Some of the most lasting loveliness on Korean TV are made of idols or flower boys and flower girls. In an entertainment industry filled with doll-like figures, the image of beauty is significantly distorted. Women and men are expected to have soft features, small faces and flawless skin. Anything other than that is considered ugly.
That is one of the reasons Kang Gary’s rise to popularity as a leading man has been nothing short of amazing. He is not handsome by Korean standards. He doesn’t dance with a bunch of other young men in a completely synched choreography.
Even more amazing is the popularity of his loveline with Song Ji Hyo.
Although pretty and sexy (Frozen Flower, anyone?), Song Ji Hyo was only considered a B-List actress before joining Running Man. Her most popular role is an antagonist in Jumong and an unfaithful queen in Frozen Flower. Yet, she has managed to become one of the most popular members of Running man.
The devoted fans they have are just as fanatical as fans of idol lovelines. They watch closely at every interaction of Kang Gary and Song Ji Hyo and interpret each action (or non-action) to fit their fantasy of the two being a real couple. I don’t know much about their personal lives. For all we know, the two may actually be a couple but that’s not the point of this article.
What I will be focusing on are the reasons that made this couple a success. Exactly what did Koreans see in the Monday Couple that make these two a success?
The above video is the very first Running Man Monday Couple moment.
#1 The Unhavable Have Ungetable Get
Kang Gary is an ugly (by Korean standards) and unknown guy who has a beautiful woman within his reach. It’s a classic beauty and the beast story, an upside down Cinderella. Song Ji Hyo is the royalty, a beautiful and sexy woman who looks good in anything she wears. Kang Gary is the awkward guy, unknown but dreaming of getting the woman to fall in love with him.
She’s the girl he can’t have, the girl the world knows he can’t have and don’t we just all love seeing the underdog get his reward?
#2 Romantic Boyfriend
Guys are not known for being eloquent or romantic. More than half the women I meet wish their guy is sweeter, more romantic and more affectionate. They all wish their guy has knack for poetry or talk like one those movie or tv characters that can deliver lines like “You complete me.”
Well, Kang Gary is that guy. He is the guy that spontaneously said lines like “Is this love? It’s hard to get it but painful when you have it?”
#3 A Guy Head Over Heels In Love With a Girl
Every girl wants a guy that’s head over heels in love with her, a guy that will chase her to the ends of the world even if she keeps on saying ‘no’ over and over again. Every girl wants a guy that will assure her that he loves her even when she doesn’t want him as much. Every girl wants a guy that will always be there for her, no matter what. That’s what Kang Gary was to Song Ji Hyo, he was always there for to love her, protect her, serve her and woo her.
She got the guy every girl wants, the guy that is head over heels in love with her.
One of the latest Monday Couple moments is when Ji Hyo called Gary "honey" on the show.
#4 A Supportive Group of Friends
Then you have a bunch of friends that are funny, kind and fully supportive of him chasing you. Isn’t that a situation every girl wants to be? You want to be surrounded by people who will make you laugh and create situations where they can tease you with the guy till you tremble to your bones, blush and fall asleep with a wide smile on your face.
Kang Gary has the best cheering team – Yoo Jae Suk the godfather of loveline creation, Haha the loveline creator prodigy and Kim Jong Kook. Occasionally, Lee Kwang Soo and the guests join in.
#5 Being With a Successful Man
No girl wants to be with a loser and though many Running Man fans didn’t know much about Kang Gary’s career as a rapper, everyone had some broad idea that Kang Gary is a successful musician… and rich too. Who doesn’t like a rich guy running after her?
These fans are living vicariously through Song Ji Hyo as the Monday Girlfriend, wanting to be chased by a billionaire (in won terms) that can give her anything she wants at her whim.
#6 Unparalleled Fidelity
Kang Gary had two girls fighting for him during the first couple battle with Girl’s Generation as guest but Kang Gary was screaming for Ji Hyo to come back as she was absent during that episode.
Girls want that guy, that guy that will scream for them when they are surrounded by beautiful women who are dying to have him.
#7 Ups and Downs
Unlike other loveliness, Monday Couple mimics the development or stages of an actual relationship. There was the chase stage, when the guy tries to get the girl to be in a relationship with him.
Then, the girl says yes and they start a relationship. They go through different moments, dates, fights, make ups until they break up. He suffers, she moves on and the world watches as he suffers. He finally gets over her but, apparently, she’s not. She reconciles with him and he accepts her.
They are, so far, happy with each other.
#8 She’s the Princess in Running Man World
Who wouldn’t want to be the princess of six successful and funny men. Song Ji Hyo, being the only woman, receives a lot of special attention from the production team and the members. In fact, she has more episodes where she is the center in the storyline than Yoo Jae Suk. In that kingdom, she has one devoted knight, Kang Gary,
#9 Protective of His Woman
Kang Gary is known for being jealous and he shows it. That flutters women’s hearts. He wards off men that try to make their move on Song Ji Hyo. He protects her when others want to attach her on the show.
He is the epitome of the knight in shining armor.
#10 So Many are Against Them
People just love the “you and me against the world” syndrome.
Although a minority, there are lots of bashers too. Most of them are Song Ji Hyo fans that feel Kang Gary doesn’t deserve Song Ji Hyo. I could understand where they are coming from. It was apparent that in the beginning, prior to Song Ji Hyo being caught on a date with her (some say ex) boyfriend, Baek Chang Joo, she was uncomfortable with the loveline most of the time. There were times when she cooperated but it was few and far between. Most of the time, she resisted it.
Eventually, Song Ji Hyo did say on Strong Heart that she will bring back the loveline because her relationship with Kang Gary has gotten better. It was followed by an episode in Running Man where she said she is sitting beside Kang Gary because it was Monday.
Since then, Ji Hyo has been more cooperative. After their “reconciliation”, the Monday Couple has given their fans some of the cheesiest moments ever witnessed on tv but Song Ji Hyo fans are still hating it which is making the Monday Couple fanatics even more united and devoted.
The Future of Monday Couple
The Monday Couple will go down to Korean tv history as one of the greatest loveliness ever. It is also most likely that Song Ji Hyo will be identified with this loveline forever. Kang Gary, luckily, managed to separate his celebrity star personal from his main career as a musician. Although he will forever be identified with the Monday Couple as a tv star, his music career will stand on its own.
It would be interesting to see how their loveline will progress. One of them or both will get into a relationship in the future and that will affect the loveline. That or Running Man will fold. When that happens, the loveline will most likely stop. They will become but a legacy, a funny one at that.