A guest post from Andrew Jackson, covering the recent visit to the UK of the team which brings you the world’s most popular political podcast.
Last month saw the arrival of the ‘Naneun Ggomsuda’ (‘I’m a Petty Minded Creep’) for sell-out shows in London and Oxford. The political satire podcast show, now transferred to the stage, is dedicated to lampooning President Lee Myung Bak and what they see as his corrupt leadership. Their podcasts receive more than six million downloads per week, making ‘Naneun Ggomsuda’ one of the most popular podcasts in the world. It is usually said they are popular with young people, but judging by the number of middle-aged audience members it is more than one generation disaffected by Lee’s government.
The four man team consists of shaggy-haired originator Kim Ou Joon, pleasingly rotund former radio announcer and recently failed Congress runner Kim Yong Min, investigative journalist Choo Chin Woo and former Korean Congressman Chung Bong Ju. The latter, now serving a one year jail term for ‘spreading false rumours against the President’, was represented at the shows by a cardboard cut-out.
Their irreverent and profane humour is aimed squarely at President Lee, who they sarcastically refer to as ‘kaka’ (‘His Highness’). The shows consist of the three chatting, joking and commenting on what they see as a return to the habits of previous military dictatorships; censorship, corruption and political arrests. It’s an odd mixture of laddish humour and political commentary, but one that has struck a chord with millions of Koreans.
Their shows at London’s Kings College and Oxford’s Catholic Chaplaincy had audiences roaring with laughter as they exchanged stories, quick-fire one-liners and set-piece sketches. Kim Yong Min, a master of vocal mimicry, mimicked the mayor of Seoul getting caught between two feuding politicians, and impersonated another in the style of a vibrating mobile phone (you had to be there). At times the laughs subsided as they painted a disturbing picture of political ‘parachuting’ of President Lee cronies into top positions in Korea’s broadcast media, intimidation of journalists, and personal accounts of having private phone conversations tapped, being followed and receiving veiled threats. Reporter Choo Chin Woo made detailed allegations of corruption in the government’s electoral office. ‘We will continue to criticise the electoral office to make sure future elections are fair’ he declared. The team also promised to break a new story of alleged funneling of President Lee’s wealth through his nephew in Singapore. For many, Naneun Ggomsuda’s ‘heavy news in a light format’ provides the first realisation that possibly all is not well with South Korea’s democracy.
Inevitably Naneun Ggomsuda’s politics and profane style don’t appeal to everybody. But whatever your comedic sensibilities or political stripe, if you care about Korea (why else would you be visiting London Korean Links?) the issues they raise are important ones to keep a close eye on. Ultimately, in a free society lampooning the high and mighty and holding them to account is to perform a public service.