22 Korean Variety Shows and Where to Stream Them in 2024 | FluentU Korean Blog (2024)

22 Korean Variety Shows and Where to Stream Them in 2024 | FluentU Korean Blog (1)

By Aromie Kim Last updated:

Korean variety shows are beloved for their zaniness, drama and twists and turns.

But besides their entertainment value, they can also offer insights into Korean culture that you won’t get anywhere else.

In this post, let’s take a look at 22 awesome examples of shows that can be enjoyed by all!

Contents

  • 22 Most Popular Korean Variety Shows
    • 1. Knowing Bros / Men on a Mission / Ask Us Anything
    • 2. Infinite Challenge
    • 3. Running Man
    • 4. All the Butlers / Master in the House
    • 5. The Return of Superman
    • 7. We Got Married
    • 8. I Live Alone / Home Alone
    • 9. My Little Old Boy
    • 10. Hangout with Yoo / How Do You Play?
    • 11. The Great Escape
    • 12. Law of the Jungle
    • 13. Abnormal Summit / Non-summit
    • 14. The King of Mask Singer
    • 15. New Journey to the West
    • 16. Crime Scene
    • 17. Busted
    • 18. House on Wheels
    • 19. The Zone: Survival Missions
    • 20. New World
    • 21. Weekly Idol
    • 22. Star’s Top Recipe At Fun-Staurant
  • What Are Variety Shows in Korea?
  • Why Should You Learn Korean with Variety Shows?

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22 Most Popular Korean Variety Shows

1. Knowing Bros / Men on a Mission / Ask Us Anything

Where to watch: Netflix, YouTube

What it’s about: Acting as high school students, celebrities play a series of games within a classroom setting.

In this show, a certain celebrity plays a transfer student and enters the lion’s den, uhm, I mean the classroom. Everything is fair game from that point on.

You might see interviews, debates, karaoke, random games, improv and more. There are even eating contests, poetry slams and every once in a while, a wrestling match.

The guests are usually from girl and boy groups who are put in uncomfortable situations to the delight of their fans.

2. Infinite Challenge

Where to watch: Kokowa

What it’s about: In this zany show, celebrities are forced to endure a relentless series of nigh-impossible challenges.

What do you get from a show whose tagline is, “Dirty, Dangerous, Difficult?” Well, everything. The challenges are so creative and sometimes so impossible that you just can’t help but stay glued to your seat.

You get tugs-of-war with cows, black noodle soup while on a roller coaster ride, hidden camera pranks, satirical TV ads and fake news segments.That’s what you get when you have a show anchored by cast members who are ready to do just about anything at the drop of a hat.

This show has been so influential that it’s been reported the South Korean government wanted it to feature content based on its policies. It ran from 2005 to 2018.

3. Running Man

Where to watch: Viki, Kocowa, Apple TV, YouTube

What it’s about: A beloved show where celebrities participate in missions, races, and unpredictable challenges, creating a perfect blend of humor and competition.

“Running Man” is a high-energy South Korean variety show that combines athleticism, wit, and humor. The format features a regular cast of entertainers and celebrity guests who participate in a series of missions and challenges, often involving elaborate races and games.

The show’s trademark name-tag-ripping game adds an element of excitement as cast members attempt to eliminate each other.

With a winning blend of physical comedy and camaraderie, “Running Man” has become a long-standing favorite, offering viewers a thrilling mix of laughter and competitive spirit.

4. All the Butlers / Master in the House

Where to watch: Viki, Kocowa, YouTube

What it’s about: A cast of several celebrities live with masters in different fields, exploring diverse aspects of life through mentorship and shared experiences.

This show follows a unique premise where a group of celebrities becomes apprentices to masters in various fields. The diverse mentors, ranging from traditional artisans to martial arts masters, impart their wisdom and skills to the apprentices.

The show combines elements of reality, variety, and educational programming, creating a delightful mix of entertainment and learning. As the apprentices immerse themselves in different professions, viewers are treated to an insightful and often humorous exploration of traditional and modern skills.

5. The Return of Superman

Where to watch: Viki, YouTube

What it’s about: Celebrity fathers are left alone with their kids, in their own homes, for 48 hours, while mom enjoys a well-deserved break.

If “The Bachelor” ended up marrying the girl, and they had kids, then it would be this show. Celebrity fathers must undergo a mission to keep their kids happy (and alive!) for those 48 hours—without any help.

