Korean variety TV sector’s success with food-travel-culture shows

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The human desire to travel in good company, eat good food and observe celebrities has existed since the beginning of time. Following the boom and rise of culinary tourism and entertainment shows in Korea that meet all these demands, there has been, for some time now, increased competition between major broadcasting companies that produce a large number of infotainment (:a buzzword for content that delivers both information and entertainment) shows combining travel, cuisine and cultural discovery. Three ongoing shows were selected for review based on how contemporary they are, the season or the period of time for which they run, and their similarity in content and popularity.

1. Battle Trip

Watch some of the public’s favourite stars interact and test their chemistry with one another as they make their way through a carefully planned travel route in and outside of Korea, usually in pairs but also quite often in small groups. Basically, two teams/pairs have to compete against each other to film and deliver the most recommendable, ‘appealing’ trip at the end of the day and 100 members of the audience take a vote after watching the stars’ journeys from a big screen. However, the real focus and appeal of the program are the special local ​and​ exotic international discoveries they make along the way. The host celebrities help to discover diverse food and activities that both Koreans and foreign viewers may not be familiar with while also giving practical advice and information about an activity, an attraction or a dish in addition to commentaries on what they feel or taste like, narrated to the best of their ability. The hosts are given a short time of only one day to fill it with exciting activities and food discoveries but on the other hand, they are completely free to schedule and design their tours however they want.

2. Welcome, First Time in Korea?

Ever wondered what Korea is like purely from a foreigner’s perspective? In this popular reality television show, an expatriate living in Korea invites a few of his friends from back home to embark on a four-day friendship journey to anywhere in Korea. The expat is also responsible for organising and hosting the trip. The aim of the program is to present and highlight the many cultural aspects of Korea​⁠—​not just for promotional purposes​⁠—​by which to help locals discover or rediscover places in their homeland through the eyes of a non-Korean and at the same time, provide a useful guide for foreign travellers who have not yet been to Korea. Meanwhile, in the TV studio, a panel of hosts from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds report on what they see and feel according to the foreigners’ reaction and response to their Korean experience. Some of these foreign TV personalities are said to have been approached by companies or associations of their home country and offered to serve as a cultural bridge between them and Korea, which is definitely what every program hopes to achieve!

3. Thrifters on Tour

For every deluxe family trip scheduled, there are far more budget trips organised by passionate travellers who are generally young and too broke to take a chance to travel luxuriously. A team of celebrities​⁠—​mostly comprised of comedians, presenters or singers​⁠—​go overseas together and must explore a foreign city on a per person and daily budget of 100,000 Korean won (which is approximately 84 USD). Viewers can watch how the stars get around and enjoy themselves in a foreign environment, speak the language of that country (or just English) and find good deals for food and accommodation. Although it can seem like a difficult backpacker mission, as long as the travellers can find places to eat and stay that fall within their price range, they can still manage to make the most out of local experiences with the help and contribution of tips and information from their team; as the thrifters take turn to host different tours, they are able to try almost everything in the city that is recommended. What a way to travel with friends, make friends, make memories and save money! By the end, the winner from the group is picked based on how well and cost-efficient his/her trip was and gets to go on one’s own small luxury trip.

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