My love for Korean variety shows actually didn’t start with “Running Man,” but with “Cool Kiz On The Block.” One of my cousins in Korea told me that if I liked the latter, I’d love “Running Man.” She was right. After watching one episode, I was hooked! Eventually, I watched the entire series from the beginning to end (though the end is always changing, since the series is ongoing).
Though three of the original cast members (Song Joong-ki, Gary and Lizzy) have left the show — and two have been added (Jeon So-min and Yang Se-chan) — the camaraderie remains strong.
The cast members are characters. Literally. Since its debut on July 11, 2010, “Running Man” members have had a great time making fun of themselves and each other. Here, we’ll take a look at their nicknames and on-air personas:
Nickname: Grasshopper. I personally think he resembles a praying mantis more than a grasshopper, but so be it. (Internationally, he was also known as the Man in the Yellow suit, thanks to his appearance in PSY’s video for “Gangnam Style.”) Without him, there would be no “Running Man.” Yoo Jae-suk is the glue that holds the show together. He is the emcee and the focal point.
Theme song: “Step by Step” by the New Kids on the Block. When he portrays his double-crossing spy character, Yoomes Bond, the music switches to Moby’s “Extreme Ways.”
Nickname: Big Nose / 왕 코 (literal translation: King Nose). Also, Impala and Race Starter. The eldest member of “Running Man,” Ji Suk-jin plays his part well and takes the kidding about his prominent nose in stride. He refers to his high nose bridge as more Western than Korean. Because he is one of the weaker players physically, he’s viewed as prey (like an impala) and the race starter (the competition doesn’t really start until he’s been caught, which is usually first).
Theme song: “House You Live In” by JYP founder Park Jin-young.
Nickname: Sparta. Tiger. If Ji Suk-Jin is an easy prey, then Kim Jong-kook is the manacing predator (Tiger). He is also a tireless warrior (Sparta), who all the cast members want on their team and the others fear. He’s not just physically strong, though. Kim Jong-kook is smart and cunning, figuring things out usually before anyone else.
Theme song: His appearances are accompanied by Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Alan Silverstri’s “What We Need is a Hero” and his own ballad, “One Man.”
Haha: Haroro. Early on, Haha liked to present himself as a ladies’ man and he flirted with ALL the female guests. (His favorite was Suzy.) But due to his height and propensity for wearing glasses and aviator hats, he was teased for looking like the adorable children’s cartoon character, Pororo.
Nickname: Not surprisingly, it’s the theme song to “Pororo the Little Penguin.” Also, Lutricia McNeal’s “Perfect Love.”
Nickname: Blank Ji-hyo. She earned her nickname due to her ability to fall asleep anywhere and the “blank” experssion she wears on her face. But rather than being clueless, Song Ji-hyo is one of the strongest players on the show. Not only is she cunning and smart, she’s fearless. (The only thing she’s afraid of is…bugs!)
Theme song: The theme song to “Angry Birds.”
Nickname: Giraffe. At 6-foot 3-inches, Lee Kwang-soo is uncommonly tall — like a giraffe. Because of his international popularity, he’s also referred to as The Prince of Asia. The former model plays the fool on the show, but has emerged to be the only cast member who can go one-on-one against Kim Jong-kook and have any chance at all of winning. He is the betrayer or all betrayers and can’t be trusted. But he’s also one of the funniest members.
Theme song: Sting’s “Saint Agnes and the Burning Train” and Sangokushi Taisen’s “Theme of the False Emperor.”
Nickname: Frog. Parrot. Jeon So-min first appeared n on the series as a guest, where she showed off her comedic talent opposite Lee Kwang-soo. She is said to resemble a frog (I don’t see it) and likes to talk a lot (that I see!) — hence the parrot comparison. She is the cast flirt, who gets flustered every time a handsome male guest appears on the show.
Theme song: In a nod to her chattiness, her theme song is George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” Also, “Tunak Tunak Tun” by Daler Mehndi.
Nickname: Catfish and #8 (as in being the 8th most attractive member of the cast). The youngest member of the variety show, Yang Se-chan guest appearances on the series were so well received that he was invited to join the veteran cast, along with Jeon So-min. He earned both his nicknames because of his looks — which I think is just mean.
Theme song: To be determined…
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