From their kitchen foibles to their awful lullabies, this provides an intimate look into the lives of celebrities as regular and real-life fathers, doing everything from entertaining their kids to cleaning up after them.

6. 2 Days & 1 Night

Where to watch: Viki, Apple TV, YouTube

What it’s about: Cast members visit little-known but interesting spots around South Korea, making merry and creating crazy.

This show is a dream for South Korea’s tourism office. But instead of targeting an international audience, it’s for South Koreans.

You’ll watch a motley crew travel to some mountain town, seaside village or a nearby island where they spend two days and one night. They explore the place, meet with locals and have interesting conversations along the way.

They’re also given a variety of challenges, followed by a reward or punishment. A reward might allow them a taste of a local delicacy; a punishment might mean going for a dip in the town’s frigid waters.

7. We Got Married

Where to watch: Viki

What it’s about: Two celebrities, who aren’t a couple, are asked to live the life of a married couple.

Each week, a matched couple are given different tasks and missions, from getting groceries on a limited budget to spiffing up the house.

The couples might be fake but the tasks and the interactions are real, and fans are on the edge of their seats wondering if the two people in the situation are really starting to fall for each other.

This premise caught on and resulted in a Chinese spin-off featuring celebrities from Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

8. I Live Alone / Home Alone

Where to watch: Viki, Kocowa, YouTube

What it’s about: Viewers follow the footsteps of a celebrity who lives a solo life.

Roughly a third of Korean celebrities live alone for varying reasons: the lack of a romantic partner, business matters that often keep a couple apart or a simple personal preference to live independently.

While there are a few variety show elements like group panels and such, the show’s special sauce is its honest portrayal of these individuals as they go about their everyday life.

The show is well-liked for its unscripted and genial nature, supported by the documentary-style footage that gives little peeks into the celebrity’s life.

9. My Little Old Boy

Where to watch: Viki, Kocowa, YouTube

What it’s about: A heartwarming show exploring the lives of celebrity bachelors and their relationships with their mothers.

This show captures candid moments of the celebrities’ daily lives and interactions with their moms. The panel itself features celebrities’ mothers who are observing and judging a different celebrity each week.

With a perfect blend of laughter and touching moments, “My Little Old Boy” showcases the endearing relationships and gives viewers a peek into the personal and often hilarious aspects of family dynamics.

The show’s charm lies in its relatability, making it a favorite for audiences who appreciate a mix of family, comedy and reality TV.

10. Hangout with Yoo / How Do You Play?

Where to watch: Viki, Kocowa, Apple TV

What it’s about: Led by Yoo Jae-suk, the “National MC,” the show experiments with segments, challenges and collaborations, showcasing Yoo’s versatility and entertaining dynamics.

“Hangout with Yoo” is a variety show hosted by Yoo Jae-suk, one of South Korea’s most beloved entertainers.

Known for his wit and charm, Yoo collaborates with various celebrities to create unique and entertaining projects. From forming idol groups to producing hit songs, the show explores the creative process with a comedic twist.

Yoo’s infectious energy and the camaraderie among the cast make “Hangout with Yoo” a delightful journey into the world of entertainment and creativity, showcasing the fun side of collaborative projects in the Korean entertainment industry.

11. The Great Escape

Where to watch: Apple TV

What it’s about: A suspenseful escape room-style show where celebrities work together to solve intricate puzzles, adding intensity and strategy to the variety show genre.

“The Great Escape” is a thrilling escape room-inspired variety show that combines strategy, intellect and teamwork. Hosted by Kang Ho-dong, the show features a group of celebrities who must solve complex puzzles and challenges to escape various themed locations.

With a mix of mystery and adventure, “The Great Escape” appeals to viewers who enjoy suspenseful and brain-teasing variety shows, offering a unique twist on the classic escape room concept.

12. Law of the Jungle

Where to watch: Viki, Kocowa, YouTube

What it’s about: Celebrities, actors and K-pop stars are plopped into remote locations where they’ll have to fend for themselves.

In this show, Korean celebrities get a “Survivor” experience. The guest stars gather food and create shelter and must cooperate in order to make it.

They’ll have to survive extreme weather conditions and scarcity. But most of all, they’ll need to survive each other. Past locations have included places such as the Cook Islands, Madagascar, the Amazon and Antarctica.

