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New Netflix show features familiar but new sides of traditional Korean culture

Entertainment 15:38 November 23, 2022

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Nov. 23 (Yonhap) -- "Korea No. 1," Netflix's new Korean-language variety show, follows three South Korean television stars as they travel all over Korea and experience hard labor, and struggle to learn from various masters of traditional Korean culture.

In the eight-episode series, the three -- Yoo Jae-suk, Lee Kwang-soo and Kim Yeon-koung -- get a hands-on experience in eight different fields ranging from making traditional Korean roof tiles and fermented Korean sauces to catching long-legged octopus on a mud flat and to weaving fine ramie.

"Viewers probably have heard of those items at least once, if they are Korean," the show's co-director Kim In-sik said during an online press conference for the show Wednesday. "But because we have not experienced or tried them in person, there are tremendously interesting and mystic sides to them, which we thought we knew well but actually not. Those are what we intended to show in this series."

He hoped overseas viewers can also get to know more about Korea through the show.

This image provided by Netflix is a promotional poster for "Korea No. 1," a new Korean-language Netflix variety show set to be released on Nov. 25, 2022. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Its other co-director, Jung Hyo-min, said he thought the three celebrities are the best combination for the cast of a show with such a concept.

"They were exactly what I wanted for the show. I figured it would be great if I could cast them and was really happy when my wish came true."

The director, best known for local cable channel JTBC's popular variety show "Hyori's Homestay" has done two variety shows, "Sugar Man" and "Laborhood On Hire," with Yoo.

When asked why he keeps making labor-themed entertainment shows, Jung said he didn't intend to do so but was naturally drawn to the subject because he thought happiness, sadness and pain from work are elements people can easily relate to.

Yoo, the famous comedian who hosted a number of hit variety TV shows, including "Infinite Challenge," "Running Man" and "Hangout With Yoo," said he decided to be in the upcoming Netflix show as he agreed on its purpose to enhance the world's awareness of traditional Korean culture.

For him, weaving fine ramie, or "mosi," fabric in the southwestern region of Hansan was the most memorable of all the eight hands-on experiences he had for the new show.

"I've learned in various ways about Hansan fine ramie in school but didn't know the fabric is made that way," he said.

Lee agreed it was the most challenging experience mentally and physically, but said he was more interested in making lacquerware inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

"The lacquerware is a familiar thing that I used to see whenever I visited my grandmother's house when I was young. I learned how it can be so diverse and beautiful this time."

The co-directors and cast of "Korea No. 1," a new Korean-language Netflix variety show, pose for the camera during a press conference in Seoul for the show on Nov. 23, 2022. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Professional volleyball player Kim Yeon-kyoung has made guest appearances on several hit variety shows but has never been a regular member.

"I thought a lot about if it would be okay for me to do this show as an active professional athlete," she said. "But I decided to be in it, because I thought the program's intention is very good and it would be fun to work together with Yoo and Lee."

She often chatted a lot with them over a cup of ramen noodles before filming began and got to know them more.

"I felt as if I was traveling with them rather than working, so it was great to do this work," she said, laughing.

"Korea No. 1" is set to be released on Netflix on Friday.


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