X-Man ran from November 2003 to April 2007, which is a bit before many of us had easy access to watch Korean TV shows. It was also before many of us were fans of Kpop, so you well may ask why write something about an old show that’s no longer on the air? The answer being because it was the show that could be said to have started it all, and it was funny.
It was the show where many of our favorite variety celebrities got their ‘break’, think Yoo Jae Suk, Kang Ho Dong, HaHa, Kim Jong Kook etc.
It also introduced us to many games that have since become part of the Korean variety show lexicon.
Perhaps just as important, events that happened on the show have become part of modern Korean culture. If you watch Running Man for example you will see them still refer to the ‘loveline’ of Kim Jong Kook and Yoon Eun Hye, and this reference would be known to the vast majority of Korean people. So to be culturally literate about Korea you would need to know this reference. (To be Culturally Literate about a foreign country means that one needs to know more than just it’s language, one needs to know it’s stories, idioms, jokes, music, popular people etc. Cultural Literacy is what ‘everybody’ around you knows/knowledge in common.)
X-Man was loosely based on a show from Belgium called The Mole, and the idea of having a disruptor, or spy, on the opposing team was a new concept in Korean programmes of the time. Nowadays who among us could imagine Running Man without the spy episodes? This element gradually lost its important and it was stopped in 2006 when there was a format change. The New X-Man wasn’t as popular and the program didn’t last long after that.
There was also some problems with the games. One, called Team! Horse Riding, became so extreme that when comedian Kim Ki Wook was injured the game was finally banned. Based on a children’s traditional playground game Mal Dduk Back Gi, it became much more intense when played by players such as Kang Ho Dong.
Another popular game from X-Man was Dangyunhaji, or the ‘Of Course’ game. Basically questions would be asked to which the other player would have to reply ‘of course’. This may not work for people who have no shame or who don’t care if they hurt their friends or family, but for people who have a line they will not cross it can be an interesting game. Some of the questions were remarkably clever and astute. In the video above Running Man is playing the game, and remark on when HaHa had a ‘playboy’ persona, which you can then see in the video from X-Man below.
HaHa as a playboy! Hard to imagine I know.
Like current variety shows, members of idol groups and actors appeared on the show as guests and it is cute watching some popular idols from when they were so shiny and new. Here’s Heechul playing Dangyunhaji. That hair!
Fans of Super Junior, TVXQ, and SS501 might want to look through X-Man episodes on Youtube to see their early years. In the video above Tablo played a very strategic game of ‘push the other team off the island’, which is another game that is still seen in various forms on the variety shows of today.
‘Chicken fight’ is another game that was popular on X-Man and was also taken from the playground. Nowadays it can be seen on a lot of shows including many showcasing idols playing. Here BTS plays with more endurance than skill, but at least they seem to be having fun. You need a good sense of balance and strategy to win ‘Chicken Fight’.
Full episodes of X-Man are available to watch on YouTube, and apart from the poor quality of many of the videos, they’re a lot of fun. Watching them you can see that in some ways shows such as RunningMan have copied many of the same concepts and games. You can also see why Yoo Jae Suk has a reputation for helping out his friends. Many of the cast of X-Man have gone with him to Family Outing, Season 1, RunningMan and Infinite Challenge. I think X-Man was the last time Yoo Jae Suk and Kang Ho Dong worked together as hosts.
Have a great day everyone.
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