“Law of the Jungle” is hosted by Kim Byung-man, a comedian—because, you know, there’s nothing like humor to tide you over through a cold night in the middle of nowhere when your stomach is empty.

13. Abnormal Summit / Non-summit

Where to watch: YouTube

What it’s about: A panel of individuals, which includes both native Koreans and those from different nations, discuss topics concerning Korean culture and society.

The show features discussions from individuals who are fluent in the language. But being foreigners, they’re able to bring their own unique perspectives to the table as they talk and debate on a variety of matters.

This is a great show to indulge in some fun and genuinely thoughtful conversations about current affairs. It had a large appeal to viewers to native Koreans and foreigners interested in Korea.

Although the show stopped airing in 2017, the formatting of the show offered an open space to air opinions from various viewpoints, especially when the panel consisted of members from nations beyond Europe or America.

14. The King of Mask Singer

Where to watch: Viki, Kocowa, YouTube

What it’s about: Different contestants compete in a paired singing competition while wearing some fabulous masks to hide their identities.

If you’re a fan of the American TV series “The Masked Singer” then “The King of Mask Singer” will be right up your alley in both entertainment and learning value. Fun fact: it was originally a South Korean show!

Since each contestant must hide their identity, the judging panel’s ratings aren’t biased toward their actual backgrounds. Besides belting out some favorite Korean tunes, the contestants are also open to panel interrogation, which can help the judges get an idea of who they really are.

The losing contestant of each pair-off must unmask and reveal themselves, while the winner goes on to challenge the previous competition winner (known as the “King”) in hopes of stealing the crown.

15. New Journey to the West

Where to watch: Apple TV, YouTube

What it’s about: Well-known Korean celebrities travel through different Asian hotspots while undergoing an assortment of challenges.

The title of the series refers to the classic, 16th-century Chinese novel known as “Journey to the West.” The show’s very first season has the cast traversing through Xian, China role-playing as characters from the story.

Later seasons have the troop venturing to places in Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong and even their home country of South Korea. The fun of the show revolves around the chemistry of the cast and the unexpected games and missions they must endure.

If you know anything about Korean group games, it’s that they can be quite demanding, and there are a lot of hilarious moments as members struggle and stumble through them. The show aired from 2015 until 2018.

16. Crime Scene

Where to watch: YouTube

What it’s about: A mock-up of a murder scene (inspired by actual real-life cases) is presented to the cast who must then use their personal detective skills, available resources and limited time to conduct thorough investigations.

With “Crime Scene,” Sherlock wannabes, crime-solving enthusiasts or general lovers of the game “Clue” can get their mystery fix. The end goal of this show’s cast is to figure out the criminal hiding among them.

If the members can correctly deduct the true murderer, then the cash prize is given to them; however, if the heinous perpetrator runs scot-free, he or she alone takes the whole cake.

A lot of fun and intrigue can be found in the dramatized portrayal of the crime scene investigation process. Any fans of the “whodunnit” brand will surely appreciate the effort put forward by the crime recreation and role-playing elements from the cast.

17. Busted

Where to watch: Netflix

What it’s about: Celebrities become detectives to solve fictional cases in a unique variety-meets-crime-solving format.

Another crime-themed show, “Busted” is a South Korean mystery-solving variety show that combines elements of comedy and suspense.

The show features a cast of celebrity detectives, including Yoo Jae-suk and Lee Kwang-soo, who attempt to solve fictional cases through a series of challenges and investigations. Each episode presents a unique storyline with unexpected twists, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats.

The interactive nature of the show, coupled with the cast’s comedic chemistry, adds a refreshing twist to the mystery genre, making “Busted” a thrilling and humorous watch for fans of both crime-solving and variety shows.

18. House on Wheels

Where to watch: Apple TV, Prime Video

What it’s about: Celebrities embark on a mobile home journey, sharing stories and creating heartwarming moments as they explore the essence of friendship and travel.

“House on Wheels” offers a unique take on the travel variety show genre by combining elements of camping, storytelling and celebrity camaraderie.

The show follows the main cast as they travel in a portable house on wheels, inviting celebrity guests to join them on their road trips. The rustic setting and casual atmosphere create an environment for heartfelt conversations, revealing personal stories and creating memorable moments.

“House on Wheels” stands out for its blend of travel adventures, friendship dynamics and genuine connections, which makes watching it a heartwarming experience.

