International comparisons to Korea’s ‘Now On My Way To Meet You’

This week I steered by research towards global media that I could compare to Now On My Way To Meet You with outside of the digital Asia context. I have almost given up all hope finding an episode of the show in English, so instead of approaching my research on the basis of content analysis, what is said/done on the show, I’m instead going to explore it conceptually. I want to investigate the notion of displacement being illustrated through the television show, the unique way in which it is presented and the online and offline reception of it. This week I decided to research shows that I could compare to Now On My Way To Meet You, that specifically represent refugees.

Go Back to Where You Came From is an Australian SBS series that followed 12 Australians, all with differing opinions on Australia’s asylum seeker debate, being taken on a journey in reverse to that which refugees have taken to reach Australia. The difference to Now On My Way To Meet You is that here it is about Australia’s perception – it’s is not the refugees themselves. I think it is informative and worthwhile in the sense that it essentially dispels common perceptions, but I think it is also lacking in the perspective that Now On My Way To Meet You so fittingly provides.

Another Australian example is an SBS television show titled Living With The Enemy. The entire series is said to ‘explore the fault lines of social cohesion in Australia’ with each episode exploring a different topic dividing Australian opinion by asking people to live with others whose lifestyles and beliefs directly contradict their own (Wife Swap ring a bell?). Episode 2 sees Jenni, a middle-aged Queenslander who believes that asylum seekers should not be allowed in Australia, meet Morteza, a 30 year old former ‘boat person’ who landed on Christmas Island after fleeing Iran. Morteza spent four years in detention, escaped from Woomera Detention Centre, sparked the riot that burned down the Port Hedland Detention Centre and famously sewed his lips together in the Villawood Detention Centre. I think Living With The Enemy can be tenuously linked to the same basis of exploration as Now On My Way To Meet You in the sense that it attempt to reconcile differences/perceptions. Personally I struggled with the show, I thought it was a definite attention-grabber and deliberately chose two extreme ends of the spectrum in terms of the asylum seeker debate. I was horrified that SBS would even entertain the ignorance of Jenni.

Another really interesting example is this show in the Netherlands Weg van Nederland which aims to raise awareness of tightening asylum laws by putting questions of Dutch language and culture to contestants facing imminent deportation. The show features five young refugees who compete to prove their attachment to the Netherlands by answering questions about tulips and bikes, identifying corny local pop tunes and carving an outline of the country’s map from a slice of Gouda cheese. The winner gets a plastic suitcase containing 4,000 euros ($5,680) to take with them when they are expelled. I was disgusted at this show as well – a clear ratings grabber in my opinion. Akin to Now On My Way To Meet You, the candidates on this show are not actors. These people are genuine unsuccessful asylum seekers. However instead of bridging the gap between perception and reality of North Korean refugees in South Korea, the contestants here are being used to prove a political point. Personally I find it distasteful.

I also found an Italian series titled The Mission,  which follows 6 celebrities as they visit refugee camps in South Sudan, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo for a period of 15 days. The producers of the show claims that the increase of awareness and private story telling by refugees will help to make public opinion more open and sensible on issues such as illegal immigration and the reasons that lead to the desperate search of a better life through the Mediterranean. This is similar to the aims of Now On My Way To Meet You, but differs as the refugee stores will be told through these celebrities, not from themselves, like on the Korean show. Poverty porn anyone?

While the aforementioned shows does not focus on an aspect of digital Asian culture, I think a comparison between these shows and Now On My Way To Meet You is important to further my own research. The ways in which different cultures have chosen to present refugees proves to be an interesting contrast. While they may be well-intentioned their execution, in my opinion, does nothing but perpetuate the stereotypes that they are attempting to mediate. I have tweeted about my research this week and will be posting these examples as a page on my WordPress site for my digital artifact.

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