It was a night of unstoppable laughter and boisterous fun as a group of South Korean celebrities invaded parts of Singapore over the weekend.
The hosts and competitors of popular South Korean variety show 'Running Man' displayed unrivalled comedic prowess and chemistry before nearly 9,000 fans here, during their autograph session and fan meeting that took them to two venues and which lasted more than two hours in total.
Five out of the seven show hosts – Ji Suk Jin, 48, Kim Jong Kook, 38, Song Ji Hyo, 33, Ha Dong Hoon (or "Haha"), 35, and Lee Kwang Soo, 29 – were here as part of the ‘Race Start Season 2’ tour in Singapore. And they kept fans enthralled from 7.30pm to almost 10pm.
Since bursting onto the scene four years ago, the hosts of 'Running Man' complete weekly comedic "battles" or missions at different landmarks with their guests, before the winner(s) is determined at the end of each show episode.
From left to right: Ji Suk Jin, Kim Jong Kook, Song Ji Hyo, Lee Kwang Soo, Ha Dong Hoon (aka Haha) (Photo: ONE TV Asia)
Song said at a press conference held in Pan Pacific Singapore Hotel: “Every episode is a special one to us. All the members come together and sweat it out... we cry... we laugh... what’s most memorable are the episodes when only the 'Running Man' members are involved, when we can really bond together and come together as a team.”
Stand-up comedian and recording artiste Haha recalled their beginnings: “The first episode is really memorable, probably because it was a big step for everybody. I still remember filming nonstop for 30 hours."
After visiting Universal Studios Singapore on his trip here, Lee Kwang Soo (centre) said that the Transformers ride was his favourite and that he wanted "to go back there again" (Photo: ONE TV Asia)
One of their recent missions involved taking a nerve-racking, U-shaped rollercoaster ride in Taiwan’s Leofoo Village Theme Park. For members of the "Betrayal Club", a group consisting of Ji, Haha and Lee known for their antics on 'Running Man', they agreed that the ride was “one of the scariest things” they’ve ever experienced.
“But I must say that something scarier that I experience in every show would be having Jong Kook around,” Lee joked, as "Sparta Kook" is known for being a workout enthusiast and having a physical advantage over all the members.
Together, they are known as the "Betrayer Club" due to the treacherous nature of their antics on 'Running Man', Lee, Ji and Haha proudly do their 'Feel-Touch-Cross' chant together (Photo: Vincent Ng)
Of course, Lee has also fashioned a nickname for himself as the new "Asia Prince", ever since the cast visited Vietnam and found the fans shouting their adoration for him from the rooftops. The actor’s popularity was further ratified when he won a Male Excellence title at the 2014 Korea Drama Awards for his role in the drama, ‘It’s Okay, That’s Love’.
Haha quipped to laughter from members of the press: “I can see that his shoulders are a little higher than they usually are. We can’t have meals on the same table now.”
Fans were highly impressed with Lee's "fan service", as he freely took selfies, shook hands and gave out free autographed posters (Photo: ONE TV Asia)
Lee is a favourite among the fans for good reason, it seems. After witnessing the large audience turnout at Suntec City, the 1.9m-tall entertainer generously handed out high-fives and free autographed posters to the non-VIP ticket holders who turned up at the public event to show their support.
MORE:Running Man cast to hold autograph session at Suntec City
With the autograph session over, the troopers moved on to The Star Performing Arts Centre in Buona Vista for the official fan meeting. The cast opened the show with a hilarious off-tune rendition of ‘My Destiny’, from the soundtrack of romance-comedy drama ‘My Love from the Star’.
Ji Suk Jin sings Billy Joel's 'Just the Way You Are' for his solo performance (Photo: ONE TV Asia)
Although two remaining hosts from the show, Yoo Jae Suk, 42, and Kang Hee Gun (or "Gary"), 36, were not in Singapore for the event, Song gave her partner Gary a shout-out, much to the fans’ delight.
“Recently, I won in the ‘alien’ episode. I ripped (Jong Kook’s) name off his shirt – did you guys see that? I had Gary on my side, so I owe it to him. Thank you, Gary!” Song declared. The two are known as the "Monday Couple" on 'Running Man'.
Kim was quick to acknowledge the rare lost battle: “I think Ji Hyo is really strong. Especially ‘Monday Couple’, when they’re together, they’re really stronger than any of us.”
Fans get up close and personal with their favourite members onstage and have a taste of the missions on 'Running Man' (Photo: ONE TV Asia)
The night kicked off with thrilling games, and fans had been randomly chosen to share the stage with the stars. Split into two teams, they had a ‘relay game’ composed of Running Man’s trademarks, like ‘chopstick picking’, ttakji (slap match) and jegi (chapteh).
Others included piggyback riding on the members’ backs to eat dangling onion rings, as well as charades. The latter ignited tears of laughter among the audience when Lee and Haha turned every action into a dance, sparking much confusion for the other participants.
Lee Kwang Soo and Haha comforting a 14-year-old boy who was chosen to share a snack with Ji Suk Jin (Photo: ONE TV Asia)
At one point, Ji was "punished" to share a snack with a fan mouth-to-mouth. When a teenage boy was picked through his seat number, he received consolation hugs and kisses from the hosts when he came onstage.
“I thought it was Suk Jin’s penalty, but how come the poor boy has to go through that as well?” Haha empathised.
The show moved on to feature song-and-dance numbers by each member performing jazz, hip-hop, ballads and reggae fusion.
Lee Kwang Soo and Ji Suk Jin performing their rib-tickling version of HyunA and Jang Hyun-seung's 'Troublemaker' (Photo: ONE TV Asia)
Lee and Ji’s ‘Troublemaker’ performance was a squeal, as Lee wore a sparkly sequin dress with sheer leggings and a wig of brown locks, playing the part of sexy HyunA and sliding his hands all over Ji’s chest and thighs as they "chest-popped".
However, it wouldn’t be a 'Running Man' show if that was all there was to it. A "fight" broke out and Lee slapped Ji instead of puckering up for him at the end of the performance.
Surprise appreciation segment by the audience and organisers, held towards the end of the event (Photo: ONE TV Asia)
After two hours of nonstop hysteria, the show drew to a close. And some Singaporean fans surprised the 'Running Man' members with a sing-along of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’. When a three-tiered cake decorated with their character figurines was carried onstage, Song shed some tears.
“The gist of the whole story is that we’re one, no matter what,” Ji said.
Daniel Wu, an 18-year-old fan, said: “When we watch (the show), they’re not just actors, but they’re (like) a family. They put themselves through many games and challenges, and I can see that they’re doing it because they like it."
New episodes of 'Running Man' premiere on Fridays at 11.45pm first and exclusively on ONE, cable channel 513 on Mio TV. Repeat telecasts on the following Friday at 7.40pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 11.15pm.