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Programs under threat as nation's funnyman retires

2011/09/13 | 411 views | Permalink | Source

Popular comedian Kang Ho-dong appears apologetic during a press conference in Seoul, Friday, to announce his plans "to retire tentatively" following alleged reports of tax fraud. / Yonhap

By Lee Hyo-won

Fans and TV producers alike are on alert about how funnyman Kang Ho-dong's "tentative retirement" will affect the local entertainment scene, as his absence strikes a blow to several of Korea's most watched shows.

Kang, one of Korea's most high-profile MCs, called it quits Friday after it became public on Sept. 4 that he allegedly failed to pay taxes amounting to an estimated hundreds of millions of won. He announced plans to tentatively retire at a press conference in Seoul.

"I am an entertainer. It is my duty to provide laughter and joy to viewers through the TV screen but given my situation, how could I impudently show my face onscreen and joke and laugh", he told reporters after repeatedly apologizing for letting down fans.

Diverging branches of online communities supporting or denouncing the star have mushroomed, while one civilian went as far as reporting Kang to local authorizes on charges of tax fraud.

Kang said he had been cooperating with legal and tax authorities for the past five months and promised to pay in full his tax debt. He left without answering questions about the details of his stepping down from entertainment.

The 41-year-old former "ssireum" (Korean wrestling) champion is a household name as the host of iconic variety shows on all three networks KBS, MBC and SBS.

The latest viewing figures for a show starring Kang marked a slight decline.

Ratings for Sunday's "1 Night, 2 Days" (KBS 2) were 20.7 percent, almost 4 percentage points down from the previous week, according to AGB Nielsen Media Research. The most recent episode of the reality program featuring Kang was pre-recorded. Ratings for the show "Happy Sunday", of which "1 Night, 2 Days" is a part, also fell to 15.9 percent, 3 percentage points less than the previous episode.

Na Young-seok, producer of "1 Night, 2 Days", said he was unable to dissuade Kang from leaving the program, which is due to air until February next year. He added that the remaining five members will continue to appear and that there are no plans to replace Kang.

"Kang Ho-dong is a very responsible person. I did sense that he was contemplating the prospect of retiring but I was unable to persuade him otherwise", Na was quoted as telling Yonhap News Sept. 9. He added that he was notified by Kang of the decision and that the MC wishes to bid viewers a proper goodbye through the show.

The makers of the program are discussing details of recording the farewell episode in two weeks' time.

Meanwhile, the other programs featuring Kang are under fire.

MBC's "Golden Fish-Mureuppak Guru", a talk show hosted by Kang since 2007, is seeking alternatives but has yet to make any final decisions. Unlike "1 Night, 2 Days", the program had no plans to end its run.

Park Jeong-gyu, producer of the show, said the makers are seeking countermeasures by looking at the bigger picture. "It is no easy decision to find a new MC or to discontinue the program. Nothing has been decided".

The next three episodes of the weekly Wednesday show have already been recorded, and some of the shows may be aired in two parts, said the makers.

Meanwhile, SBS' "Star King", a talent competition hosted by Kang, will air its last episode featuring the comedian on Oct. 1, said producer Lee Chang-tae. The makers of the program are also currently discussing alternative measures.

강호동 은퇴로 연예프로들 위기 맞아

강호동이 빠짐으로써 국내 최고 시청률을 자랑하는 연예프로그램에 심한 타격을 입히고 있는 가운데 팬과 TV 제작자 모두 강씨의 "잠정 은퇴"가 얼마나 국내 연예계에 영향을 미칠지 예의주시하고 있다.

국내 최고 엠씨 중 한 사람인 강씨는 9월 4일 수 억 원의 탈세 사실이 알려지자 지난 금요일 엠씨를 그만 두겠다고 선언했다. 기자회견에서 그는 "잠정적으로 은퇴할" 계획임을 발표했다.

그는 팬들을 실망시켰다며 여러 차례 사죄하면서 "저는 연예인입니다. TV 스크린을 통해 시청자들에게 웃음과 기쁨을 주는 게 저의 의무입니다. 그러나 현 상황을 보면 제가 어떻게 감히 TV에 나와 즐거움과 웃음을 줄 수 있겠습니까"라고 말했다.

이 TV 스타를 지지 또는 비난하는 온라인 커뮤니티가 버섯처럼 생겨난 가운데 한 시민은 세금사기 혐의로 당국에 고발까지 했다.

강씨는 지난 5개월간 사법 및 세무 당국에 협조를 해왔다며 내지 않은 세금을 다 내기로 약속했다고 밝혔다. 그는 "잠정 은퇴"에 대한 질문에 세세히 대답하지 않고 자리를 떴다.

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