Five young men get on a plane to an unfamiliar country, cameras in tow. At first glance “News Report Reality: Exciting India,” which aired its first episode Friday, may seem like just another travel reality show. However, the cast of K-pop megastars Kyuhyun (Super Junior) Minho (SHINee), Jonghyun (CNBLUE), Sunggyu (Infinite), and Suho (EXO) did not get to visit top tourist attractions in India or spend time comparing local culinary offerings. On the show, the five idol stars explore the country, trying to create a report for Korean broadcaster KBS’ 9 o’ clock news.
“Our program is not about travel but more about meeting people and getting to know the country,” said Lee Ye-ji, the producer of the program, at a news conference on Thursday.
Jonghyun and Kyuhyun (KBS)
Minho and Sunggyu (KBS)
Sunggyu with Suho (KBS)
According to Lee, the program chose India as its destination because K-pop’s influence seemed to be weaker there than in other countries.
“Of course there are K-pop fans in India,” she said. “But those fans comprise a much smaller proportion of the population in India than in other countries.”
The purpose of the trip was to analyze Indian popular culture and share K-pop with locals in a more interactive way. According to Lee, K-pop stars seemed to be a natural casting choice because they had the most vested interest in finding out why it was so difficult for K-pop to break into the Indian market. She believes this calculation in casting sets the program apart from other travel shows, which feature idol stars simply for their popularity and entertainment value.
It was definitely an enlightening experience, according to the members.
“It was interesting to see how much pride and love Indians have for their country and their unique local culture,” said Jonghyun of CNBLUE, who said that the trip inspired him to write two or three new songs. “I saw a lot that I can learn from, and I hope that more hallyu stars will be able to foster cultural exchanges in India in the future.”
“To be honest, over the past 10 years I had come to think of myself as something of a global star, and I thought hallyu was everywhere,” said Kyuhyun of Super Junior, the most experienced of the group with performances around the world. When I got to India, though, I realized that people did not know about Korea as much as I thought. It made me want to work even harder.”
However, the process of putting together a news story was not easy.
“The most difficult thing was probably language. We heard that since India is such a big country even Indians sometimes have trouble communicating,” said Suho, the leader of EXO. “But we came to realize soon that we could communicate through music, and it was fun.”
“It was a struggle from start to finish,” said Jonghyun. “Once in a while we ran into fans who gave us a little help. It was hard, but we made a lot of great memories.”
In the end, their story did not make it onto the nightly news, but the members said that shooting the program was a precious experience.
“To be honest, it’s hard for us to even find time to eat together, so it’s incredible that we got to travel together,” said Minho of SHINee. “I can feel our excitement and affection for each other even now, months after we came back.”
Producer Lee seemed confident that the show would be a success. “Most travel shows inspire Koreans to go abroad,” she said. “With our show, we’re hoping that more Indians will want to come to Korea.”
The premiere of KBS’ “News Report Reality: Exciting India” aired on Friday. The remaining three episodes will air weekly from April 17 to May 1, Fridays at 9:30 p.m.
By Won Ho-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)