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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Koihime Musou Girls and Famous Koreans, Part I: Liu Bei and Yoo Jae-suk

In this column, we will introduce to Koihime Musou Girls and their respective famous Koreans either based on their Surnames or same Given Names. For the first post, I will introduce Liu Bei (유비/劉備) and her distant relative, Yoo Jae-suk.


Yoo Jae-suk (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization: 유재석 or 류재석 (in North Korean Format)/劉在錫/Yu Jae-seok; born on August 14, 1972), is a South Korean comedian and television comedy show host. Nicknamed the "MC of the nation" (국민 MC), a vote by South Korean "netizens" proclaimed him the most popular Korean comedian for five consecutive years beginning (2004-2008). He has hosted several variety television shows in South Korea, including the popular programs MBC's Infinite Challenge/무한도전 and SBS' Running Man. Nicknamed "The Grasshopper", due to early appearances dressed as a grasshopper and green clothes, he is now known for his quick wit and appeal across a wide range of demographics. He has established himself as one of Korea's top comedians and TV personalities.

Yoo Jae-suk was born as the eldest child out of three (he has two younger sisters) on August 14, 1972 in Suyu-dong, Seoul Gangbuk-gu, South Korea. He is a member of Gangneung Yoo Clan (강릉 유씨/江陵劉氏), originated from Gangneung City, Gangwon Province. Yoo attended the Seoul Institute of the Arts, but was unable to graduate due to his busy schedule as an up-and-coming comedian.

His television debut was on the KBS Comedian Festival (for college students) in 1991, performing a parody of a commercial with Choi Seung-gyung (Hangul: 최승경). His dancing to a cover of the song "Step by Step" by New Kids on the Block was one of his early memorable moments. In 2002, after nine hard years as a relatively unknown comedian, he hosted a program called Live and Enjoy Together (Dong-guh-dong-lak), thanks to a recommendation by Choi Jin-sil. The program became instantly popular and, since then, Yoo began to host many other variety programs. His potential was fully realized when he co-hosted a program called The Crash of MCs (MC 대격돌 – 공포의 쿵쿵따) with Kang Ho-dong, Lee Hwi-jae a.k.a Lee Young-jae and Kim Han-seok.

His first Grand Prize award was for a program called Happy Together Friends. The show's concept was for TV personalities to try and find their school friends (five of them) out of many (false friends) who are sitting behind a desk. The show was intended to bring back nostalgic memories about one's days in school, and the show became very popular. This Grand Prize was especially memorable, not just because it was Yoo's first, but because it was from the broadcasting station where he made his debut.

He hosted the show X-Man, which soon grew to be one of the most popular and most viewed shows in Korea. During that time, he became increasingly popular and many programs began to nickname Yoo as the "MC of the Nation." However, after a few years, the program was canceled due to falling ratings as well as an absence of new and innovative ideas. Yoo went on to host various replacement shows, New X-Man, Old TV (in which guests would re-enact classic TV serials), and Haja! Go! (Let's Do It) for SBS, which were all shortly canceled due to low ratings on Sunday evenings. However, X-Man has found success in international syndication.

Yoo is a part of the cast of the top-rated comedy variety program Infinite Challenge (무한도전), as the host-in-chief since 2005 and together with Jung Hyung-don and Noh Hong-chul, Yoo is being the program's founding members. The program wasn't popular when it first aired and its average ratings were very low (roughly 5 percent). After Kim Tae-ho took a role as new PD, the program underwent several changes both in its concept and the cast. New members added to the cast of Infinite Challenge, such as Park Myung-soo, Haha, and Jeong Jun-ha in 2006. By the time Season 3 aired in 2006, the concept and format of "variety & reality program" became very popular, and Infinite Challenge became the forerunner of many programs that followed with the same or similar format. Since December 2, 2006, the program has received the highest ratings of prime-time lineups for Saturday evening.

Infinite Challenge is seen as Yoo's favorite and best program not only he met his wife, Na Kyung-eun (나경은), during season 2, but with the rising popularity of the show and it's significant effect on the general public, Yoo was able to gain even more popularity. He ended up winning a total of three Grand Prizes (2006, 2007 and 2009) with the program. His love to this program reflected during 1-on-1 talk with fellow co-host, Jung Hyung-don, on "Pause" special (S04E300) that aired on October 20, 2012, as he said "I think my life on television and variety shows will be tied to the fate of Infinite Challenge" and added, "When will we ever get to do another program like this? No matter how hard you try, it's going to be impossible to do another film like this."

