Magazine article Variety

Funny Fights for Equal Rights Heating Up

Magazine article Variety

Funny Fights for Equal Rights Heating Up

Article excerpt

Gender imbalance in the Korean TV industry is no secret.

Take it from two of the country's most proactive female comedians. "2015 was definitely a difficult year for me as a female comedian," says Kim Sook of appearing in "Infinite Challenge," the top variety show hosted by all-male emcees.

Fellow comedian Park Mi-seon agrees, noting, "Women comedians can be as funny, but we are not given the chance that our male colleagues get."

Among some 70 variety shows broadcast on South Korea's major TV stations including KBS, MBC, SBS, JTBC and tvN last year, 13 shows featured all-male hosts and all-male guests; 23 programs featured female guests but were hosted by all-male emcees. That means more than half the country's variety shows lack females in hosting roles.

On the other hand, only two programs were represented by all-female hosts, featuring all-female guests. Shows that feature both genders in hosting roles tend to set a group of male comedians as main hosts, while a woman or two are given supporting roles.

There are shows without hosts: "We Got Married," "Just Remarried" and "Flaming Youth." In these programs, in which celebrities are paired up for virtual marriage, or group dating, the number of male and female guests is equal. That suggests gender balance is only available when shows require couples.

Some blame female entertainers for not proving their own talent to get the job. But it's a meaningless assertion when there are not enough sample programs to evaluate female performances.

"Producers have no other choice but to hire male celebrities, because women account for the majority of variety show viewers in Korea and usually men appeal to them better," says a producer who spoke to Variety on the condition of anonymity.

Hong Si-young, the producer of "5 Witches," believes otherwise. "We were worried that the audience would not like wild, strong women on our show," Hong says. …

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