EPISODE 399. Broadcast on August 12, 2012.
javabeans: So we return to Part 2 of the gyopo trip, and can I just say that already I’m nervous about this episode?
girlfriday: Because of Dokdo?
javabeans: Pretty much. Dokdo as its separate issue is enough of a political lightning rod, but with all the recent additional madness, it’s just… really weird timing.
girlfriday: Yeah, it’s been a weird confluence of events. So to recap: last Saturday, Prez goes to Dokdo, making him the first Korean president to visit the islands, and on the same friggin’ day, Korea beats Japan in soccer for the Olympic bronze and a player grabs a “Dokdo is our land” sign from the stands and runs it around the field, getting him disinvited from the medal ceremony. And then Sunday, this episode of 1Night 2 Days airs, which happens to be a trip taking these guys to Dokdo.
javabeans: Then on Wednesday, Gaksital airs on Korean Independence day and its opening image (the still before the show begins, not a part of the show) is… Dokdo with the Korean flag superimposed on it. For the episode, by the way, where a Korean boxer is forced to compete for Japan and paraded around town for winning the world championships.
girlfriday: So… that’s a lot of Dokdo in five days.
javabeans: I mentioned some of my misgivings in the Gaksital recap, which in the context of that show are because… well, Dokdo isn’t a part of the context of that show. I get that Korea’s running on a high current of patriotism right now, but I felt that Gaksital was doing itself a disservice, muddying the political waters when honestly, its story stands on its own. Dokdo has no place in it.
girlfriday: Yes, I want Gaksital to stay firmly in the past. Whereas here it’s a deliberate thing, taking these gyopos to the islands. Dokdo is a conflict I understand intellectually, but don’t share in my personal experience.
javabeans: I’m with you on that. Because I totally get why Dokdo is important. I understand why Koreans feel passionately about it, even though frankly it’s not because of issues of citizenship in the sense of governing a population. It’s basically uninhabited. People are allowed to visit, but it’s not a home to civilians.
girlfriday: No. It’s pure symbology. It’s a remnant of the scars of the occupation.
javabeans: I even understand and appreciate why Koreans are so fierce on the issue of “Dokdo is our land,” because even though it’s mostly a pile of rocks, it’s where the country has collectively drawn its line in the sand. It’s basically saying, “You’ve taken your last from us, and you will not have this!” It’s totally symbolic. And political.
girlfriday: Yes, to Korea, it was the first of their land that Japan occupied, and the last of their land that they’re not willing to leave. I totally get it. It’s just that as a political thing, Dokdo gets used as, like you said, a lightning rod.
javabeans: It’s also that Koreans… we have this tendency to get really passionate about things and then boil them down to simplified versions. Oversimplified versions. It leads to a lot of amazing national pride moments and shows of solidarity, but it can also turn into mob-and-pitchforks. As we’ve seen, to make this relevant, a lot in the entertainment industry. And when you’re arguing soundbytes, it’s really easy to start conflating issues without really thinking about it, but which is a really dangerous slippery slope. It’s why you get hotheaded athletes making a medal about an island.
girlfriday: Yeah that had no place there. Obviously, the Japan-Korea soccer rivalry is a huge deal. But there’s really no reason to make soccer about Dokdo. Just none.
javabeans: I remember a similar incident in a previous Olympic cycle, when Apolo Ohno won his gold over a South Korean skater who got DQ’d, somewhat controversially. And then in a soccer match a few days later, in a celebratory moment a Korean player made a speed-skating gesture on the field. It was so awkward and mortifying. The sportscaster was basically stunned speechless. I remember him saying, “That’s… bad sportsmanship.” Like he could hardly say it, it was so obvious. How did Apolo (an American) somehow become this target for so much Japan-directed hate? I remember him saying he got so many Korean death threats after the Olympics.
girlfriday: That’s the horrible problem of conflating all these things. And it’s not that I don’t understand where it comes from. My grandmother still asks very pointedly every Olympics if we’re beating Japan. I get it. She lived through the occupation. I can’t argue with that sentiment.
javabeans: Oh, my Dad has the medal counts memorized. He called after the soccer game, which I hadn’t seen, and was proudly recounting it, saying, “Korea has never won an Olympic medal before. But we never lose to Japan. Never in soccer.”
