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“I Want to Bring the Solitary Act of Reading out into a Shared Arena”

“I Want to Bring the Solitary Act of Reading out into a Shared Arena”

Posted December. 07, 2004 22:48,   


“Reading is a solitary act and television is a shared visual medium. Being on TV after a career of reading and writing books feels like venturing out to an open field after living in a cave. As the host of a program that introduces books to the viewers, my job is to bring reading out into the world. The fusion of reading and TV watching—which are antithetical activities—is the allure of this show.”

Tak Seok-san (47), who is a writer and the owner of a Ph.D. in philosophy, has been hosting KBS1’s cultural program “TV Talks Books” (Thursdays at 10:00 p.m.) for a month. This is the first time that the author of “The Man Who Reads You Philosophy” and “The Korean Identity” has helmed a TV show. “TV Talks Books” premiered on November 4 of this year.

“My swaying posture, my gaze, my pronunciation, my tired expression… There have been a lot of comments on my onscreen presentation, but I’m working to correct things little by little,” he remarked. “Since I’m not a professional TV host, I focus on providing in-depth commentary on the contents of the books.”

Tak spends a full three to four days a week reading the books he is scheduled to present on each upcoming episode. He reads every book thoroughly from cover to cover. He has stopped going out in the evenings, and has even put aside the manuscript he had been working on.

Hong Hye-gyeong, who heads KBS’s education and culture division, said, “Mr. Tak’s strengths are his frankness and clarity,” and added, “He comes in with so much preparation that he could get through the entire show without looking at the script.”

“TV programs about books usually consist of praises for the works that are being introduced, but I’m not going to shy away from criticizing them and even holding debates with the authors. On Korean debate programs, the sides are split even before the show begins, and everybody knows what either side will say. I believe that the proper establishment of debating has to begin with cultural programs. But on my show, the discussion will be limited to the contents of the books,” Tak offered.

Tak received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS), and currently lectures on Korean studies to foreigners at HUFS’s Graduate School of International Area Studies.

On December 16 and 23, “TV Talks Books” will air its year-end specials “This Year’s Bestsellers” and “TV Talks Books Selects the Best Books of 2004,” respectively.

Sun-Woo Kim sublime@donga.com