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Women’s sport shows to take Korean TV spotlight

Dance team Lachica’s Gabee becomes a curling player in MBC’s “Curling Queens.” (MBC)
Dance team Lachica’s Gabee becomes a curling player in MBC’s “Curling Queens.” (MBC)

Korean TV broadcasters are set to launch female-led sports shows in the coming weeks, hoping to attract viewers that have grown tired of stories and formats featuring male athletes and TV personalities who have long dominated entertainment programs in the genre.

Terrestrial broadcaster MBC is scheduled to premiere the pilot program “Curling Queens” during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, or also known as Seollal.

The show will present celebrities from four different fields -- actors, Korean golf legends, announcers, dancers from cable channel Mnet’s “Street Woman Fighter” and former national athletes -- playing in a curling league, MBC said.

The two-episode pilot program will air during the Seollal holiday. The exact schedule has yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, JTBC announced Monday that it plans to continue the women sports’ fever with an upcoming show, tentatively named “Jump like a Witch.”

The show features eight female celebrities -- comedians Song Eun-i, Jang Do-yeon, actors Koh Soo-hee, Im Soo-hyang, Ok Ja-yeon, singer Byul, dancer Honey J and former announcer Park Sun-young, who have never played sports.

“Jump like a Witch” seeks to document the process of celebrities from different fields becoming a basketball team.

The team will be coached by Korean basketball legends Moon Kyung-eun, Hyun Ju-yup and manager-turned-comedian Jung Hyung-don.

The first episode of the basketball show is set to air Feb. 15 at 9 p.m.

Previous hit shows covering both team and individual sports, such as KBS’ “The Invincible Baseball Team” (2010), “Our Town’s Physical Variety” (2013), “Kwrestling” (2019), SBS’ “Handsome Tigers” (2020) and tvN’s “Racket Boys” (2021), show that most have been male-dominated.

Though female stars have appeared in the programs, they were relegated to minor roles, including team manager, director and program narrator.
Joy of K-pop girl group Red Velvet stars in SBS’ “Handsome Tigers” as the basketball team’s manager. (SBS)
Joy of K-pop girl group Red Velvet stars in SBS’ “Handsome Tigers” as the basketball team’s manager. (SBS)
Singer Baek Ji-young appears on KBS’ “The Invincible Baseball Team” as a general manager. (KBS)soccer: “Kick a Goal” (SBS)
Singer Baek Ji-young appears on KBS’ “The Invincible Baseball Team” as a general manager. (KBS)soccer: “Kick a Goal” (SBS)

After cable network Echannel’s original series “Sporty Sisters,” in which sports legends such as golfer Pak Se-ri and volleyball player Han Yoo-mi tried their hands at other sports, enjoyed local and global popularity, women’s sports programs -- MBC’s “Witches” and SBS’ “Kick a Goal” -- began to emerge and soon started trending in the domestic broadcasting industry.

SBS’ soccer show “Kick a Goal,” which began airing in June 2021, topped viewership ratings among variety shows airing in the same time slot for more than eight weeks, solidifying its position as the top Wednesday night program.
“Kick a Goal” (SBS)
“Kick a Goal” (SBS)

“Women’s sport-variety shows are fresh. The viewers, who were tired of watching similar stories and formats presented by male stars, are drawn to the challenges taken up by female celebrities,” culture critic Jung Duk-hyun told The Korea Herald. “I think the need for distinguishing ‘women’s sports’ will soon be forgotten by the cast’s sincere passion and enthusiasm.”

By Lee Si-jin (sj_lee@heraldcorp.com)
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