girlfriday: Which is just untrue. But that’s what it’s like, being Korean. So… yeah…
javabeans: It’s just this huge ball of awkward and uncomfortable and vague shame, yet you don’t quite know where all these feelings are directed. It’s like being a teenager all over again.
girlfriday: Yeah, when the soccer debacle hit the international press, I immediately cringed, and then remembered that 1N2D was airing the Dokdo special the next day, and thought, that is the worst timing.
javabeans: With 1N2D, the trip was obviously planned way in advance so it isn’t a deliberate response to, say, the Olympics debacle. Clearly the islands factor in strongly to the Korean identity (one gyopo friend stated in his intro video that he wanted to see Dokdo), but I feel like 1N2D is perhaps becoming a part of a conversation it didn’t intend to be, given the timing of recent events. (OR DID IT? Who knows.)
girlfriday: Right? IS IT A CONSPIRACY? Okay, probably not.
javabeans: Dumbest conspiracy ever! Which isn’t to say that makes it automatically impossible.
girlfriday: Just… a weird place to put conspiratorial efforts. Okay, so back to the episode.
javabeans: Oh right. Is that what we’re doing? Hard to see through all those tangents.
girlfriday: We pick up in the middle of the mission, with each pair separated in different parts of town. Tae-hyun and Jong-myung are doing their reinactment of Heung-bu/Nol-bu.
javabeans: Which was one of the throwaway jokes in Arang this week. (It’s the story about a good brother and a horrible brother, and basically the moral is: you get what’s comin’ to you.) This is one of the hardest, but the funnest. It’s so silly, with the PDs shooting them with Super Soakers when they mess up. Ha, Tae-hyun gave all the embarrassing parts to his Austrian buddy Jong-myung. The dancing, the writing-name-with-butt, the rolling on the ground. All Tae-hyun has to do is complain.
girlfriday: The PDs are, of course, insanely picky. You only turned four times! SPRAY. I love that Tae-hyun, the big movie star, is having trouble remembering his lines.
javabeans: Maybe it’s the strange rule here of NO AD-LIBBING!
girlfriday: Now I wonder how much of Tae-hyun’s funny comes from him not remembering his lines and covering it up with jokes. They finally get through the whole skit and get their clue. It’s not very illuminating: a square over a triangle. Fractions with shapes?
javabeans: So not worth the effort. Although, I guess you don’t go through that and NOT bond. Su-geun and David the French med student puzzle out the clues: so far they have tree and 387 m and square / triangle.
girlfriday: Meanwhile Seung-woo and Ji-hoon are still busy with their top-spinning/kite-flying/jaegi-kicking mission, which… isn’t going well. They’re going to be there all day, aren’t they? Jong-min and Kiril get to their village and their mission is to ride ten different things. Problem is, they can’t afford to rent anything to ride.
javabeans: So there are scooters and pedi-cabs that they can test-drive, but not rent. Does that count? Don’t the rules just say to ride them? Ah, they find a swing and seesaw. Haha, Jong-min gets in a technicality, because the seesaw is named differently when you sit on it and when you stand. Twofer!
girlfriday: But then the PD uses his own logic against him, asking if the standing version is “riding,” and Jong-min falls for the trap: “It’s jumping!”
javabeans: D’oh! Where’s lawyer Shi-kyung when you need him? Joo-won and Richard are in a marketplace, where Joo-won has to buy 7 things for his buddy with their quiz money. Lucky for him, ajummas love cute boys and give him extras.
girlfriday: He totally plays it up at the ddukbokki stand: “My entire life savings is 3,300 won!” *aegyo smile* Mission complete with snacks to boot. Tae-woong meanwhile is busy trying to puzzle together the clues. He has this really comical EUREKA moment when he figures out the destination.
javabeans: Shi-kyung and Sasha find out they’ve missed the boat (heh), so they have to hitch a ride in a car. Man, it’s late. I don’t know if they’re all gonna make it. Doggy pile outside tonight?
girlfriday: Pretty much. Unless they lawyer a loophole out of this somehow. Su-geun picks up Tae-hyun and Tae-woong’s teams, and then arrive to get Seung-woo… who’s STILL kicking the jaegi for what has to be hours by now.
javabeans: I’m amazed that they’re able to laugh. They’re drenched in sweat and sort of in incredulous territory now.
girlfriday: The other boys run to their rescue to help them complete the mission, and Seung-woo tells them that Ji-hoon is a master top-spinner by now. It’s so cute how he brags about him to the others.
