If I told you that South Korean soap operas can teach us something useful as Christian apologists, you might call me crazy. Please prepare to do so although somewhat indirectly.
A story was written in the New York Times on January 24 by Choe Sang-Hun about the appeal of smuggled South Korean soap operas in the oppressive North Korean regime. The North Korean government has actually executed people over these dramas in what seems like an almost unbelievable overreaction.
The reasonable follow-up question is why do people risk their lives for South Korean soap operas? I would never potentially risk my life over The Young and the Restless.
The article mentions that these episodes speak to the aspirations of the North Korean people. It speaks to people who want something more than the poverty-stricken lives they live in North Korea. They see wealth, relationships, freedom and other desirable things that simply do not seem to be attainable in their country as it is.
I agree with that conclusion, but I think that there is another level to this discussion.
There is something about narrative that directly appeals to humanity. Even though there is no way that these are the most well-written narratives in history, for people whose media is very restricted, it seems that there is an innate desire for the experience of some type of narrative no matter how good or bad it might be.
What is particularly interesting about this desire is the fact that it seems to be something naturally human. Generally, when people are willing to risk their lives for something, it is pretty important to them. It is an appetite that needs to be fulfilled. Think about hunger. If you are absolutely starving, there is very little that you will not do to get food. If you are thirsty, you will go to great lengths to get a drink of water. It seems that that is the kind of reaction that these people in North Korea are having to narrative. They desperately want them despite the risk.
In a sense then, it seems more than reasonable that God, the Creator of the universe, would design humans with a desire for narrative and then communicate reality to them in the form of a narrative. After all, we live in a narrative. God did not put us into some kind of reality that did not include time. We have a past, present and future. We want them, and we find them all around us.
It is kind of like beauty. It would seem reasonable for God to create people who desire beauty, and we find that there are beautiful things that we can experience all around us. It is not as if humans have a desire for beauty, and we live in a world where we cannot find a beautiful landscape or sunset. Our design fits with reality. We want narrative, and we live in a narrative.
It is like a lock and key. It certainly does not prove the existence of God in and of itself, but what this does do is show is something you would expect if there was a God. It is a sign post which points towards the existence of a creator. You’d expect every desire to have some way to be fulfilled.
Of course, it does raise the question of what happens when you have a desire for something that nothing on this earth can satisfy, but that is the topic for another article. I would still argue that it needs to be fulfilled somehow…