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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Familiar faces get up close and personal with Korean culture in new Netflix series

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From left, entertainers Lee Kwang-soo, Yu Jae-seok and volleyball star Kim Yeon-koung pose for the camera at an online press event for upcoming Netflix variety show "Korea No. 1." [NETFLIX]
From left, entertainers Lee Kwang-soo, Yu Jae-seok and volleyball star Kim Yeon-koung pose for the camera at an online press event for the upcoming Netflix variety show “Korea No. 1.” [NETFLIX]

From making kiwa (traditional roof tiles) to catching squid in getbol (tidal flats), entertainers Yu Jae-seok, Lee Kwang-soo and volleyball legend Kim Yeon-koung try it all in the upcoming Netflix variety show “Korea No. 1.”

During each of the eight episodes, the trio travels to eight different places in Korea to learn from the best traditional masters in a bid to become the No. 1 apprentices.

The show features a variety of traditional labor done by the very best, along with a comedic factor thanks to the two entertainers and a star player who struggles to learn about the local culture.

“Global attention over Korean culture has never been higher,” Yu said at an online press event to promote the show on Wednesday. “So with the global streaming service Netflix, I thought of it as a perfect window to learn about our culture more in-depth. As for the casting — I’ve always imagined pairing together Yeon-kyoung and Kwang-soo for a show.”

Ever since Kim appeared as a guest on SBS’s hit variety show “Running Man” in September 2021, she was deemed as Lee’s successor for their similar sense of humor and their heights. Lee, who is one of the original members of the hit show from July 2010, stepped down from his role citing his physical and mental health back in April 2021.

“The chemistry between me and Kwang-soo may be familiar to the viewers, but we’ve never done it for a designated period of eight episodes,” Yu continued. “So I think there’s something new for people to discover there. Also, Yeon-kyung joining the series is a huge factor [of entertainment] for the show.”

Kim, the former captain of the women’s national volleyball team, who is still active on the field, said that she felt no pressure juggling both her sports career and filming for the show. Although she has appeared multiple times on variety shows as a guest, this is her first time starring as a featured cast member of a show.

“I have received offers to star in other variety shows,” Kim said. “But ‘Korea No. 1’ felt like it was one for me because I trusted Jae-seok. He’s such an iconic entertainer of our time.”

The cast said audiences also have mukbangs to look forward to, that they would pull off in in-between breaks from their labor, such as seafood ramen, Naju gomtang (beef soup) and bibim guksu (mixed noodles) paired with samgyeopsal (pork belly).

“Even with the exception of our obvious chemistry, it was meaningful to dive deeper into our culture that we were familiar with but really didn’t know about,” Yu said. “It was a different experience to actually feel and be part of the labor. I do not know if there will be another season, but I hope to meet more masters after we’ve met eight of them through this show. ‘Korea No. 1’ is the result of our sweat and hard labor our staff and the members who have pulled it off during the summer.”

“Korea No. 1” hits the streaming platform on Friday.

BY LEE JAE-LIM [lee.jaelim@joongang.co.kr]