The creepy podcast that helped overthrow a government

Friday 18 May, 2018

South Korean podcast champions investigative reporting.


A satirical podcast was one of the few South Korean media to investigate the activities of corrupt former presidents Lee and Park, and contributed significantly to the overthrow of both governments.

One of the main hosts of the show Kim Ou-joon (pictured), received recognition for his investigative reporting in a major Korean Producers Association award last year and was recently named Korea's 2018 Best Radio Presenter.

The podcast has millions of downloads per week and usually tops the Korean language podcast charts worldwide. It was number one podcast on Korea’s Podbang platform last year.


나꼼수 (Naneun Ggomsuda), which translates into English roughly as ‘Petty Minded Creep,’  began as a podcast because the established media were not willing or able to report what was going on in successive governments, due to pressure and intimidation by governments and their supporters, who used defamation laws, plus economic and political leverage to squash investigative reporting by the established media.

Investigative journalist Mr Kim is one of four presenters of the show, with the others being a former opposition lawmaker, a sound engineer and one of Korea's first online satirists.

The former opposition politician, Chung Bong-ju, told Public Radio International in 2011: "In Korea, the government and big corporations have too much control over the media… We believe people download our show because they want to hear the truth."

To the astonishment of authorities, police, and the podcast team themselves, a live broadcast of the podcast drew a huge crowd of over 500,000 people who were fans of the show.


The Creepy Podcast began in 2011, during the presidency of Lee Myung-bak, who drew the ire of the podcast team for his self-serving, petty decision making, but it was during Park Geun-hye’s presidency (2013-2017) that the effect of the podcast really made itself felt.

The team began to present well researched investigative reports about the shadowy figures from companies such as Samsung and Lotte who influenced President Park’s decision making and enriched themselves through influence peddling and corruption. They (mostly) avoided defamation action by reporting things as unbelievable rumours and treating them as comedy, and also because podcasts were not regulated by Korea’s broadcast licencing laws. They did, however, face several defamation suits and lost one case, which led to a one year jail sentence for Chung Bong-ju.

Meanwhile, Korea’s national broadcasters self censored their news reporting and very seldom covered those topics. A series of high profile strikes by staff at the government broadcasters sought to highlight the decline in news reporting standards during the Park period of government, but things did not improve until President Park was finally impeached. It was the podcast, which later became a radio show, and one investigative tv program, JTBC News, that broke most of the stories that fueled grass roots opposition to President Park, while on mainstream radio and tv, many investigative journalists were sacked and their reports were never aired.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mr Kim said: “We tell our audience, let’s not be intimidated! Let’s say whatever we want, even if we’re thrown into jail tomorrow.”

As discontent grew, Korean people took to the streets each weekend carrying candles and peacefully demanding that President Park be impeached. In 2016, private radio company TBS hired Kim Ou-joon to present its morning show. Reports from Kim Ou-joon and JTBC News provided information to support what became known as the Candlelight Revolution.

Since President Park was forced to step down, media freedom has returned to Korea, with more forthright reporting returning to the national and private broadcasters. Mr Kim still presents the Creepy Podcast each week, as well as now hosting his daily show. One of his campaigns in the current podcast series is to further investigate corruption by previous President Lee and send him to prison.

Building on the phenomenal success of the podcast, which is now reported to have an audience of 11 million, Kim Ou-joon has transferred his audience over to the new radio show, driving huge ratings success for TBS Radio. His morning show, called News Factory, between 7-9am began in September 2016, when the station was at the bottom of the ratings, scoring 0.9% for that timeslot. When it began it had an immediate jump and has continued to climb in the ratings ever since.

In the most recent survey wave, the timeslot is now on top of the ratings and scored 11.6%. Mr Kim now has both the top radio show and the top rating podcast in Korea.

(Ratings Survey, Seoul Metropolitan Area, 13-69 Age group)

Last month, when Mr Kim was receiving his award, former President Park was being sentenced to 24 years in prison for abuse of power and corruption.

One media professional who attended the awards night explained:

It is worth noting the particular history of podcasts in Korea. They grew out of a common frustration by audiences that not all of their interests were being addressed by radio content, and by journalists that their interests and passions could not be represented.

“Podcasts started picking up a lot of popularity around 2011-2012 because mainstream journalists were not covering the important issues people want to know.

“For example, the former president Lee Myung Bak’s corruptive connection with business sectors,  or the controversy over Free Trade agreement or American Beef Import. These are the things that the audience had a lot of interest in, but mainstream media just wasn’t covering it.  

“So with podcasts, there’s no censorship, and producers can have the freedom to cover any kind of issue, no matter how controversial.”

News Factory on TBS Korea received Best Radio Program (News and current affairs Category ) in 2017 in the Annual Producers Award Festival. The host of News Factory received Best Presenter Award in 2018 at the 30th Producers Award Festival.

Since the overthrow of President Park, current President Moon, a well respected politician and father figure, has used his tenure to try and bring peace and unity to the Korean peninsula, culminating in the historic visit from North Korea and fruitful discussions about reunifying then two Koreas. He has also relaxed media laws and has overseen a new era of media freedom in South Korea.



You can find the first series of Creepy Podcasts, from the time of President Lee on iTunes here.

The second series, from the time of President Park to the present, can be found on Podbang


Watch episodes of the Petty Minded Creep podcast (Second Season: “Who owns DAS? a project to send president Lee Myung-Bak to the prison”) here  and view Mr Kim hosting his radio show below.



Additional reporting and translation by award winning KBS Radio Producer Joanne Jongran Ha.



© 2018, not to be reproduced without permission.



Country South Korea
South Korea
37° 33' 59.526" N, 126° 58' 40.6884" E
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