javabeans: It’s adorable. They even show off how he can do other stuff in between top-spinning, like a “Look Ma, no hands!” moment. The jaegi is the trouble.
girlfriday: Tae-hyun and Su-geun take over for that, only Tae-hyun gets in ONE measly kick (ha) leaving Su-geun to kick it 29 times… and he does it on the first try!
javabeans: That’s hilarious. Kite-flying is next, and either David is really, really good at kite-flying, Seung-woo is really, really bad, or the wind decided to pay a visit. I think there’s equal likelihood for all. Wow, they give us a count, and the team ran with the kite 9 times, spun that top 14… and kicked the jaegi 238 times.
girlfriday: Jong-min and Kiril are still at it, borrowing neighbors’ bikes and wheelbarrows and the like. Lol, he has Kiril climb a ladder because in Korean the word for climbing a ladder is the same as “ride.”
javabeans: I was wondering if they’d play with words! They could technically even make coffee, can’t they? “Ta” the granules? Or (sun)burn their faces?
girlfriday: Haha. It might come to that. There’s piggybacking, then sitting on a boat going nowhere, which gets them up to nine.
javabeans: They make their way through the entire village, then sit down to try to think of what else can get ridden.
girlfriday: Jong-min tries to think of all the things that can be ta-ed, like burning a fire, riding a dog, and then lightbulb! He orders Kiril to take off his hat. He parts his hair! Hahahaha. Oh the puns.
javabeans: “All we had to do was ta it, right? And what am I doing, director?” “….ta…ing your part.” You have to hear the extremely grudging voice in your head.
girlfriday: I love the sea of captions: “You said all we have to do is ta.” “We just have to ta.”
javabeans: It’s basically a screen full of ba-DUM-bum!
girlfriday: It’s all the funnier that they win the mission on that technicality. The rest of the group has been picked up, but Jong-min is out of the way, so they make a plan to pick him up as he heads toward the bridge. They get in a cab and just ask to be taken as far as their money will get them.
javabeans: They have mere minutes to get to the bridge, and the boys start chanting at traffic lights to change color. They give it their best effort, but arrive barely past the deadline. At least there’s a huge crowd cheering on the cast. Bird PD says, “It’s too bad, we hoped you’d make it.” Joo-won: “It’s so obvious [you’re lying].”
girlfriday: They finally make it to basecamp for some down time, where Sasha and Jong-min have another dance battle.
javabeans: Why am I reminded of the walk-off in Zoolander? They’re actually both good, but it’s just so funny. They go move for move, and I’m half-scared Jong-min’s going to break something trying to copy Sasha’s moves.
girlfriday: Right? You’re not an idol anymore! It’s finally time for dinner bokbulbok.
javabeans: The boys do an intro where they all complain in pairs that they’re hungry. Pffff, I literally just snorted water at Shi-kyung’s move. He comes in all serious looking, then launches into that gag-arm-leg sweep that Su-geun taught him in a previous trip. Is that going to be his signature now?
girlfriday: I hope so. As the eldest, Seung-woo speaks up to complain that 12:30 in the morning is not exactly dinnertime. Yikes, that’s mean.
javabeans: Wow, with special guests too. Bird PD calls dinner bokbulbok Olympic-themed—so on top of that you’re gonna make them run around and play for their food?
girlfriday: Of course. The first game is ping-pong, and Seung-woo shouts that he’s REALLY good at this game, which if you’ve ever watched this show before, you can never believe at face-value. They get ready to play, but then Bird PD calls for the boxes to be brought in… and they realize there’s a bokbulbok component to the rackets they have to use. This’ll be good.
javabeans: HA, Seung-woo has to play with FRYING PANS.
girlfriday: Hee, let’s see how good you are with those! Joo-won’s team gets little hand-drums, which are at least close to ping-pong racket size.
javabeans: But… do they have those little ball thingies attached? Is it just distracting fringe?
girlfriday: No, the ball thingies are attached. So yeah… confusing.
javabeans: Whoever thought up this is a genius.
girlfriday: Seriously. It turns out the frying pans are pretty handy… but Seung-woo isn’t exactly the pro he proclaimed himself to be. Why am I not surprised?
javabeans: On the upside, the frying pans totally allow him to save face.
