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[Newsmaker] tvN’s ‘The Ramyeonator’ may be slapped with KCSC warning

“The Ramyeonator” host Kang Ho-dong holds up Nogshim’s Ansungtangmyun. (tvN and CJ Olive Networks)
“The Ramyeonator” host Kang Ho-dong holds up Nogshim’s Ansungtangmyun. (tvN and CJ Olive Networks)

The Korea Communication Standards Commission’s Broadcast Advertising Sub-Commission on Tuesday decided to recommend issuing a warning to CJ Olive Networks and tvN’s show “The Ramyeonator” for exposing a specific brand of Korean ramen on the show.

“The Ramyeonator” featured a popular television show host, Kang Ho-dong, eating ramen with different ingredients, trying to find the tastiest ramen combination. Kang added everything from oyster, duck, clams and crabs to cheese, spring onion and pork belly to packaged ramen. He also purposely did rigorous exercise, hiking and camping to work up an appetite.

The hybrid platform attempt by well-known producer Na Young-seok was shown on tvN and Olive Networks from Dec. 6, 2019, to Feb. 21 through 11 six-minute episodes, with longer full-length videos of the episodes posted simultaneously on YouTube.

However, using only one specific brand of Korean ramen throughout the episodes -- Nongshim -- without blurring out the names of the products -- Ansungtangmyun and Neoguri -- led the sub-commission to propose legal disciplinary measures.

“The program was deliberately made to have an advertising effect for the sponsors by allotting a large portion of each episode to cooking and eating a specific brand of ramen, and considering the repetition of the same form, the call for legal sanctions was unavoidable,” the sub-commission said.

The KCSC told The Korea Herald it had received complaints regarding excessive advertising of Korean ramen from viewers and had decided to carry out a review of the two broadcasting companies after monitoring Olive Networks.

The sub-commission announced that the program broke three broadcasting regulations, which state that a program may not have the effect of advertising for the sponsors; may not advertise indirectly by displaying or saying the name of a product on screen; and may not disrupt the viewing experience with a sudden unrelated indirect advertisement.

The show violated those rules by allotting 71 percent of the second episode to content related to a specific product, Ansungtangmyun, and 91 percent of the fifth episode to content related to another product, Neoguri. Direct references to Ansungtangmyun by Kang were also cited as violations.

The use of Ansungtangmyun reflected host Kang’s personal preference in addition to the sponsorship. Kang’s love for the brand was displayed when he ate six packs of the ramen in one sitting during season one of the popular program “2 days and 1 night.”

The episode earned Kang the nickname “Mister 6 packs.” He has also said in numerous shows throughout his career that Ansungtangmyun is his favorite Korean ramen.

Issues raised by the Broadcast Advertising Sub-Commission, consisting of five of the nine commissioners, are discussed at KCSC meetings attended by all nine commissioners, usually within a month, according to a KCSC official. The meetings, which occur twice a month, are scheduled for June 8 and 22.

If the recommendation for legal disciplinary measures passes at the next commission meeting, CJ Olive Networks and tvN will have points deducted when the KCSC carries out its annual broadcast evaluation to determine license renewal.

By Lim Jang-won (