First Impressions – Real Men: Ep. 1 – 2 – 진짜 사나이: 1회 – 2회


This new Sunday night variety program sends six male celebrities to the army where they will endure the same experience as the other real-life soldiers.  The six celebrities include: MC Seo Kyung Suk, Actor Kim Su ro, Actor Ryu Soo Young, Singer/Actor Son Jin Young, Idol singer Mir from MBLAQ and Comedian Sam Hammington.

For those that are familiar with Korean culture and following Korean stars, they know that all Korean men are required to serve approximately 2 years (currently, the length of service is 21 months) in the army.  It’s a rite of passage for them and for me, they aren’t really men until they’ve served their time in the army.  So what happens when you send a bunch of celebrities to the army?

What’s interesting about this show is that most of these celebrities have been to the army and it can’t be easy for some of these middle-aged men to do it all over again.  With a program like this, you can’t really have the whole thing play off as a joke.  Especially with the fact that the North has made headline recently.  So I like that their incorporation into the army does not grant them many favors and that they must commit just like any other soldier.

I do feel bad for Sam Hammington.  While his idea of what the army would be like is probably not so different from other eager recruits, it’s been a tough ride for this Australian comedian.  He is pretty fluent in Korean for a foreigner but it has been difficult for him to speak with perfect diction and completely understand all the terminology.  It’s clear that this Gomer Pile is trying his best and his efforts are not going unnoticed to the viewer.

Ryu Soo Young acts as the pretty boy out of the group while Son Jin Young can sometimes be found totally missing the beat.  Mir seems to be adjusting to army life well and I wonder if that means he’ll adjust just as well when it comes time for him to serve in the army himself.

Kim Su ro leads the pack and it appears that his mentality is that he just wants himself and the rest of his troop to get through this tv experiment.  As for Seo Kyung Suk, he’s pretty much the middle of the road.

Although it was hilarious that he tried to make eye contact with Wheesung during the sequence when he was instructing the troops on how to properly sing the army fight song.  I did not recognize Wheesung at all until I heard them mentioning it in the program.  He makes an interesting comment:

“Even if you did well or were smart in your civilian life, in the army you’re all going to receive the same treatment.  It doesn’t matter how the army general treats you, take care of what you need to take care of.  I hope you mark my words.”

Celebrity life is about setting yourself apart from others.  What makes you special?  But in the army, everyone is a square fitting into a square peg.

It’s an interesting experiment with a varied group of people and brings a sense of patriotism.  I want to see how this troop works out.

The show is also informative by showing us glimpses of army life.  From mealtime, doing chores, conducting various drills and camaraderie with their fellow barrack-mates.  This is all in an effort to show the real story of the lives of the recruits.

Since their stay is only for 5 nights and 6 days, but if they have interesting groups of celebrities to keep sending to the army I could consider continuing to watch it.  However, I’m also okay with it just being a short run with these celebrities.



3 thoughts on “First Impressions – Real Men: Ep. 1 – 2 – 진짜 사나이: 1회 – 2회

  1. Is it in more in the documentary style or is it still the usual lighthearted K-variety show? I’ve heard only bits and pieces about the show, but I’m still confused about the overall tone of the show. I would like to watch it, even if to just learn more about the way the mandatory army service is in South-Korea. Here where I live, we also have compulsory army service, but it’s not as long as in SK and it’s definitely not that big of a deal to most of us. In SK, it seems much more topical, and like you said, it’s an important rite of passage to Korean men.


    • I would say it’s more documentary style. I guess the only variety aspect of this is let’s throw in a bunch of celebrities and see how they fare. I do find the concept a bit unfamiliar even if my background is Korean. I went to college with all these male friends who are the same age as me. We went through some of the same experiences as a college student. Sure, there were a couple of people who started college late and were a bit older. So I find it a bit unusual to have friends and family members who went and dated guys who were in some cases 10 years older than them but in the same college year. The reason being is that they either went to the army during their stay at school or before they registered and had to defer school. I had other friends who were living in the US but since they were not willing to give up their Korean citizenship, had to go back to Korea when it was their time to serve in the army. Talking to my friends and family, I realized how different our experiences were even if they didn’t have firsthand experience in the army themselves. It’s an important aspect of Korean culture because the meaning of duty is a bit different depending on whether you volunteer or you’re drafted.


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