girlfriday: I do love that every time he makes an error, they cut in his refrain: “I’m really good at ping-pong!”
javabeans: Lol, Su-geun and David get items of different size — two gongs. Since the handles are small, they’re basically playing with plates. Really heavy, unwieldy plates.
girlfriday: Haha, and then Tae-woong gets two cymbals. Pfft, at least it’s even percussion against percussion?
javabeans: This is going to be a loud match.
girlfriday: Hur. Su-geun takes advantage: “Wait, I’ll start the game! *gong*”
javabeans: Is Tae-woong actually getting mad? Aw, he looks so surly.
girlfriday: Yeah, he’s pretty much like, Olympics? We’re going hungry tonight…
javabeans: Games continue. Tae-hyun gets washboards, and Jong-min gets those huuuuge serving trays they use in restaurants.
girlfriday: And then just when you think it can’t get more comical, Tae-hyun announces he’ll play as Sharapova. Pffft.
javabeans: And shrieks every time he hits, like she does. Then…. omg, does Shi-kyung have to play ping-pong with a helmet?
girlfriday: That’s officially the worst.
javabeans: Dude, if you were going to be that random, where were the wine bottles and hammers?
girlfriday: I was waiting for the fly swatters.
javabeans: PD, maybe not a genius after all.
girlfriday: The final is Su-geun against Tae-hyun, and Su-geun’s team pretty much wipes the floor with them, but all Tae-hyun really cares about is getting his one clean Sharapova slam. The things you do for a gag. The next event is… dizzy volleyball shotput?
javabeans: I love that Shi-kyung starts them off with one really impressive throw (23m), and then it’s all downhill. Joo-won trips himself on the throw, Tae-woong gets about 2m out, and Seung-woo misses entirely and drops it at his feet.
girlfriday: Okay, that’s like a cartoon. He’s holding the ball, then goes to swing, and misses it… but it was in his hand!
javabeans: Jong-min gets a really nice wind-up…. and pelts his ball into Tae-woong. PWAHAHA. So Seung-woo’s scorecard reads “Kim Seung-woo: 0 meters.” Jong-min’s is: “Kim Jong-min: Uhm Tae-woong.”
girlfriday: Tae-woong comes at him, all you wanna start something, little man? Omg, Su-geun’s turn is killing me–he actually goes backwards, right into the line of cameramen, like he literally cannot control his body.
javabeans: The next game is a relay race, and we speed through to the final round, where Tae-woong (slow) and Su-geun (quick) are running against each other. Thanks to his teammate, Tae-woong ends up in front and starts to wave his arms around, blocking Su-geun like a big dancing octopus.
girlfriday: Which is right when Su-geun speeds past him on the turn. Pfft, the look on Tae-woong’s face is priceless. That’s what you get for celebrating your win before the end of the race!
javabeans: And yet, when the ultimate winner of the whole Olympics is announced (“a huge surprise”), it’s Tae-hyun, who placed in all events and ended up with a higher overall score. They get the yummy beef dinner.
girlfriday: Su-geun gets the second-place dinner, and then Shi-kyung gets third, which is also a surprise. Must’ve been the shotput.
javabeans: The rest get bowls of rice with grilled fish. Aw.
girlfriday: Two fish for eight guys is not a lot. But the hyungs take care to put fish on their dongsengs’ bowls, which is really sweet. Soon everyone is sharing. After dinner Bird PD says they have to pack up for their next trip. The guys are like, whaaaaaa?
javabeans: There’s no outdoor sleepytime tonight… Is it because they’re not sleeping? Oy. He informs them of the Dokdo plans, but logistically speaking, that is a LONG trip and two boat rides. It’s a pretty unreasonable itinerary, but they start reasoning that all the guests do want to go, even if that means no sleep.
girlfriday: They pile onto a bus for the all-night drive, and Seung-woo teaches them the “Dokdo is our land” song. Of course there’s a song about this.
javabeans: There are a bunch of them. I think the one that plays is DJ Doc’s version, and apparently Eun Ji-won has one too. It’s like an anthem; everyone’s recorded their rendition. The hip-hop version, the melodic rock version… Korea is crazy about Dokdo. At least the insane schedule means they get breakfast on the boat without little strings attached. So there’s still a little humanity left in the PD.
