From time to time, my family and I watch a Korean TV show online called “Running Man”. The show has a simple enough premise, but is surprisingly fun and entertaining. Unlike Japanese TV,1 which has strict policies and laws about licensing, Korean TV often provides its shows on YouTube for easy access, often with official subtitles and such. The shows might be a week or two later, but they’re totally open and free to watch. So, we often watch Korean TV shows on weekend mornings because they’re just interesting, and openly accessible.
Running Man (런닝맨, reonningmaen) is one such show. There are no official subtitles, but it has many fans across Asia and the West who volunteer subtitles every week. Thus, we often watch Running Man on the weekends as a family, or my wife also watches them frequently at night.
But what is Running Man? Running Man is a long-running (since 2010) live-action show featuring the regular cast, mostly comprised of well-known comedians and actors, plus usually a guest celebrity. The cast are well-known, but at the outset weren’t necessarily the best looking or most popular celebrities.
In the early episodes, the challenges mainly included having the crew split up into two teams, and chasing one another, while also finding hidden items in malls, campgrounds, etc. In time, the challenges changed, and the entire crew was looking for the hidden guest celebrity among a crowded place, while the guest was trying to find the hidden items. Here is the first part of episode 35, which is a good example of this:
And in another, later episode, they simply have to eliminate one another (one of my favorite episodes thus far):
What makes the show so fun is that the particular crew have a really good rapport with one another, and their personalities have changed over time. In the early shows, some of the players were really weak, and frequently eliminated early, but over time they got smarter and wiser, and became a greater challenge. Also, there are many witty side-jokes between cast members, as well as many nicknames.
The cast, which has almost all been around since episode 1, and are still with the show, are:
|Yoo Jae-suk||Yoo-ruce Willis, Yoo-mes Bond||The main host of the show, and a popular celebrity in his own right. Owing to his seniority, he is also one of the leaders of the group.|
|Ji Suk-jin||Big Nose Older Brother||A good friend of Jae-suk, and also the oldest member of the group. One running joke is that since Suk-jin is usually eliminated first, the chase doesn’t officially start until he is out.|
|Gary||Peaceful Gary, Monday Boyfriend||Gary is my wife’s favorite member. He is a sweet guy, and often very innocent, but at times is capable of pulling of some clever tricks. He is the part of the “Monday Couple” including Song Ji-hyo.|
|Haha||Haroro||Haha is the silliest member, and frequently gets involved in a rivalry for Song Ji-hyo’s affection, which he often fails. He often gets teased about the fact that he also looks a lot like the famous Korean cartoon character Pororo (hence the nickname). At one point, he married a cute celebrity girl, and has since stopped hitting on lady guests.|
|Kim Jong-kook||Commander, Sparta-kook, Kookie||A former idol singer, he has since become the strongest member of the show. Not only is he big and imposing, he is also very agile and smart, and could single-handedly eliminate all the other members. Eventually they gave him a bell to wear so they could cut down on how much he would ambush other members. He has a talent for outwitting other players, but despite his intimidating appearance, he gets shy around ladies though.|
|Lee Kwang-soo||Lee Kwang-soo is the tallest member of the group, and is often shy and awkward around others. My wife, who’s watched every episode tells me he gets much better in the game over time, but for the episodes I’ve seen so far, he frequently gets eliminated early in the game.|
|Song Ji-hyo||Monday Girlfriend, Ace Ji-hyo, Blank Ji-hyo||Song Ji-hyo is the only female member who’s consistently stayed on (Lizzie was on for a short while), and is consistently one of the strongest members in the competition. She is strong and fierce at times, and intimidates some of male members such as Haha and Lee Kwang-soo, and is second only to Kim Jong-kook in terms of eliminating others. She is part of the “Monday Couple” romantic story-line with Gary. She is also known for having a blank expression at times, as well as not being a very good singer.|
Anyhow, even if you don’t know a word of Korean, or know much about Korean celebrities (I don’t), I can’t recommend the show enough. It’s a brilliant, entertaining show, and well worth watching.
1 Personally, I think this is a short-sighted policy by Japanese media companies because it makes it a lot harder for international students to get exposure to real Japanese media. Personally, I don’t like anime very much so I never watch it. I’d rather watch real TV and documentaries, etc. Korea has a policy of “marketing” its culture, which I think has some long-term benefits. Japan should take note. 😉