SINGAPORE - South Korean game show Running Man is phenomenally successful across East Asia for many reasons.
One of those reasons was on display in Singapore last week, when five of its cast regulars came here to promote the show: The camaraderie among them is entirely engaging.
In a recent episode, Kang Hee Gun, aka Gary, surprised co-member Song Ji Hyo with a peck on the cheek. She looked stunned for a moment before cracking up in laughter. The two hosts are dubbed the Monday Couple because the show is filmed on Mondays and their mutual attraction is a running theme.
Asked at a press conference last Friday how the kiss felt, Song laughed so much, she could not answer. Gary urged her: "Please say that it was hot." And Song, who has announced that she is dating a show-business executive, eventually responded: "I guess it was good for me."
They were joined in Singapore by Kim Jong Kook, Haha (Ha Dong Hoon) and Jee Seok Jin to attend a fan meeting at Singapore Expo Hall 2B last Saturday. The event sold out all 3,000 tickets, which cost $188 to $248 each.
On the show, the cast regulars and celebrity guests compete to complete various tasks in a race.
They might be up against one another all the time but away from the show, the Running Man gang are a relaxed bunch with good chemistry.
When they walked into the room to meet the press, their unity was immediately obvious: All the men were wearing shades. The lone exception was Song, 32, the only female of the lot. But, the momentous kiss aside, she is very much one of the boys, they said.
Kim, 37, joked: "She's not a woman. Sometimes, she's stronger than us. Sometimes, not all the time." Among the five, he was the most comfortable in English, while the rest spoke through an interpreter.
Song said: "I'm just another member of Running Man, it's not a question of male or female." This was the first time she had gone on an overseas promotional tour for the show, which won the Outstanding Award: Variety Category the last two years at the SBS Entertainment Awards. It has been sold to Taiwan, Thailand, China, Japan and Singapore, among other territories.
Kim, who held a solo fan meet here in February, said: "Singapore is famous for its trees and the streets are clean and the people are nice. The last time I was here, I talked about the trees a lot."
Haha, 34, was here in July with his music partner Skull to hold a fan meet at nightspot Zouk. He enthused in halting English: "Singapore food, chilli crab, awesome."
Upon the mention of the dish, which is apparently famous in South Korea, given the many celebrities who have mentioned it in interviews, Gary, 35, added: "I had chilli crab last night. It was really really delicious and I think I gained about 3kg."
While they get to relax on a promotional tour, filming the physical show can be a tiring affair. Asked if they ever felt like they wanted to stop running and Kim said: "Every week, every episode."
"Me too," chimed Haha.
On a recent episode, Kim's back was seen covered in medical tape but he assured: "The game is exciting and we get injuries lots of times, but they're not that serious, don't worry about it."
His words would no doubt cheer up fans of the show, though what Jee, 47, tossed out would get them even more excited. He said: "I've noticed the Singapore Flyer and I hope one day we can film Running Man here with it in the background."
New episodes of Running Man premiere on One (StarHub TV Channel 823, SingTel mio TV Channel 513) on Fridays, 11.45pm. The show also airs on Channel U every Sunday at 7pm.
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