19. The Zone: Survival Missions

Where to watch: Apple TV, Hulu

What it’s about: Participants face survival challenges in extreme environments, testing physical and mental strength while exploring teamwork and perseverance.

“The Zone: Survival Missions” is a reality variety show that challenges celebrities to survive in unfamiliar and challenging environments.

Hosted by experienced survivalist Kim Byung-man, the show combines elements of adventure, teamwork and endurance. Celebrities must navigate through the designated zone, overcoming obstacles and completing missions that test their physical and mental resilience.

The show’s dynamic challenges and unpredictable scenarios make it a thrilling watch for fans of survival-themed variety shows.

20. New World

Where to watch: Netflix

What it’s about: A show where celebrities try to earn virtual currency while surviving on a magical utopian island.

“New World” is a reality-variety show that challenges celebrities to adapt to a simulated world.

The cast has to work through challenges given by AI over a period of six days while staying in a seemingly fantastical and mythical place. They can earn virtual money through winning challenges, which is then converted into hard cash at the end of the show.

“New World” provides a unique and intense viewing experience making it a captivating watch for fans of reality shows with a utopian/dystopian twist.

21. Weekly Idol

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQRP-wGSd9A&ab_channel=KOCOWATV

Where to watch: Viki, YouTube

What it’s about: K-pop stars are asked to carry out different tasks and play different games, all for an awesome reward.

Each week on this show, different K-pop stars and groups come in for a jolly good time to win an appealing prize (like their favorite grilled beef?).

For example, they might be asked to dance to a specific song—then suddenly, some other song is switched in and they must go with the flow and adjust their dance moves.

If you want to see your idols both tense and relaxed, then watch this show. It’s all so zany and it gives you the chance to see your idols in a whole new light.

22. Star’s Top Recipe At Fun-Staurant

Where to watch: YouTube

What it’s about: Celebrities showcase their cooking skills, competing to create the best dish, combining culinary creativity with entertaining personalities for food enthusiasts to enjoy.

“Star’s Top Recipe At Fun-Staurant” is a cooking variety show that brings together celebrities who show off their culinary skills and compete in creating the most delightful dishes.

Hosted by Baek Jong-won, Yang Se-hyung and Kim Hee-chul, the show features entertaining cooking battles, where celebrities share their personal recipes and cooking tips.

The show’s diverse range of celebrity guests adds an extra layer of entertainment, making it a feast for both the eyes and taste buds.

What Are Variety Shows in Korea?

“Variety show” is a catch-all term for entertainment acts that include song numbers, dance performances, interviews, comedy sketches, magic, ventriloquism and juggling. The key word here is “variety.”

In Korea, it usually means a group of people doing challenges and other entertaining activities. They usually feature some of the most famous celebrities, such as comedians, actors and K-pop idols. Plus, along with the regular hosts, there are often guests that you’re bound to recognize.

Korean variety shows, just like Korean dramas and movies, are their own unique brand of entertainment helping spread the Korean language and culture around the world.

Why Should You Learn Korean with Variety Shows?

These shows are a tour de force when it comes to language learning for a number of reasons.

  • They’re authentic. Today’s technology means that language learners don’t need to purchase a plane ticket just to get immersed in authentic Korean material. You can watch what Koreans watch and you don’t even have to change into a fresh pair of pajamas to do it.
  • They use real Korean. While fictional dramas, series and films are also generally considered to be authentic content, variety shows add a whole new level because the situations on-screen tend to be less scripted and the language more realistic.
  • They’re fun.When these shows were conceived by their producers, they had ratings in mind. Every minute has something going on. Learning the language becomes doubly easy when you’re having fun.
  • They offer context. Korean variety shows provide a vivid context for the language being used. Meanings of new words and terms can be gleaned from the objects and props on set, the places the shows go to and the different activities the cast engages in.

If you want extra tips on how to learn Korean with these variety shows, check out this video.

If you want other ways to brush up on your Korean with tools made specifically for language learners, check out the program FluentU.

Not only will you laugh and cry your heart out with these Korean variety shows, but you’ll also learn a language, parts of the culture and perhaps a thing or two about life.

That’s hitting three birds with one stone, which is a pretty darn good use of your time. So now, there’s only one thing left to do is press “play.”

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

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22 Korean Variety Shows and Where to Stream Them in 2024 | FluentU Korean Blog (2024)

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