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Humoo-Gag: Everybody's Doing It

Since last December, Humoo-Gag (nihilistic gag), a word play that puts smiles on people's faces, has been televised as "Comedy House" by MBC. Humoo-Gag originated with two popular comedians, Lee Jin-whan and Son Hun-soo. They say that the point of Humoo-Gag is to make people absentminded and to cause laughter. The following is a good example of Humoo-Gag.

Lee: (In a loud voice while passing by Son) I found a wild ginseng.
Son: (With a poker face): It's a Chinese bellflower.
Lee: Oh, yes.

In the above three sentences, Lee wants to inform Son of his glee about finding a wild ginseng. However, Son ignores Lees?intention with a short sentence. The unexpected thing is that Lee agrees so easily and immediately with Son's dismissiveness. People, especially teenagers and those in their twenties, get wildly excited about Humoo-Gag.

What are the factors that put Humoo-Gag in fashion? Actually, the gag has always been in our daily lives. People routinely ignore what others say and reject requests by using quips without reasonable explanation. When the other person's expectations are ignored by a quip, they ware a bitter smile. This kind of the quip is called Humoo-Gag, and it is becoming a cultural genre.
About seven months have passed since Humoo-Gag popped up. Is it time to think again about Humoo-Gag? Last March, Lee Kyu-sik, a professor in the School of European Language and Literature at Hannam University, wrote an article entitled "Gag, is it Cultural Code? Or Symbol of Nothingness?" in the Hannam Press. "A smile is an efficient way to overcome the generation gap between the older and the new generations. However, I think that the gag of these days, if anything, can't bridge the generation gap," Prof. Lee said. According to an other opinion, Humoo-Gag is a cultural code of the moderns who have an indifferent attitude about smiling and look at all things cynically.
Now, Humoo-Gag is in fashion at universities. How do university students look at it? Most university students appreciate Humoo-Gag, and recognize its merits and demerits.
Modern Korea lends credence to the proverb that says ten years is an epoch. Korean society is changing faster and people are too absorbed in their own affairs to adapt themselves to these new social surroundings. So, people sometimes long for a time to rest. University students say that Humoo-Gag can make them smile for a while, an experience similar to a short rest. "I like Humoo-Gag because of its placidity. I have to do my homework almost everyday and have examinations twice in a semester. Moreover, employment prospects are becoming worse. While many things of my school life give me a heavy burden,  Humoo-Gag makes me smile and forget my responsibilities for a moment. In other words, it makes me feel energetic," said a sophomore student in the Dept. of Information System at DU.
Humoo-Gag interferes with conversation, which it is an important aspect of university life. It may be anti-social, too. A sophomore student in the Dept. of Political Science & Diplomacy at DU said, "When I was a leader of a group that had to prepare a class presentation, our six members didn't pay attention to my suggestions. They answered my suggestions with "OK?"or "Yes." I think that university students have little time for discussion. In my opinion, discussion should be an important part of a student's university experience. However, I feel sorry that opportunities for discussion are decreasing because of Humoo-Gag."
To find placidity through Humoo-Gag is a meaningful thing in our complex and confused lives. But, at least, university students don't have to accept Humoo-Gag without criticism. And they don't have to look over a discontinuation of conversation though Humoo-Gag gives smiles and placidity to them.

Kim Hye-jeong  bbejeoi@hanmail.net

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