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Laugh and Enjoy a Satire of the Presidential Election, "Yeouido Teletubbies"
By Park Gyeong-eun
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"Yeouido Teletubbies Return," a political satire in tvN's Saturday Night Live Korea (SNL Korea), is all the rage in the broadcasting circle. This skit is a political satire on the latest political issues of the week.

It transforms the main characters of a popular children's show, Teletubbies, into presidential candidates and satirizes them, attracting more viewers as the election nears. After every episode, reviews flood social networking sites and online bulletin boards, and video clips of the Teletubby skit is distributed actively on the web.

This skit records the highest ratings among the skits in this show. Naturally, the political circle is showing an increased interest. In a recent parliamentary inspection, one Saenuri Party lawmaker said, "The character who portrays Park Geun-hye uses a lot of foul language, whereas Ahn Cheol-soo is portrayed as a gentle person. This could leave the wrong impression on the viewers."

■ Main Characters = The production crew of Saturday Night Live Korea said, "We aimed to use characters loved by the children in political satire, which is in a way the pinnacle of adult culture, and make the viewers laugh at this irony."

In the children's show, there are four characters, Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Po, and Laa-Laa. In "Yeouido Teletubbies Return," there are their parodies, Guradori (Jeong Myeong-ok), Emby (Kim Won-hae), Tto (Kim Seul-ki), and Moonjeni (Kim Min-gyo), along with a new character, Ancheosseo (Lee Sang-hoon).

Guradori portrays Lee Jung-hee of the Unified Progressive Party, Emby is President Lee Myung-bak, Tto is Park Geun-hye, the presidential candidate for the Saenuri Party, Moonjeni is Moon Jae-in, the Democratic United Party candidate, and Ancheosseo is the independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo. The satire in this skit is both figurative and straightforward.

"Extend the voting hours for the class president election" (Moonjeni). "That's right. Students on class duty don't have the time to vote" (Ancheosseo). - Episode 7

"Why don't you go take care of your friend, Jeongsu," "She dated that scholarship student, Jeongsu, who her father supported" (Moonjeni). "Hey, you, son of a *****! There's nothing going on between us" (Tto). - Episode 6

"Did you see my spear? It's a spear made of pine wood and tiger's hide. Hey, Ancheosso stole my spear!" (Moonjeni). "I only caught the spear before it flew at me" (Ancheosseo). - Episode 5

"The hall monitors are supposed to investigate you, because you played ‘take-the-land' in class" (voice actor). "I don't like the teacher in charge of the hall monitors" (Emby). - Episode 4

Producer Kim Min explained, "Since Tto is a strong candidate, we thought she was likely to be used frequently as the subject of satire. So we wanted to make the viewers laugh by portraying her as a cute and dainty character."

He added, "Since Ancheosseo is an original character, we hired an actor who resembled the candidate to draw the viewers in, and for Moonjeni and Emby we hired actors who could impersonate them to emphasize the dramatic expression."

■ The Set = It's 11 p.m. on November 1 at CJ E&M Studio in Sangam-dong, Seoul. It's the first day of shooting after the issue of profanity was raised at a parliamentary inspection (This day's episode was aired on November 3.).

Although Saturday Night Live Korea is broadcast live, "Yeouido Teletubbies Return" is recorded every Thursday night from 11 p.m. until 3~4 a.m. the next day. Since they deal with the latest issues, the actors receive their script when they arrive on the set.

Even that script is likely to undergo changes during the shooting. In this episode, the aggressive lines of Moonjeni flood out--Moonjeni is depicted as a fighter who lashes out. However, perhaps it was because they were aware of the controversy surrounding abusive language, Tto's usual lively and frequent use of foul language seemed rather refined. But the satire was still there.

"Why are you avoiding me? Look at me" (Tto). "If things go wrong, we can all get fired because of you. It's terrifying" (voice actor). "You see, this...this is the only job I have. This is my first job, and I still have to pay off my student loan. I won't curse anymore" (Tto).

For the actors, playing a role that satirizes strong presidential candidates can be uncomfortable. However, regardless of who they support, they have grown affectionate toward the characters they portray. So they study the policies of these candidates through various media and news broadcasts.

Kim Seul-ki (20), who is the youngest of the actors and actresses, said, "I became interested in politics, a topic I had no interest in prior to working on this skit." The actor Lee Sang-hoon said, "I hope we can make people feel more comfortable with politics, and provide a floor where people can communicate."

Actor Kim Min-gyo said, "Moon Jae-in is following me on Twitter." He also expressed his aspirations when he said, "I want to make a funny satire that people will find funny and can identify with. I hope this can provide an opportunity for more young people to take an interest in politics."

■ Satire and Partiality = Perhaps because of the opposition from the Saenuri Party, "Yeouidi Teletubbies Return" will be subjected to a review by the Korea Communications Standards Commission. This review was triggered by criticism that the skit used improper language for broadcasting and damaged the dignity of the presidential candidates.

But the public is throwing a cold glance at the commission's plan to review this skit. Posts criticizing these measures can be found easily on Twitter and other sites. "A society that can't even tolerate this. What kind of a 21st century is this?" (@hwasubuny). "A world without satire and humor has no future" (@progfrog).

"Damage the dignity of the presidential candidates? If they can't understand this kind of satire, then does that person have the qualities to become president?" (@saltlake71). "It's a skit that satirizes all the candidates regardless of whether they are from the ruling or opposition parties. Finding fault with this is backward thinking" (@seoultra).

Jang Jin, executive director of Saturday Night Live Korea, said, "If they had criticized us for not being able to follow the public's taste or for dealing with vulgar content, it would have been an opportunity for some painful reflection.

But I am frustrated when I see them criticize us about whose side we're on." He added, "When Tto said she wouldn't curse anymore in the episode aired on November 3, it was Saturday Night Live's way of responding."

Lee Taek-gwang, an English literature professor at Kyunghee University said, "I think this government is caught up in an authoritarian view on culture, where they think popular culture, which everyone enjoys and laughs at, is base and vulgar."

He pointed out, "Using government authority to deprive the public of entertainment because of personal feelings is an idea that does not fit modern society."

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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