Yes, this post is about the three sisters of modern life. I was just watching the ultra-broad Korean sketch show Hey Hey Hey, in which one of the regular cast busts into a normal-seeming situation dressed in insane costumes, usually with one or more teeth blacked out wildly dancing and/or screaming. After writing that last sentence I went to youtube to find a good example of the above and immediately hit the jackpot. Watch the first 10 seconds of this clip.
Now one thing you're gonna notice in this clip is the sound of people 'reacting' to the hilariousness that you are seeing. Most Korean sketch comedy shows are set up this way, where the sketches are produced and then shown to a studio audience and a panel of celebrity reactors, who say dumb things and point out how ridiculous/'funny' the sketches are.
So I was watching this horrifyingly dumb show when I suddenly recalled Mildred, Guy Montag's wife from Fahrenheit 451. Her sole pleasure in life was watching the family TV show, which was basically an interactive soap opera projected on the walls of the house. And yet she still frequently attempted suicide. And her futuristic society had fast acting response teams set up to deal with what is implied to be a steady epidemic of suicide attempts.
South Korea's suicide rate, incidentally, has gone in the last twenty years from about 9 per 100,000 people to 23. While many cite economic pressure as the cause of the rise, I suspect loneliness may be a significant contributing factor. I'm not going to reference anything to back up that assertion, but to compensate I am calling myself out for my own logical leap, so there you go. Granted, Koreans are to my eye more social than the Americans I grew up around. Still, the fact that even a laugh track isn't enough for people and they have to pipe in actual reactions from 'real' seeming celebrities tells me that people who are watching these terribly unfunny programs are doing so for reasons other than their love of comedy.
Whatever the reason, I consider this more proof of my pet theory that Korean comedy is not funny because it's created for social purposes and not for laughing.