Yoo also co-hosts Come to Play (놀러와) with Kim Won-hee and Happy Together Season 3 (해피 투게더 3) with Park Myung-soo, Park Mi-sun and Shin Bong-sun. Yoo hosted these talk shows for a long period of time (both over 5 years), and the ratings have been consistently high throughout his tenure. Although Happy Together continues to this day, Come to Play was cancelled in 2012 due to low ratings after its long tenure. Yoo tries his best to differentiate his hosting styles, both based on who his guests are and on their current situation.

After those replacement shows on SBS, on June 15, 2008, Yoo, along with Lee Hyori, Yoon Jong-shin, Kim Soo-ro, Lee Chun-hee, Kang Dae-sung, Park Ye-jin and Kim Jong-kook (since episode 19) are the hosts and family members of Family Outing (Korean: 패밀리가 떴다), part of SBS's Good Sunday lineup. Since then, Family Outing has become one of the top-rated shows in Korea, consistently achieving the highest ratings at the Sunday mid-afternoon time-slot (especially during the first and second quarters of 2009). However, with various problems and scandals regarding the program, and by the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, a rumor of Yoo not continuing his contract with Family Outing was raised. By the time of his contract expiration, Family Outing rating wasn't the same as that of early 2009, and Season 1 was brought to an end.

On July 6, 2008, Yoo Jae-suk married MBC announcer Na Kyung-eun (나경은) who has also worked with him on the show Infinite Challenge. Yoo and his wife welcomed their first child, a son - Yoo Ji-ho, on May 1, 2010.

Since July 11, 2010, he has hosted a variety show called Running Man together with fellow Infinite Challenge member, Haha, and other entertainers such as Ji Suk-jin, Kim Jong-kook, LeeSsang's Gary, Song Ji-hyo, Lee Kwang-soo and Song Joong-ki (who has since left the show as of episode 41 to focus on his acting career). Although the program did not have a good start in rating, it was later known as one of Korea's most popular program having top stars appeared on the show. The program's popularity is not just in Korea, but rising with massive popularity in other countries too as shown in overseas filming & fanmeetings demand.

In 2012, Yoo Jae-suk and fellow host of Infinite Challenge, Noh Hong-chul, appeared in the music video for Psy's hit single 'Gangnam Style'. In the video, he was reprising the retro disco dancing character he created for the mock-band "Drooping Snail" in Infinite Challenge's West Coast Highway Music Festival special where Psy also appeared. In 2013, Yoo Jae-suk appeared in the music video for Psy's follow-up single, "Gentleman", together with other cast members of Infinite Challenge".


Yoo Jae-suk has many nicknames such as....
  • Grasshopper (메뚜기)
  • Nation's Master of Ceremony (국민 MC) (Gookmin MC)
  • Class-President Yoo (유반장) (Infinite Challenge)
  • The 1st-in-command (1인자) (Infinite Challenge)
  • Yooneunim (God Yoo) (유느님) (Infinite Challenge)
  • Detective Yoo (Infinite Challenge)
  • Delinquent Yoo (날유) (Infinite Challenge)
  • Low Nipples Yoo (저쪼아래)(Infinite Challenge)
  • Dook Ma-ae (뚝마에)
  • Jive Yoo
  • Samba Yoo
  • Mr. Sun (해님) (Infinite Challenge)
  • Dumb 덤 (형)(and Dumber) (Family Outing)
  • C-Dragon (Family Outing)
  • Yoo Bom
  • Hubby Yoo (유서방)
  • Yooruce Willis (Hangul: 유르스 윌리스; spoof for Bruce Willis) (Running Man)
  • Yoo Hyuk 유혁(Running Man)
  • Yoomes Bond (Running Man)
  • Seuk T.O.P (Family Outing)
  • Yoobocop
  • Rapper Yoo (Family Outing)
  • Handsome Boy (Family Outing)
  • Manager Yoo (유부장) (Infinite Challenge)
  • Cicada-nem (매미넴; spoof for Eminem) (Running Man)