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Korean broadcasters brace for coronavirus spread

Poster for season two of Olive TV food reality show “Bob Bless You 2” (CJ ENM)
Poster for season two of Olive TV food reality show “Bob Bless You 2” (CJ ENM)

The Korean broadcasting industry is bracing for more cases of the novel coronavirus, after a reality TV producer tested positive Saturday.

The producer of season two of “Bob Bless You,” a food-oriented program on Olive TV, returned to Korea on March 18 after a vacation in New York and began showing symptoms of COVID-19 on Friday, according to CJ ENM.

As soon as the producer went for a test, all staff members who had direct contact with the producer went into self-quarantine.

“All the staff and cast of the show are going to be tested. Some were tested yesterday and are waiting for the results. Some will go take the test today,” CJ ENM spokesperson Ahn Mi-hyun told The Korea Herald on Sunday. 

According to CJ ENM, the show’s four main stars -- Song Eun-yi, Kim Sook, Park Na-rae and Jang Do-yeon -- had not come into direct contact with the producer after the producer returned from the US. However, the four TV personalities on Sunday still were tested for the virus and the results for all four came out negative on Sunday.

Broadcasting industry insiders are particularly concerned about the possibility of the virus spreading industrywide through staff and cast members working on multiple shows.

MBC has taken action in response. On Sunday, the staff of its variety show “Where Is My Home” went into self-quarantine after finding out that one of the scriptwriters of “Bob Bless You” also writes for the MBC show. Two “Bob Bless You” cast members, Kim Sook and Park Na-rae, also appear on “Where Is My Home.”

According to MBC, the network is closely watching the situation as it decides whether to film the show’s next episode this week.

Since the producer mostly worked at the CJ ENM building in Sangam-dong, western Seoul, the entertainment giant shut down the building for two days starting Saturday and sanitized the area.

All employees who worked at the building were also ordered to start working from home Saturday. Employees who have to work at the building will undergo temperature checks before entering, the company said.

By Song Seung-hyun (