Monday, September 12, 2011

거북이의 꿈

When we are caught up in our daily rat race, how many of us still remember the race between the hare and the tortoise? The 'hare' is well-endowed with speed to win any race. However, 'tortoise' is not only born to move slowly, it is burdened with a heavy shell.

"I crawled slowly to where I am now … a person who rises up very fast will have time to take a breather in between. Although I have to crawl, I won’t stop until I reach my destination.", wrote Kim Byung-man (김병만) in his autobiography 『꿈이 있는 거북이는 지치지 않습니다』 (Tortoise with dream will not be exhausted).

Tortoise with dream will not be exhausted
Kim Byung-man is one of the top gagman (comedian) in Korea. He gained his popularity by starring as the 'master' (달인, 達人) in the ‘Master’ segment of the KBS ‘Gag Concert’. 'Master', lack of a better description, is an acrobatic slapstick comedy. Kim performed different stunts and skills every week and always left his audience awe-struck and in stitches. What made his performance amazing is there is no camera tricks. Everything he did was real actions. A common question in everyone's mind is, "How did he manage to do that?"

Kim might not know the answer himself. As a child, Kim knew only hardship and failure. Because of that, he developed massive inferiority complex. His father turned to heavy drinking after his business failed. His mother worked as a helper in an eatery and was barely able to support a family of four children with her meagre salary. After graduating from high school, Kim worked as an odd job labourer in construction sites. His application to various institutes and universities were all rejected. Despite that, he did not give up his dream of becoming a gagman. To pursue it, he moved to Seoul and lived in a roof-top room. His road to success was anything but smooth. He was rejected four times by MBC and three times by KBS and was only accepted by KBS in 2002 on his eighth attempt.

"There was time when I kept going to the drugstore and had 40 sleeping pills with me… but the lights from the broadcasting stations in Yeoui-do were shining brightly at night even though I was crying my heart out in my roof-top room. Finally, I decided to pick myself up and move on." (Page 73)

In his autobiography, Kim Byung-man is no longer simply a gagman who makes you laugh. He symbolises someone who overcomes childhood hardship, never gives up despite repeated failures, only to work harder and finally becomes the ‘master’ whom many people love. The book was on sale since August 2011. It was reported 52,000 copies were sold within the first week of launch, earning itself a place in the bestseller chart.

In the press conference to launch his book, he spoke about his parents, “When time was hard, I felt a lot of resentment towards my mother. I always blamed my parents for the plight I was in. I used to press my father for an answer to why he made me so short (his height is 158.7m). But today, the applause I received was precisely because of my height and I am thankful for that.”

I like one statement which Kim made during the press conference: 사람은 태어나는 순간부터 내 자신을 내가 만들어가는 것이다 (The moment we were born, we were responsible for our own destiny)

Kim Byung-man may be successful today, he has not forgotten he is a 'tortoise'. If you have not seen a 'tortoise' won a race, here is one. Below are two videos of his 'Master' segment. When you watch his performance, you may wish to remember what he said, "Suffering from bruises and injuries are quite common but audience come to watch comedy and be entertained, I have to make my performance enjoyable and deliver laughter. What I can’t do is to show my worry, sorrow and pain." Those are words of a true master of comedy.

Master of soap bubbles

Master of smashing with fingers

It is still true that many 'tortoises' will not win any race when competing with the 'hares'. But more important than winning is to complete the race. For that, I would choose to be a tortoise than a rat.


  1. i saw this book weeks ago at Kyobo.I really like him in 'Master Show' ^^ hmm..a very inspiring biography

  2. yes, he is awesome. his ability to master so many skills within short time is amazing.

  3. Hmm..If only there is Eng ver.

    I think he already succeed his life missions because he never failed to make me laugh and 'Wow' watching the show.

    This line '사람은 태어나는 순간부터 내 자신을 내가 만들어가는 것이다 ' is very well said.I'll keep it as a reminder ^^

  4. Read the Kor ver and improve your Korean. The essence of being a 'tortoise' is best felt when you can only read Kor at 거북이 speed :)

  5. Do you know where i can buy the book in Sg?

  6. You can buy the book at Gmarket Korea

  7. Thank you so much ^^