By Han Sang-hee
An array of programs by cable channels are presenting programs that beckon viewers to stand in front of the camera themselves.
Cable music channel Mnet leads these programs, with a total of three programs open for viewers to join in and become a part of them. One of the most anticipated is "Superstar K", which is the Korean version of the United States' hit program "American Idol". With a winning prize of more than 100 million won and the chance to make a debut this coming fall backed by music mogul Mnet, more than 5,000 viewers applied on the first day of admissions.
"There were plenty of similar music programs that held auditions for aspiring singers but the problem with most of them was the lack of support and interest given to the winners after the program. Another important feature we focused on is that literally anyone can participate and try out to become the next top singer of Korea", the makers of "Superstar K" said through a statement.
The program toured around the nation in search of talented contestants for the past two months and brought out interesting participants from different regions of the country.
Kim Byung-soo, 69, is one of the many interesting contestants; just the type the program makers were searching for.
Kim is a North Korean defector who arrived here in 2002 after living five years in China. Being a talented entertainer, even when he was living in the Stalinist state, he explained that his dream was to become a singer and to hold a concert back home after unification. His dreams of unification may be far away for now, but the music program has brought him a step closer to becoming a singer.
"The happiest moments of my life was the day I stepped into South Korea and the news that I made it to the first round of the `Superstar K' audition", Kim was quoted as saying.
"We realize through this program that music can become everyone's dream, not only those in their teens and twenties", said Hong Soo-hyun
, the director of the program.
"Superstar K" will start airing on July 24 at 11 p.m.
While "Superstar K" is gathering aspiring viewer-turned-singers to the small screen, "Mnet Scandal", "Seo In-young
's Brand New Friend" and MTV's "Kara
's Meta Friend" are bringing viewers thanks to the star power of celebrities and the viewers' drive in becoming the next talk of the town.
"Mnet Scandal" especially provokes fans of young and popular male singers and actors, as the program offers a week for chosen viewers to become the date of artists including singers Wheesung
and actor Kim Ji-suk
. A total of 10,000 viewers applied to be a part of the program after its first airing.
"We were very surprised by the interest among fans. In the past, just meeting celebrities was a dream, but now as the chances of appearing on television has widened, many fans can now dream of actually `dating' celebrities", said Gwon Young-chan, the producer of the program.
"Mnet Scandal" is aired every Wednesday on Mnet at 11 p.m.
Meanwhile, Seo In-young
, member of the female pop group Jewelry, has returned with her own reality program "Seo In-young
's Brand New Friend".
The program's main objective is to find the perfect friend for Seo after taking on various missions. The 12 contestants come from different backgrounds and must fulfill certain tasks given by Seo, for instance, choosing the perfect pair of shoes or outfits for a specific occasion.
Another cable program that resembles this similar concept is MTV's "Kara
's Meta Friends". Girl pop group Kara
will also assign special tasks and missions to applicants who have applied to become the members' friends.
"This program is actually helpful for the members. We all hoped that this program will help the young girls make new friends and also learnt the true meaning of friendship", said Lee Han-hyung, the producer of "Meta Friends".
The program airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m.
So why are cable programs inviting viewers to the small screen?
Some explain that major broadcasters are a bit hesitant of the unknown, but for cable television where the criteria and atmosphere is more free and adventurous, ambitious viewers have become the saviors of many programs.
"Stars have a lot to offer, but they obviously have some restrictions in how much they want to show themselves and also in terms of subjects. Ordinary viewers may not have the star factor and appear to be a bit tame for television entertainment, but they have numerous (possibilities). When viewers and stars get together, they create a special synergy effect and help each other along the way", a producing crewmember from Mnet said.