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[PD Rhee Myung Han′s TV League] The Vintage Boom: It’s All About Empathy

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2012.08.11 02:00 CJ E&M enewsWorld Rhee Myung Han Translation Credit : May Myong Won Cho

It’s a blast from the past, and these days, vintage is the new black. The 90’s are making a comeback, through different movies, shows and even songs; bringing nostalgia to young adults everywhere.

From the movie Architecture 101, Busker Busker’s acoustic melodies to variety shows such as Infinity Challenge, Happy Sunday and shows such as A Gentleman’s Dignity, vintage is slowly but surely showing itself more.

One of the shows that really seems to pull the heartstrings of viewers and takes them back in time is Reply 1997.

Producer of A Gentleman’s Dignity fame, Shin Won Ho and I both participated in making this drama come true on tvN. We were trying to show the life and times of the kids who grew up in the 90s, the fangirls and the fanboys of H.O.T., Sechs Kies and the first generation pop idols. It seems to have become very popular with those in their 20s and their 30s, because they are the ones who are the true protagonists of this era. The reaction was surprisingly overwhelmingly positive.

[PD Rhee Myung Han′s TV League]  The Vintage Boom: It’s All About Empathy

As we found out that shows such as Reply 1997 could be a big hit, we as content creators had to rethink our understanding of the ‘vintage trend’.

Why were viewers so intrigued by the vintage content? What was making them want more of it? The reason why programs such as Reply 1997 are such a boom right now is because of the element of ‘empathy’.

It can be seen through the reactions the viewers have shown through messages on the internet and through various SNS messages: “I’m going on a journey, 15 years back in time.”, “I remember when I had that item too back in the day”, “It’s so real, looks exactly like what it was back then.”, and more.

Viewers seem to be happy and even touched to see something so familiar and heartwarming which was seemingly once forgotten. It’s actually not ‘vintage’ itself which is at the heart of popularity, it’s the simple feelings of nostalgia and more particularly, ‘empathy’, that people feel when watching something like Reply 1997 to which people have become attached.

I remember that I watched the SBS talk show Healing Camp a short while ago. Famous antivirus software programmer, medical doctor and professor Ahn Cheol Soo was on it.

Ahn Cheol Soo was talking about the differences between ‘sympathy’ and ‘empathy’. In Korean, they are both translated into ‘to agree’ or to feel for’. But Ahn emphasized that sympathy came from the more detached feeling of compassion and pity, whereas empathy came from the close feeling of wanting to identify with the other.

I understand that what Ahn Cheol Soo was trying to say was, empathy is the key to identifying with the other.

[PD Rhee Myung Han′s TV League]  The Vintage Boom: It’s All About Empathy

The vintage boom of right now is therefore not actually a trend which is tangible, or something which people will try act out and repeat.

It’s a trend where people don’t have to spend money or try too hard, it’s a trend where you can just agree along and then you’re a part of it. It’s a universal feeling that makes you a part of the trend. That’s why the vintage trend seems so popular.

I just want to add that through the positive attention that Reply 1997 has been receiving for playing a part in the vintage trend, I want to say it is a great honor to be a part of it.

It has always been my biggest dream to make a drama that everyone can agree with. It has been tough till now, but I want to continue. My ongoing homework from now on is to see how many I will be able to fit into the spectrum of empathy. I will myself continue to emphasize and experience in order to make a drama in which viewers can feel empathy.


This is part of an editorial series from Rhee Myung Han, the producer behind such hits as 1 Night, 2 Days, Star Golden Bell Season 1, The Romantic and Comedy Big League.

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Busker Busker 20120811 A Gentleman’s Dignity 20120811 Architecture 101 20120811 Reply 1997 20120811
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