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Reality shows go abroad again amid eased COVID-19 travel restrictions

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Posters for
Posters for "Dopojarak: Story of Homme the K-Wanderer," left, and "Europe Outside the Tent" / Courtesy of MBC, tvN

Cast members travel to European cities, Thailand

By Lee Gyu-lee

Before the COVID-19 outbreak began sweeping across the globe in 2020, traveling shows and reality programs filmed overseas were not hard to find on Korean TV.

But when the pandemic resulted in border restrictions and flight bans in many countries, limiting overseas travelers in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading, shooting shows in other countries became almost impossible. Shows based on traveling like "Battle Trip" and "Youn's Kitchen" either put an end to their runs or changed their formats to survive.

However, with many countries starting to ease such border and flight restrictions, more shows that feature cast members traveling in different countries have been rising again.

Two shows about traveling to European countries, "Dopojarak: Story of Homme the K-Wanderer" and "Europe Outside the Tent," have recently premiered.

MBC's new variety show, "Dopojarak," which kicked off last month, follows five cast members from different entertainment fields: singer Kim Jong-kook, actors Ji Hyun-woo and Noh Sang-hyun, model Joo Woo-jae and short track speed skating medalist Hwang Dae-heon.

The cast members, each with a different skill set, go on a journey to introduce traditional Korean products to the locals in Denmark while experiencing the beauty of the country.

"We acknowledge that this show would come as a challenge during the pandemic era but we wanted to try out making (the show). We made this show in hopes of offering a sense of refreshment with the scenery to viewers," the show's producer, Hwang Ji-young, said during a press conference last month. "The reason we chose Demark is that it was one of the countries where people's lives have almost become normal. So we thought it would be interesting for viewers to experience that atmosphere from the country."

Scenes from
Scenes from "Europe Outside the Tent" / Courtesy of tvN

TvN reality traveling show, "Europe Outside the Tent," which was released earlier this month, invites four actors ― Yoo Hae-jin, Jin Seon-kyu, Yoon Kyun-sang and Park Ji-hwan ― on a camping trip across Europe. Carrying around their camping gear, the four embark on a more rustic way of traveling to visit hidden sites that are not much shown in the media.

Star producer Na Young-seok, known for creating the hit variety shows, "New Journey to the West," and "Youn's Kitchen," recently rolled out his latest variety show, "Earth Arcade," which takes the format of "New Journey to the West" with a female cast.

The show, which started in late June, stars four entertainers: comedian Lee Eun-ji, singers An Yu-jin of K-pop group IVE and Mimi of Oh My Girl, and rapper Lee Young-ji.

It runs on a fictional premise that the four cast members pretend to be "warriors" and are given a mission to catch a "moon rabbit" that ran away to the earth. The four go overseas to Thailand and play different games to complete the mission while experiencing the country's vacation spots.

Meanwhile, MBC every1's hit reality show, "Hey! First Time in KOREA?" has picked up its original format of inviting people of foreign nationality to travel around Korea last month, which had been halted since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The reality show, which has been on air since 2017, is about people of foreign nationality who live in Korea inviting their friends from their home countries to visit and explore the local culture for the first time.

However, when the pandemic hit and cross-border travel became difficult, the show changed its format for the past two years to feature the lives of foreign national residents here.

"I hope viewers can find the joy of traveling and excitement toward Korea again through our show," the producer said.
Lee Gyu-lee

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