Kpop might be a global phenomenon, but the platform that makes the artist and their songs famous, at least in the local market, is Korean Variety. Very unique when compared to shows of the west, Korean Variety shows offer rib-tickling entertainment that can be relatable to any kind of viewer. The following are some of the shows that can serve as a starting point for anyone interested in sampling this genre.

Invincible Youth

Korean Variety - G7

Making the affluent experience the common man’s life has been the most tried and tested formula in variety shows worldwide. Invincible Youth, in the same league, pits 7 Kpop idols to undergo the trials of village life by cultivating a farmland on their own. The first season started airing in 2009 and it was an instant hit as it featured some of the girls who were already quite famous. The initial cast included Sunny and Yuri from Girls’ Generation, Hyuna from 4Minute, Gu Hara from Kara, Hyomin from T-ara, Narsha from Brown eyed girls and Sunhwa from Secret. Though most of them were new to variety shows, their antics gave them a reputation as super-fun entertainers.

The show, apart from showing the girls learning and working in the village, featured the silly games and gags that are common in all Korean variety shows. Also, in spite of the girls’ fame, there was no limit to the extent that each one of them would go just to generate laughs. It might have been that some of them were fresh to the Kpop industry and had to share with 6 others that they went berserk to get as much screen time as possible. Building and using a makeshift outhouse, trying to entertain elderly people who were oblivious to the girls’ fame, stealing the other team’s produce to win silly bets etc., are the kind of scenarios that will keep viewers laughing in splits.

Both seasons are available, free to watch, on KBS’s Youtube channel. The second season was a disappointment and was cancelled due to low ratings. However, the first season is a must watch for Korean Variety Show enthusiasts.


 2 Days & 1 Night


One of the longest running shows, 2 Days & 1 Night was a viewership ratings monster for quite a while before Running Man and other variety shows, in the same slot, started gaining popularity. The show, similar to a plethora of Korean Variety Shows, is a task based one wherein 6 celebrity participants have to compete on silly tasks to gain access to food and amenities that will make their ordeal easier for two days and one night of shooting.

Though, based on accomplishing silly tasks, there are several things that set this show apart from others. For one, the constant showdown between the crew and the cast makes the crew also a kind of a participant. The hidden camera prank on the new director’s first day of shooting is one of the best pranks played in this show.

The way the cast goes about the tasks is reminiscent of how a bunch of friends would play games in parties – exploiting loopholes, spontaneous strategies, teamwork, betrayals, hysterical laughter, most unexpected outcomes and a whole lot more madness that can make anyone literally laugh out loud. To ensure this, the show’s participants will do any humiliating or excruciating task without remorse. One of the points in the oath taken by them at the beginning of Season 3 reads “In order to provide big laughs to the living rooms on the weekends we’ll throw away our pride and honor”

This is one of the shows that relies the least on celebrity guests. The show as such doesn’t require them since guests won’t be able to match up to the histrionics of the cast which comprises mostly of reputed comedians – Kang Ho Dong (not in the current season), Kim Jong Min, Defcon and Kim Junho to name a few. 2 days & 1 Night is the show through which Kang Ho Dong won several awards and gained reputation as a good variety show host.

KBS has been kind enough to make this show free to watch on their Youtube channel. Below is the playlist for the current season.


Running Man

Korean Variety Running Man

Yu Jae Suk has been the most popular MC in Korea for ages. But, his international popularity came with the show called Running Man which started airing in 2010. The show started off in a time slot where it had to compete with the leader – 2 Days and 1 Night. Though the ratings were not high, the show gained popularity gradually and gained viewership share to match up to the leader.

Apart from Yu Jae Suk’s presence the success of this show can be attributed to the fast paced format and the biggest of celebrities appearing as guests. Even Jackie Chan appeared as a guest in one of the episodes. Speaking of the format, the show features both silly games and extreme ones – chasing and tearing away the other team’s tags is a commonly featured game. At the end of the episode a winning team is announced based on the points they gathered from all the games.

International acclaim for the show is probably due to the frequent appearance of Kpop idols as guests. Though SBS (The channel in which the show is aired) doesn’t upload the episodes online, the series was made accessible to people outside Korea by the fan groups that put the effort to subtitle and upload them. Eventually the show became so popular internationally that it is regularly shot in locations even outside Korea nowadays.

<Watch Running Man here>

Infinite Challenge

infinite challenge 2

Another show featuring Yu Jae Suk, Infinite Challenge is one of the longest running and most viewed variety shows in South Korea. The show started off like any other variety show with the cast competing on various games. However the show achieved ratings success when it shifted to a very unique format of reality and comedy. Every episode has a setting and the 6 comedians take up roles accordingly. Corporate office, Spy Agency and many such varied settings. The comedians then improvise as per their roles and create hilarious skits.

With 6 highly reputed comedians (Yu Jae Suk, Park Myeong Su, Jeong Hyeong Don, Haha, Noh Hong Chul and Jeong Jun Ha) the show features some of the best improvised situations that can generate sidesplitting laughter. The episodes where G-Dragon from BigBang appears as an intern recruited in an underwear manufacturing company, are outright hilarious. The episodes are an example to showcase the fact that no celebrity, no matter what their fame, will be spared in making fun of to generate laughs in Korean variety shows.

<Watch Infinite Challenge here>


Korean Variety - Hitmaker

Hyeong Don and Defcon, both featuring in the highly popular Korean variety shows, Infinite Challenge and 2 Days & 1 Night respectively are also famous for hosting “Weekly Idol” in which they bully the Kpop idols who come as guests to promote their songs. With Weekly Idol becoming an immensely popular show, the two of them took bullying to the next level in the form of the show “Hitmaker”

Proclaiming themselves as accomplished music producers, “Brave Double Tiger” (derived from names of actual music composers) the duo gather 4 Kpop idols (Jackson from Got7, N and Hyuk from Vixx and Sungjae from BTOB) to form a band called “Big Byung” (Sounds like Big Bang and translates to Big Bottle). Even the 4 band members are given ridiculous names. With only a wooden table on a terrace as an office, the duo embarks on making the biggest Kpop hit single while extorting food and access to recording studios from the 4 members. On top of funding the song, the band members’ responsibilities also includes introducing the duo to the hot celebrity girls in their agencies. Failure of which would result in facing the wrath of Brave Double Tiger.

The first season has 5 episodes covering the cheap exploits of Big Byung and Brave Double tiger as they make a Music Video for their single titled “Stress Come On”. Anyone who has made short films with friends without spending a penny will relate to the cheapness of the Music Video. And the bullying antics of Defcon and Hyeong Don throughout the series are some of best to come out of these two in their Korean Variety Show career. The popularity of the show and also the song has resulted in the 2nd season being commissioned but with girls this time around. The 2nd season focuses more on the girls than the Brave Double Tiger duo. Though no match for the first season, it does have some hilarious moments.

<Watch Hitmaker here> Variety
Kpop might be a global phenomenon, but the platform that makes the artist and their songs famous, at least in the local market, is Korean Variety. Very unique when compared to shows of the west, Korean Variety shows offer rib-tickling entertainment that can be relatable to any kind of...