girlfriday: I love that Tae-hyun makes little jam sandwiches for everyone like a dad. Though the lecture from Professor Jong-min on why Dokdo is Korea’s land, I could do without. He’s very sweet, but I don’t want him giving lessons on anything.
javabeans: Ugh, are we entering the uncomfortable part of this trip?
girlfriday: Yes, yes we are. I can tell by my discomfort.
javabeans: I can tell by the way I’m auto-cringing, without even knowing it. They have each gyopo guest share a little about their feelings on seeing Dokdo, and this whole scene is emceed by Su-geun in faux presenter mode. I think that’s making it worse, because he’s got his variety joke-hat on, but he’s pretending to be very serious about this really political issue, and it’s just a weird mix of mockery-flattery-jokery.
girlfriday: Here’s what I don’t like about the whole sequence, from a show point of view. It’s not organic. They’re like: This Is Important. You can feel the show putting on someone else’s clothes.
javabeans: Yeah, it’s 1N2D but they’re not doing this trip as part of the show, really. It’s like a drama telephone-CF moment. But sort of preachy.
girlfriday: It’s not totally new for 1N2D to do this. They do these kinds of specials once in a while. I just tend to always feel this way when they do these sequences.
javabeans: I guess every show needs its one afterschool special episode. Yunno, for sweeps week and Emmy counts.
girlfriday: Exactly. The we’re-going-for-tears-and-the-little-gold-statue moment.
javabeans: Also from a purely show point of view, I’m a little uncomfortable with making these guys talk about this big deal in the hot seat and with their language skills. Some of the guys are fluent, but even they struggle to find the right vocabulary. It’s hard enough to express yourself when you’re at home with the language, but when you’re not equipped…
girlfriday: And I can only speak from my own cultural perspective, but as a Korean living outside of Korea, I have no deep-seated emotional feelings about Dokdo. I wasn’t raised with the songs and the constant awareness, so I don’t know what they’re expecting the gyopos to feel and/or say.
javabeans: There’s clearly an “acceptable script” in this moment, and there’s only one right opinion to have. Yet it’s couched in this generous, open, “Tell us how you feel” format. You wonder what would happen if anyone really did say, “Eh. Land is land.” But maybe this one-script mentality is what it means to live in Korea and have an opinion on Dokdo. Oh thank god Bird PD interrupts to hand out uniforms (T-shirts), since they’re almost there.
girlfriday: At least the arrival feels more organically 1N2D. The sweeping helicopter shots, the pretty island–that stuff is what the show does well. They get off the boat and immediately Seung-woo starts to well up with tears. At least this reaction I understand–it’s how my father would react. I just hope they don’t, I dunno… expect all the guys to be that way.
javabeans: Yeah, I can see being swept up in the emotion. I might feel that way as well — it’s such a loaded place and image, that a strong reaction is inevitable. I do think there’s a time and place, though, and Koreans seem to ignore that with matters relating to Dokdo.
girlfriday: Joo-won starts to cry too, and he and Seung-woo cry for a while, which makes sense since it’s their first time there. But Su-geun is narrating about their crying as they’re crying, and getting speechy. I wish he’d let the emotion speak for itself.
javabeans: Right, it’s pushing you there when you could get there naturally, but because you’re being pushed, you feel a compulsion to resist. Or is that just me?
girlfriday: No, not just you. If it were just un-narrated reactions without comment, I might be swept up in the emotion too. But I feel like I’m being told I should cry.
javabeans: Uh-oh, we get a glimpse of the T-shirt backs, and I’m pretty sure I know what phrase they’ll spell out… Yeesh. Can’t you just let the trip speak for itself?
girlfriday: Sigh. They get into formation and reveal their shirts that spell out: “Dokdo is our land; we are Korean.”
javabeans: They pose with a flag and repeat the chant. The song is sort of overkill. It reminds me of that time when “Proud to be an American” was everywhere, with its swagger and posturing. Are we done yet?
girlfriday: Almost there. Closing interviews with the guests as they leave, mostly thanking their hyungs. That’s sweet. I sort of wish this had just stayed a gyopo special about them, but I think it got away from that, which is too bad. It’s not the message about Dokdo that rubs me the wrong way; it’s the methods.
javabeans: Yes, yes. I don’t disagree with the stance on Dokdo, or decry Korea’s claim to it. I wish the message could be delivered with diplomacy and grace. ‘Cause it’s a powerful message.