What Korean Variety Shows Have Taught Me

Much like my computer and I come attached at the hip, my father would be beside himself without television. If it weren’t so, my family wouldn’t have cable in the house. With the exception of Modern Family, American television programs no longer hold a place in my daily routine like they once did back in high school. Instead, I have turned to re-runs of Korean variety shows on Youtube for comic relief. To say that I’m hooked would be an understatement. When these variety shows grabbed my attention and interest for more than one episode, they became not just a casual backdrop in my life but a full on infatuation.

A few new favorites include:

In branching out to international television, I’ve discovered a few noteworthy differences between American and Korean programming and culture customs.

Editor’s Note: The following opinions and impressions are not representative of all Korean shows and are certainly not an accurate description of all Korean people.

Cool Kiz on the Block

All smiles and fighting spirit even though the CKB cast lost their bowling tournament

Cool Kiz on the Block

CKB is a new show hosted by famous comedians, Lee Sugeun and Kang Hodong, who have been in the business for over 15 years and boy band TVXQ’s Changmin. The show centers around practice and tournaments for underrated sports like bowling, ping pong, and badminton. It’s a chance for the cast to improve their knowledge and skills as well as work towards a prize for each new sport they’re introduced to. New episodes are posted on Youtube every Tuesday afternoon.

Lessons Learned:
It’s okay for men to cry. Recently, the team bowled in four tournaments, three of which they lost, and tears were shed. Even if it’s just the role they’re playing on TV, by example, they’re destroying the stereotype that men have to be tough and macho all the time, leaving viewers with the greater message that it’s okay to be who they are.

Cool Kiz on the Block featuring Shinhwa

Cool Kiz on the Block featuring Shinhwa

Love, affection, camaraderie, and teamwork. These traits are difficult to come by on American television without drama, heated competition, and fighting. When the Cool Kiz win, they celebrate their success together, and when they lose, instead of ripping each other apart, they acknowledge their loss, pick themselves up, pat themselves on the back for giving their best effort, and identify areas of improvement for the next round.

The whole show spotlights that more important than winning is having fun in the interim, and an added bonus is learning tricks to help improve your own personal sports skills. For example, did you know that when you bowl, the key to getting a strike is aiming for pins 1 and 3? That’s something I didn’t even learn at bowling camp (yes, I’ve been to a bowling camp).


2 Days, 1 Night – Season 2 cast – Cartoon Characters

2 Days, 1 Night

A cast of 7 guys travel to different areas of Korea for [you guessed it] 2 days and 1 night. They play a series of “bokbulbok” games to determine things like whether or not they’ll get to eat dinner, what they’ll have for dinner, whether or not they have to sleep outside, where they’ll travel to, and so on. All the while they must promote the area of Korea they’re visiting through treasure-hunt type games. This has become my favorite show because it combines my love for travel and food, and it always leaves me laughing until a tiny semblance of six-pack abs appear. New episodes are posted on Youtube every Sunday morning.

Lessons Learned:
On par with guys crying on television, holding hands is also quickly becoming an accepted standard for showing support and friendship. In America, we don’t see much of this because guys holding hands is perceived as weak, but it gives me warm fuzzies to know such a gesture is culturally accepted in Korea.

  • Girls cover their mouth when they smile or eat because, way back in the day, it was deemed inappropriate/too forward to show the inside of the mouth.
  • Rock, paper, scissors and a game playfully known as Cham, Cham, Cham are acceptable ways to solve dilemmas.
  • There is traffic in Seoul, even at 3am.
  • A full meal is quite cheap, especially outside of Seoul, usually ranging from $3-5, and more often than not, the food is fresh and healthy.
  • The value of working hard for basic needs like food and shelter.
Happy Together

Opening of Happy Together

Happy Together

Synopsis: Happy Together is led by Korea’s national host, Yu Jaeseok, as he sits down with some of Korea’s most famous celebrities. Through interviews and quiz games, he attempts to reveal their deepest secrets, and ends the show with a segment called “Late Night Cafeteria”. The segment aims to introduce different Korean cuisine that is most suitable for a late night snack. New episodes are posted on Youtube every Wednesday.

While I have only watched two episodes of this show, it has taught me that interviews should be conducted as open dialogues. Rather than prying for information through an interviewer-interviewee environment, Happy Together is more about sharing experiences among a group of friends. The hosts and guests take light-hearted jabs at each other without offending anyone. It’s all done in good spirit, and at the end of an episode, you may feel like you’ve known the cast your whole life without actually having met them in person.


Learning ballet techniques on Shinhwa Broadcast

Random Takeaways

  • Korean guys are dashingly good looking, and Korean women have high pitched laughs.
  • As I hinted at briefly before, actors are given roles (i.e. the shy guy, the cute one, the one with all the bad luck). They don’t always have to stick to these personalities, but they know ratings will be better if they do.
  • Actors often pursue side projects as singers and vice versa, therefore, it seems everyone in the Korean media world knows each other or have worked together at least once.
  • The do-s and don’t-s of giving a speech.

KBS World is a gold mine of drama-free, good humored programming. To make up for the lack of quality television in American media in years past, I’ll be sticking with KBS for a while.

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