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‘Looking forward to broadcasting from Paektu and Tumen’

‘Looking forward to broadcasting from Paektu and Tumen’

Posted August. 16, 2019 07:38,   

Updated August. 16, 2019 07:38


“I am looking forward to broadcasting from Paektu Mountain and Tumen River someday,” said Nam Hee-Seok, an MC of the South Korean TV show on Channel A titled “Now on My Way to Meet You,” during a phone interview with the Dong-A Ilbo last Wednesday. The South Korean comedian has been with the TV show ever since its first episode aired on December 4, 2011. The oldest cable TV program will celebrate its 400th episode on Sunday.

“Now on My Way to Meet You” has been revealing the details of North Korean reality by featuring over 600 North Korean defectors. As the one and only entertainment show featuring North Korean defectors in the world, it was covered by foreign media, including The Washington Post, BBC, Le Monde, and NHK, and drew negative attention from the North Korean regime.

The TV show’s seven-year impact on the North Korean defector community that is closed to the outside world hasn’t been small. Now, many defectors start watching the show with a recommendation from ethnic Koreans living in China to prepare themselves for life in South Korea.

A North Korean defector named Kim Hyeon-jeong had a blissful moment to be reunited with her younger sister for the first time in 15 years thanks to her appearance on the show back in 2014. “I was told that there is now a culture among North Korean defectors to introduce themselves for who they are, as opposed to being extremely careful not to reveal their identities. I feel proud as the MC of the show,” said Nam.

To a question asking what makes the show particularly appealing, the MC answered, “unexpected situations.” Of course, North Korea-related news, as well as cast members’ personal stories, are researched in advance, but completely unexpected stories come out during actual filming. On the episode with the topic of Kotjebi, a term denoting North Korean homeless children, cast members were eager to share their stories, such as not brushing teeth for five years and having cavities after escaping from North Korea. Such unexpectedness is not unusual on the show.

“We always have to remain on alert as our show is quite different from other entertainment shows where back-and-forth talks among members are pre-arranged,” laughed Nam. The MC is also thinking hard about the future course of “Now on My Way to Meet You.” “We’d like to show the lives of regular people in North Korea with a kind eye, unaffected from some sensitive issues surrounding the country,” he said.

“We have covered a lot of topics about the differences between the two Koreas so far,” said producer Lee Seong-gyu. “We will now focus on changing people’s perspective on North Korea by showcasing how the country is changing for the future.”

The 400th episode of the show will be broadcasted at 11 p.m. on Sunday, featuring a special singing contest. Composer Don Spike, trot singer Seol Ha-yoon, and singer Seo Yeong-eun will sing songs delivering the stories of defectors’ past and current before judges. It is said that "I am not alone" by Seo Yeong-eun, a popular song among North Korea defectors, brought tears to the entire studio.

Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com