 90,000) is believed to have affected the highly-contested election. Ms. Na, though she admitted that she went to the clinic, has denied the allegations that she holds membership and sued the show for libel.

Despite threats and numerous lawsuits pending, the show is greatly loved by the Korean people. Millions have downloaded it on their mobile and home computers and from abroad and shared it in their favorites sites, and four major RSS feeds have been created. Blogger 2Proo requested people to download it through its proper root (by its original Podcast) since about 75 percent of the expense is spent in managing the server traffic. The production expenses are covered by the show leader's pocket money.

Praise of the show

Many net users are surprised to watch these hard-core political talk show in the country. Blogger Nolyitur 31 wrote [ko]:

MB에 대한 시시껄렁한 에피소드부터 굵직한 정치 윗이야기가 쏟아져 나온다. 포맷은 포장마차나 대포집에서 아저씨들이 술안주삼아 씹고 까불고 욕하다 박장대소하는 형식 지금의 20,30대는 수용가능할지 몰라도 ‘대통령 욕하면 쥐도 새도 모르게 잡아간다는 시절’ 을 살아낸 40대 후반 이상 연령대가 들어면 깜놀할 방송이다.

The show spews out politics, from trivial aspects about MB [the president's initials] to hard-ball political issues. The show is very casual as if these middle-aged guys are bickering, making jokes, cursing, and laughing their head off in a snack stall or in a local bar. Young people in their twenties and thirties would be comfortable with this (casual) format of the show, but for people in their late forties who survived the hard time of where people ‘mysteriously disappear after make criticisms about the president’, it is an extremely shocking show.

Another blogger Jangbalkim commented [ko] that the show talks about things people want to know about but can’t find in the mainstream media and brings young generation closer to politics:

이들이 주고 받는 이야기가 마치 술김에 입에서 나오는 대로 마구 배설하는 느낌이지만 사실은 나름대로 철저히 준비하고 다른 (의도된) 큰 뉴스에 묻혀버린, 묻혀서는 안될 이야기들을 근거로 이야기를 풀어간다.무엇보다 정치 혐오모드의 젊은이들에게 정치 관심으로의 긍정적 역할을 좋게 본다[…]현재로서 어떤 TV나 신문매체보다 정치 상황을 제대로 바라볼 수 있는 통로라는 생각이 든다.

It sounds as if they are just spewing anything that came in to their minds under the influence of liquor, but actually it is carefully thought out. The hosts pick out issues that deserved attention but have been overlooked and under-addressed due to big news events which divert people's interests away from them. I praise the show's positive effect on young people. The politic-hating young people could develop interests in politics. […] I guess for the time being it is the best channel that reflect our political realities and they are doing it much better than any other TV programs and newspapers.

Blogger DongMakRyu listed [ko] some of the problems the show have:

70%의 사실과 20%의 찹리적 추론, 10%정도의 부정확한 정보로 이루어져 있다.[기존 기사 읽을때] 내용을 걸러서 읽을 수 있는 사람은 이 방송을 충분히 즐길 수 있고 거기서 새로운 사실을 알아갈 수 있다.[…] 소위 말하는 보수진영, MB진영에 대해선 사정없이 까는데, 소위 말하는 진보진영은 일방적으로 옹호하는 면이 있다. 특히 김어준이 흑백논리에 빠져 있고…

The show consists of 70 percent of truth, 20 percent of rational conjecture (analysis) and 10 percent of incorrect information. If you are somebody who is able to filter out messages in mainstream newspaper reports, you can fully enjoy the show and get new information from it. […] But while they mock the conservative and president's camps, they go easy on liberal camps. Especially, Kim Ou-joon (the leader of the show) is seeing everything in black and white.

But the blogger still defined it as a show “worth listening to”.

As the show gained huge popularity and influence, the conservative party has come up with its version of talk shows aiming young voters. However, many bloggers call them “no match” to Naggomsu.


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