Re-evaluating Mental Health: South Korea’s Famous Counseling Television Show

As humans, many of the informed decisions that we make are influenced by the media – from the types of newspapers we choose to read to the coffee shops we choose to frequent. While coffee and newspapers may not apply to everyone’s life, mental health is a topic that is relevant to any human being. However, representations of mental health are often misconstrued or overlooked by the media.

Recently, the neglect of proper attention to the representation of mental health in the media has been a hot topic in South Korea. South Korea is known to be a very conservative country with one of the highest rates of teenage depression and suicide. While at first surprising, these high rates of mental health instability among South Koreans becomes a little bit less so when the media representation of mental health is considered.

For example, Hello Counselor, one of South Korea’s most famous television shows, prides itself on allowing citizens to come on the show and reveal a problem that they believe is burdensome. The citizens share their personal stories with the host and the audience, and the stories are then put up to a vote on whose story sounded the most troublesome; the winner of the vote leaves with a cash prize. While not all personal troubles are considered mental health issues, Hello Counselor has historically invited citizens with stories related to alcohol addiction, plastic surgery addiction, and even rape. However, none of the hosts giving advice have any professional healthcare backgrounds, and oftentimes gleam over these larger issues, leaving the problem unsolved and the victim in a vulnerable state. While the show does invite professionals every now and then to offer the guests advice, these occurrences are rare, likely due to the extra cost and time put into casting medical professionals.

Despite the show’s popularity as a talk show with humorous content, delicate topics related to serious mental health issues should not be taken lightly. Perhaps the show could either invite more professionals when the stories for the day are more serious than light-hearted, or the production team could simply reject castings for issues unfit for the light-hearted nature of the program. Regardless, Hello Counselor’s popularity and content remains strong within the South Korean community.

By Jennifer Bi '18 | Staff Writer