|Directed by||Lee Won-hyoung|
|Country of origin||South Korea|
|Running time||60 minutes|
Creative Group Gamja|
Urban Works Media
|Original release||July 11– September 27, 2016|
|Revised Romanization||Babel ibaegosip|
Babel 250 (Hangul: 바벨250) is a South Korean reality television program on tvN, which first aired on July 11, 2016. The show features a cast of four men and three women, all from different countries, who live together as an experiment, speaking their own languages and attempting to create a universal one. The show's title is loosely based on the story of the Tower of Babel and 250 families of languages currently in use in the world.
The concept of the show is a global language project showing what happens when six foreigners living together with one native, in South Korea, must create a lingua franca or "common language", by using their own native languages, not just Korean, and not English. The cast members are from South Korea, Brazil, France, Thailand, Russia, Venezuela and China. Only the South Korean member speaks Korean, and only the Thai and Chinese members have visited South Korea. In an interview with Yonhap, Program Director (PD) Lee Won-hyoung said the ultimate goal was to create a "new world" and mentioned the possibility of "unexpected love lines" developing among the cast.
For the first episode they gathered to live in a southern town they called "Babel 250", the real town of Darengyi in Namhae County, along the South Sea. They elect a leader every day, eat their meals together and attempt to work together in community life and mutual understanding. They initially communicate using their own languages, their eyes and other body language. On the second episode the show's many language interpreters assist the cast, via headphones, as they acquaint themselves with each other.
Filming for the show ended the week the second episode was aired. By that time, South Korean cast member Lee Ki-woo said communicating had become much easier. He said, "We could tell what the other person wanted just from their eyes and expressions," and, "I began to understand that language and nationality are not that important."
On July 25, 2016, the date of the airing of the third episode, PD Lee said in a press conference that their new language "Babel" was not really possible, adding, "We wanted to show that people can communicate with a limited vocabulary like we do with English when we travel." He said the first three episodes were a struggle for the cast getting to know one another, but they would start forming their new language in the fourth episode.
Producers selected the cast after three months of searching Google and other social networks. Brazil's Matheus Olivério da Silva Rêgo is a samba dancer whose school would soon perform at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics. China's Chen Lin is a professional concert planner, whose concerts have included Jackie Chan's. France's Nicolas Portier is an actor. Russia's Angelina Danilova is an interior design college major who likes windsurfing and horseback riding. South Korea's Lee Ki-woo is a film, drama and variety show actor. Thailand's Tanon Varaya has investments in real estate, renting and restaurant operations, and has a luxury philosophy. Venezuela's Michelle Marie Bertolini Araque placed second in the Miss Venezuela 2013 beauty pageant and retired from tennis playing with a knee injury.
On August 15, 2016, the date of the airing of the sixth episode, Tanon Varaya had to leave the show midway for health reasons, which he shared in a videotaped farewell. He was replaced by Thailand's Phumipat Iangsamang, a student and drum major at Chulalongkorn University and active on social media with the nickname "Up Poompat." The newcomer was previewed by media as the show's new 'flower boy'.
|Country||Name||Name in hangul||Birthday||Episodes|
|Brazil||Matheus Olivério da Silva Rêgo||마테우스||August 25, 1987||1–present|
|China||Chen Lin||천린||October 11, 1989||1–present|
|France||Nicolas Portier||니콜라 포르티에||December 24, 1982||1–present|
|Russia||Angelina Danilova||안젤리나 다닐로바||December 28, 1996||1–present|
|South Korea||Lee Ki-woo||이기우||October 23, 1981||1–present|
|Thailand||Tanon Varaya||타논 바라야||June 19, 1978||1–6|
|Venezuela||Michelle Marie Bertolini Araque||미셸 마리에 베르톨리니 아라케||June 15, 1994||1–present|
|Thailand||Up (real name : Phumipat Iangsamang)||업 (본명 : 푸미팟 이앙쌈앙)||1994 (age 23–24)||6–present|
2016 episode summary (1–present)
|1||July 11||Meet in Namhae County settlement; labor in rice planting field, transport chickens and build chicken coop.|
|2||July 18||Get acquainted meeting with interpreters' help; Lin and Nicolas work in anchovy fishery; rest of cast play at beach and town.|
|3||July 25||Ki-woo, Angelina (grocery shop); Lin, Nicolas (anchovy fishing); Ki-woo, Matheus (eel fishing); Lin sick visit to hospital; meeting and meal all together.|
|4||August 1||Ki-woo, Matheus (eat eel); Lin, Nicolas (grocery shop, cook); Angelina (shares face masks), Ki-woo, Nicolas (build fire); catch chickens, meeting and meal together.|
|5||August 8||Matheus, Michelle (seaside walk); Matheus, Angelina (garlic field work); Tanon, Michelle (chicken farm work); Ki-woo (fishing/handyman work); meeting, and meal all together with visiting neighbors.|
|6||August 15||Matheus (samba lessons); Lin, Ki-woo, Tanon, Angelina, Nicolas (beach); Matheus, Michelle (fishing/cooking); (Vacation break to homes); Tanon sick farewell, introduce new member Up.|
|7||August 22||Ki-woo, Up (goat farm work); Matheus, Lin, Michelle (wine and music); Michelle telephones Tanon; all prepare and join in dinner and drinking party.|
|8||August 29||Matheus, Lin (temple stay/work); Anjelina, Michelle, Up, Ki-woo, Nicolas (wash clothes/housework/play at home); all share dinner and make-up/beauty contest for males.|
|9||September 6||Up (DJ cast wake-up); Matheus, Michelle, Angelina (farm work/gift injeolmi to neighbors); Ki-woo, Nicolas, Lin, Up (traditional Korean medicine); all dinner/meeting; Ki-woo, Matheus, Angelina, Up (fishing/beach).|
|10||September 13||Lin (leads tai chi exercises), Angelina, Up (wall painting/cooking), Tanon (video message reveals real-life dating with Michelle, Matheus is heartbroken), Kiwoo, Matheus (make scarecrows and makgeolli), Michelle, Lin, Nicolas (paint t-shirts), Ki-woo/Lin vs. Matheus/Michelle (dodgeball), Michelle vs. Ki-woo/Nicolas (tennis), Lin (gifts cards), meal and meeting all together.|
|11||September 20||Matheus, Anjelina (farm work/ride bicycle); Kiwoo, Lin, Michelle (inflatable boat fishing); Nicolas, Up (traditional Korean medicine/restaurant work); Michelle (phone chat with Tanon); Michelle, Up (pick corn); cleaning, cooking, meal and meeting all together.|
|12||September 27||All (beach day/dinner at home); Tanon visits (romantic walk with Michelle); all visit village neighbors, share native foods and hold tearful farewell meeting with interpreters.|
Ratings and reception
On the show's debut, Chosun Ilbo writer Lee Seung-mi pointed out the obvious comparison (and competition) of this new cable television show, with the recently re-organized older cable television show, JTBC's Non-Summit, that also has foreign cast members, and airs on the same night.
In August 2016, PD Lee was contacted by linguist Mark Dingemanse from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics praising the show's concept and value for human communication and language studies; and proposing a future collaboration.
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- Official website (in Korean)