Looking for the best Korean reality show? Charlotte has been binge-watching a bunch of them and she’s selected her favorites here.
When I was recently in Korea for a much longer stint than I’m used to (six weeks total!), I found myself searching for new modes of entertainment beyond the usual (yet still great) Korean dramas. I often flipped through TV channels as I prepared my sheet-masking-veg-out-session with the Korean snacks I picked up at the CU (a Korean convenience store).
And I had plenty of time to investigate. Within week three of my trip, reality shows quickly became the highlight of my evenings because they were humorous, casual, and often gave me a glimpse into the personalities of my favorite Korean entertainers. Now that K-dramas have taken a back seat for me, I’m much more in tune with the trending Korean reality shows.
Here are my top three shows that I’m watching (even though I’m back in NYC):
Seasons 1 -2 (Stream it on Dramafever)
Heart Signal is a dating reality show that brings three Korean men and three Korean women into a ritzy vacation home in Korea. As they get to know each other, a panel of hosts observe and share their thoughts on all the interactions happening between the contestants. At the end of each episode, the panel analyzes each contestant to see who they may be interested in the most. Your suspicions could be confirmed at the end of the day since you get to see each contestant send a text message to one person of interest, without revealing their identities to each other.
While it’s not as scandalous as shows that focus on the world of casual hookups (i.e. The Real World), I would much rather see the subtle start of a romance vs. an alcohol or jealousy-fueled one. As a huge K-drama fan, it’s also super intriguing to see the current dating culture in Korea—not to mention it’s very refreshing to see romance unfold, unscripted!
This show is very similar to the Japanese reality show, Terrace House, which I tried to get into. But after a few episodes, I realized I prefer Heart Signal because they inject more humor into the episodes via the panelists and through the way they shoot and edit each episode. I also I love the element of texting and the revealing of the contestants feelings at the end of each episode.
I Live Alone
Although the title could pass for one of those existential indie flicks that makes you depressed for 48 hours, that’s actually far from how you will feel after watching this show. The show’s concept was actually inspired by the fact that there are 5 million “singles” (i.e. unmarried people living solo in Seoul) and that number is rising. Even one third of Korean celebrities are known to live alone.
This show gives you a glimpse into the world of Korean entertainers who live unmarried. You get to examine their single lives and how they go about their day-to-day routine in Seoul. Despite their celebrity status, you take comfort in the fact that their routine is actually very relatable. They give their dog a bath, take naps on the couch, take out the trash, and cook for one. K-celebrities…they’re just like us!
My favorite guest by far? The hilarious Henry Lau, the Chinese-Canadian also known as the former member of Super Junior who shows us his cleaning trick and how he shops for goods at a hardware store.
Would this show’s concept work in the U.S.? My guess is absolutely not. But for some reason it works in Korea and it works for me.
Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast *also known as Hyori’s Homestay
Former K-pop superstar Hyori Lee and her husband Lee Sang Soon have a beautiful home in Jeju, and they open it up to regular travelers passing through as a short-term bed and breakfast. Through their day-to-day routine of cleaning, cooking and getting to know their guests, you get to feel like you’re part of their relaxing retreat.
What makes this show special (and one of the highest watched in recent months) is that Hyori Lee, a gorgeous singer and model well-known in Korea and internationally, is almost always shown sans makeup and in PJs. It’s her down-to-earth, relatable personality that shines during the entire season. There are also a few surprise celebrity guests, such as IU and Park Bo-Gum, who “work” at the B&B and are seen completing mundane tasks like vacuuming, washing dishes, and cooking for guests.
To me, the show zeros in on the joy of spending time with new friends and gaining new perspectives through thoughtful conversations. It also helps that the bed and breakfast is set in beautiful Jeju, with the focus on nature and not the superficial glitz and facade of celebrity life.