Arts, Culture & Media

South Korean Podcast Mocks President

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South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. (Photo: Gobierno de Chile/Wikipedia)

There's a hugely popular political podcast in South Korea; it gets about two million downloads per episode. It's called Nanun Ggom Su Da, which translates as "I'm a petty minded creep." Baek Ji-min counts herself as one of Na Ggom Su's biggest fans. She said she's addicted to the podcast and can't wait for the next episode. "While I am waiting for the new episodes I just repeat the old episodes. When I am bored I listen to the old episodes again and again," Baek said. Baek said she loves the show's sarcasm, much of which is directed at Korea's president, Lee Myung Bak. He's is the "petty minded creep" of the show's title, and the brunt of just about every joke. The four podcast hosts include a former opposition lawmaker, an investigative journalist, a sound engineer and one of Korea's first online satirists. All kidding aside, they're very serious about their political message. They say President Lee, who they call "his highness," is only interested in increasing his personal wealth, and that he neglects Korea's less privileged. Chung Bong-ju, the host who's the former opposition politician, said Na Ggom Su gives its fans news they can't find anywhere else. "In Korea, the government and big corporations have too much control over the media," Chung said. "We believe people download our show because they want to hear the truth." Chung and the other hosts say Na Ggom Su recently blew the lid on a shady real estate deal involving the President, and it's cited alleged examples of how Lee and his family are profiting from a new free trade deal with the U-S. Na Ggom Su's message of class resentment resonates with many young Koreans who don't trust the conservatives in power, according to Kim Young-chul, a politics professor at Busan National University. "Many people feel left out of the political process, and Na Ggom Su has cultivated an image of telling Koreans the truth about politics." But Kim said some podcast listeners might not be able to distinguish between the show's version of truth-telling and rumor-mongering, for instance, when the hosts recently insinuated that President Lee fathered an illegitimate child. Making accusations like that, even under the guise of satire, won't protect you from Korea's strict defamation laws, according to British journalist Mike Breen. Breen was sued for $1 million by Samsung after he made fun of the company in his column for the Korea Times. The charges were later dropped. But the Na Ggom Su guys have a way of side-stepping responsibility, said Breen. "They are deliberately throwing out conspiracy theories, but covering themselves by saying this might not be true, but I heard and I'm laughing about it." But that tactic isn't completely fool proof. The four podcast hosts have been indicted on charges of defaming a conservative politician who ran for mayor of Seoul. And Chung Bong-ju, who faces another defamation suit, had his passport application denied. That meant the hosts had to postpone a planned US tour. But despite the legal problems, the Na Ggom Su hosts say the jabs at the President will continue, at least until February of 2013. That's when Lee Myung Bak's term in office comes to an end.

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