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Reality show seeks to break down barriers in language, culture

All Headlines 17:30 July 25, 2016

By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- Seven people descend on a southern seaside village in South Korea where they are told to plant rice and catch chicken, speaking only their native languages.

In the new reality TV show "Babel 250," the seven men and women representing countries as diverse as Brazil, Russia and China are given a mission to create a new language dubbed "Babel" to overcome their language barriers.

At first, the participants struggle to communicate with each other, leading to laughs and frustrations, but gradually they learn to overcome their differences and build a bond.

"On the surface, the aim of the program was to create a global Babel language, but in fact, it's possible to communicate through the mind even without a common language," Lee Won-hyoung, the show's producer, said during a press conference in western Seoul. "I could feel that a lot during the shooting."

It took three months to cast the crew as the producers searched all over Google and social networking services to find the right people for the show.

In the end, they chose Lee Ki-woo, a South Korean actor; Matheus Oliverio da Silva Rego, a Brazilian samba dancer; Nicolas Portier, a French actor; Tanon Varaya, a Thai businessman; Angelina Danilova, a Russian college student; Michelle Marie Bertolini Araque, a former Miss Venezuela; and Chen Lin, a Chinese concert director.

"We got through the filming somehow," Lee said, joined by the seven on the stage. "But we needed to understand the six languages aside from Korean in order to edit it, so it took a week to make one day's worth."

The participants took turns speaking through their respective interpreters to share their impressions of the show and what they learned from it.

Matheus, who has been chosen as the main male samba dancer in the Rio Summer Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, flashed his trademark teeth-baring smile as he recalled the initial culture shock he received from the realization that "everyone has their own thoughts."

"I personally didn't find this difficult. It was good. Some people had a very jovial character, while others were always like this," he said in Portuguese, slouching and making a sad face. "I think everyone showed a side of their culture, and as someone who enjoys traveling, I was able to learn a lot."

The show is now two episodes in, but filming ended last week, and Lee Ki-woo said it became much easier to communicate with each other toward the end.

"We could tell what the other person wanted just from their eyes and expressions," he said. "I began to understand that language and nationality are not that important."

Even when Matheus mistook Lee's hand sign for an "OK" as an insult due to cultural differences, these incidents later helped them grow closer, the actor said.

Filming took place in Darengyi, a scenic village overlooking the sea and surrounded by mountains. Located on the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, it is also characterized by terraced farmlands sloping at a 45-degree angle.

"In the end, we want to create a kind of utopia like the world prior to the Tower of Babel," said Lee. "If this show goes well, I think we'll be able to start on a program that heads toward a utopia."

"Babel 250" airs on the cable channel tvN at 9:40 p.m on Mondays.

hague@yna.co.kr
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