“The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wants to be born must first destroy a world.” This is a famous passage from Demian, a German novel focusing on education or bildungsroman by Hermann Hesse. The novel inspires readers around the world because they can easily empathize with hardships, much like the bird struggling to leave the egg.
Today, the youth in Korea seem to be stuck inside eggs too strong to destroy. Their eggs seem to be growing in strength in the form of unemployment problems and anxiety about their unclear future as the days go by. In fact, according to a recent survey by Saramin, a portal site for employment information, 76.6 percent of 1,081 respondents in their twenties and thirties said that they find it difficult to settle in current society. Reflecting this growing sentiment, there are new terms which describe this situation such as Cheongnyeon Silsin(a young man in a trance), which refers to a young man who is unemployed or a person with a bad credit standing after graduation, and people who are “Not in Education, Employment, or Training” which usually referred to as NEET.
In order to help those struggling in the aforementioned situations, Non-Summit, a talk show on the Joongang Television Broadcasting Channel(JTBC), attempts to seek solutions of these problems from todayʼs youth suffer.
TV Program Serving to Address Problems
Non-Summit, the program’s title, has a dual meaning. The first is “not a summit meeting” and “a meeting for the abnormal.” However the title is interpreted, the actual talk show follows the format of a summit. There are foreign members who participate in the program as representatives of their countries, and presenters host the show in the roles of a secretary general and chairmen. “The atmosphere is like that in a real international conference and it gives more serious impression when it is necessary. The seriousness of the show makes me find some ideas to solve problems even though this is an entertainment program,” said Jin Jeong-woo, a Sophomore in the Department of Culture and Contents.
Following the concept of the program, the summit takes place in a formal setting where seats are arranged in two rows facing each other. This setting which is similar to a real meeting helps the panel raise degree of concentration. Meanwhile in Arguments, a media critique program on the JTBC, Lee Yoon-seok, a comedian and the show host of the program, said, “Panel members in a talk show are usually arranged to seat in a V-shaped formation due to the angle restrictions of the cameras. So it is surprising that Non-summit chose its arrangement.”
Props in the show also add a sense of formality. The so-called secretary general has a gavel and he bangs it three times when the agendas are voted upon. Also, all members sit with their nameplates and their national flags in front of them. “Some might think that props are not important, but for a show like Non-summit, I think the small props like the gavel and national flags add more weight to each comment and the overall discussions. Also, they help the participants become more immersed in each discussion and better concentrate in my opinion. Finally, the props help the discussion develop more in overall effect,” Jin added.
Global Point of View on Problems of Young Koreans
In Korea, those in their twenties are in need of a third party like Non-summit to provide opinions through objective discussions about their problems. This is why proponents of the show believe it can be a practical source of guidance for them. The show features a panel of foreign men who reside in Korea. They have various experiences, nationalities, and different jobs ranging from a car dealer to a B-boy. Such a variety makes the discussions more insightful as broader perspectives are given, as well as proposed solutions or lessons for the viewers. Wee Yu-jin, a sophomore in the Department of German Language and Literature at Sogang University, said, “I was impressed after hearing James Hooper’s words and it became my motto. He is the youngest Everest climber in England and a previous member of the show. He advised young people to pursue their dreams saying, ‘First, it is important to try step by step. Second, do not afraid of danger. Finally, you should talk about your dreams to everyone.ʼ”
Since the show focuses on discussions of its foreign members, so even if the debate falls into disarray, the show minimizes intervention of the hosts. This allows the foreign panel members to express their opinions more freely and frankly. Moreover, the show tries to present views more naturally, compared to other programs where comments by non-Korean participants were either admiration or criticism of Korean culture. Cho Young-sil, a critic of popular culture, said, “In the show, there are only one or two guests and even a guest who has a strong personality like Kim Gu-ra, an entertainer who is famous for his spiteful humor, keeps silent. It shows that the program places discussion as its first priority.”
Of the Youth, by the Youth, and for the Youth
Non-summit has the goal of promoting peace and happiness for young people and for society in general. Therefore, most of the agendas are selected based on the opinions of the audience along with the ideas of the panel, which consists of young men in their early twenties to mid-thirties. Sim Jong-kyu, a Senior in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, said, “Last year, I was busy preparing for my qualification to get a job but I was unsure of what I prepared. Then, I saw the 11th episode of Nonsummit that presented the question, ‘Is it normal that I am absorbed in only pursuing a career to be employed?’ Watching the show, I was impressed with Alberto Mondi’s experience. He claimed that young people should do what they want even if it is difficult. So now I am preparing to build a start-up company.”
Getting Rid of Stress as a Young Person
It is hard to find a clear answer to problems dealt with in the program because it does not draw a conclusion. Instead, it offers viewers the chance to evaluate themselves in a new light through intense discussions of young people from around the world. The program also provides viewers with an outlet through humor so they can laugh and release stress by watching the show. William James, an American philosopher, once said, “We do not laugh because we are happy. We are happy because we laugh.” Non-summit is a helpful way young people can take a break from their stress, difficulties and uncertainties through humor as well as useful advice and alternative perspectives.