Get us in your inbox

The Zone: Survival Mission
Photograph: Courtesy Disney+The Zone: Survival Mission

10 Hilarious Korean variety shows you need to watch

Get your giggle on with these must-see K-variety shows

Jenny Leung
Written by
Jenny Leung

From K-pop to K-grub to K-beauty, there are tons of reasons why Korea is loved by many. If you don't feel like bumping shoulders with the crowd this weekend, consider turning to one of these Korean variety shows instead. They'll have you glued to the screen while trying to catch a breath from all the side-splitting action. Scroll down and start binging.

RECOMMENDED: In case you need more reasons to stay at home, check out this list of the best movies and shows available on Netflix Hong Kong right now!

Best Korean variety shows to watch

Running Man

Not to be confused with the cringey 80s dance move, this 90-minute game show involves all sorts of crazy missions for the MCs and guests. From daring challenges and nonsensical games to their iconic 'tag' game where players have to rip the name tags off each other's backs, this show will have you in fits of laughter even if you don't understand the language. The show has even welcomed some of the world's biggest stars including Ryan Reynolds, Stephen Curry, and Tom Cruise.

Two Days and One Night

Since the show started in 2007, there has been scandal after scandal involving different members of the cast. The show eventually took a short nine-month break in 2019 and later came back with a whole new cast of MCs (with the exception of Kim Jong-min who is one of the OG members).

Just like what it says on the tin, the show takes its members around the country for two days and one night to explore beautiful towns, villages, and sights under various themes. Of course, it wouldn't truly be a Korean variety show without some cruel but hilarious games that, should the members fail, would leave them unfed, jumping into frozen lakes, and sleeping in cardboard boxes in the middle of winter. If you love travelling and getting to know local culture, this is the show for you.


The Zone: Survival Mission

The Zone: Survival Mission follows veteran comedian and MC Yu Jae-seok, actor Lee Kwang-soo, and K-pop star and actress Kwon Yu-ri as they embark on a series of difficult challenges – set by an oddly chatty AI – in order to survive. Now in its second season, each episode will take the hosts to unique destinations throughout Korea. The challenges include searching for life-saving water in a haunted hospital; playing golf in an attempt to escape a rapidly sinking island in the middle of the ocean; recreating childhood games on a shaking suspension bridge, and a whole lot more of funny and wacky shenanigans. 

New Journey to the West

Where do I even begin with this one? New Journey to the West is one of those shows that are just plain hilarious. Inspired by the famous Chinese novel Journey to the West, the show's premise revolves around the seven mystical Dragon Balls that have landed in different places on Earth (the story of how it happened differs every season). The cast must travel around the world to retrieve them through a series of games and challenges that shows just how ruthlessly competitive the cast members are. To top it off, each season is divided into different themes where the cast has to dress up in ridiculous costumes that have nothing to do with the show. Have you ever seen a panda, the Statue of Liberty, and Santa having dinner together? 


Earth Arcade

Much considered as the female version of New Journey to the WestEarth Arcade brings together four 'warriors' – including seasoned comedian Lee Eun-ji, Korean rapper Lee Young-ji, K-pop idols Ahn Yu-jin and Mim – to catch the moon rabbit who has skived off work and ran away to Earth. Though the premise of the show is set in what they call a "hybrid multiverse", you'll quickly find that the games and challenges they are tasked with have very little to do with the actual story. Nonetheless, these girls are absolutely hilarious and so down to earth that you'll fall in love with them, and the show, all the same.

Knowing Bros

For those who love everything there is about K-pop and K-drama, you're going to love Knowing Bros. The show is set in a school classroom, where different guests would appear each week as members of various after-school recreational clubs. Apart from the MCs' undeniable chemistry and savage wits, you'll get to see all your favourite K-stars singing, dancing, and just looking downright ridiculous. What's not to love?


I Live Alone

Having just celebrates its 10th year anniversary, I Live Alone follows the daily lives of celebrities who live alone, giving viewers a glimpse into their personal lives. Various celebrities and personalities are featured each week, but there are a few cast members that are regularly featured. Together, they form a club known as the Rainbow Club and often gather for outings and adventures that will take them everywhere from high up in the mountains to half way across the world. The show is hugely popular both in Korea and internationally, mostly because there's just something comforting in knowing that celebrities, too, struggle with hangovers, dirty dishes, and taking out the trash.

My Little Old Boy

My Little Old Boy documents the lives of celebrities who are still single, despite being well above the 'appropriate' age to marry. The show gives its audience comfort in knowing that even celebrities go through the same daily struggles that we do. Like trying to find a clean shirt underneath a mountain of clothes, finding mouldy food you've forgotten about in the back of your fridge, arguing with your siblings, or even just deciding what to watch on Netflix. And, just to make it even more relatable, the celebrities' mums all sit and watch the clips together because, well, mum always knows best, right?


Great Escape

Combining escape rooms and mind-boggling puzzles with mysterious storylines, jumpscares, plot twists, and six hilarious celebrities (who are all way too jumpy for their own good), Great Escape has the ultimate recipe for a successful variety show. Whether it's escaping the zombie apocalypse, killing demonic entities in a psych ward, or finding their way out of a haunted mansion in complete darkness, the show will keep you on your toes every episode.


Catered for those who can't sit still for lengthy shows, Workman is a 10 to 15-minute, one-man show that follows ex-newscaster Jang Sung-kyu as he takes on the roles of different ordinary jobs for the day. A construction worker, pastry chef, policeman, amusement park entertainer, and even a k-pop band manager – you know name it, he's probably done it. Jang's satirical humour, quick wit, and willingness to take on any challenge make the show impossible for you to press pause. 


New World

A bizarrely delightful reality-scripted show by Netflix, New World features six celebrities who had all been invited to stay on a utopian island in their dream house. Over the course of six days, they must strategise their way to earning virtual dollars – which they can convert back to cash once they are off the island – by competing in a series of challenges that will put their friendships to the test.

Much like Netflix's other popular K-variety show, Busted!, New World is not for everyone as the scripted parts can sometimes feel disingenuous, which takes away the fun of seeing celebs being thrown into 'real' situations like most variety shows on this list. That being said, the whole concept of New World is rather refreshing and with variety show veterans like Lee Seung-gi, Eun Ji-won, Park Na-rae, and Kim Hee-chul holding down the fort, you're guaranteed a good laugh.

    You may also like
    You may also like