Korean entertainment has always been unique. One’s fame is often tied to a person’s character or image as much as it is to their talent.
In Hollywood, talk show hosts can gain fame and following by ripping people apart and making fun of other people. David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and even Conan o’ Brian all make fun of other people especially in their opening monologue. There are others who do less it less like Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno but they still have their moments.
Koreans will never accept MCs (Master of Ceremony, a name that Koreans use to regard their show hosts) who rip people apart the way Hollywood does. Anyone who does this will most likely be thrown to oblivion. Korean celebrities make fun of other people but it’s nowhere near the level of Hollywood. This is what makes Korean entertainment unique. Highly influenced by their still conservative society, Korean celebrities are always expected to possess manners and be respectful, especially to elders.
Whether successful celebrities really live a morally upright life is up for discussion. However, it is true that there are certain celebrities who have been able to successfully make the right decisions that shield their personal life from the public and build a career and reputation that highlight their strengths.
Two of those celebrities are Yoo Jae Suk and Kang Ho Dong. They are the most prominent MCs in Korea. These two have been long-time professional rivals even if they refuse to acknowledge each other as such. Although there are no fan wars, it is common for people to compare them and try to determine who really is the better MC.
Let's look through their similarities and differences to determine who really is the better MC.
Known as the National MC, he has been regarded as generous, respectful, kind, considerate and “God-ly”. Pretty much everyone agrees that he is the best MC in Korea.
It wasn’t always like that, though. Once upon a time, he had a tight competition in the person of Kang Ho Dong. They started in the industry at almost the same time and rose to fame at almost the same time.
Despite being pitied against each other, the two developed a great friendship and has publicly declared their love and respect for each other. They also shared a show, X-Man, one of the most successful variety shows ever in Korea and the last show they shared. Both also have hosted very successful variety shows, Yoo Jae Suk still has Infinity Challenge and Running Man. Kang Ho Dong had Strong Heart and 1N2D.
1N2D peaked at 40 percent in ratings but at the height of it its success, Kang Ho Dong left the show and retired from the entertainment industry after allegations of tax evasion. He has since made a comeback but is yet to gain his former position as a top MC.
There are two major show formats that Yoo Jae Suk and Kang Ho Dong do, a game-based variety show and a talk show. Both are always the anchor of these shows but they rule the shows in different ways.
The Rough One
Kang Ho Dong was a wrestler before he began his career as a comedian. He was known for his arrogant stance. When he transitioned into being a comedian, he used his size and reputation to create comedy. He often asserted his weight and strength. He didn’t always win games which made it funnier whenever smaller guys beat him.
He is the first one to laugh at himself and often makes it worse for himself by acting like a sour loser. He almost always calls for a rematch and would cheat his way to victory or defeat.
Some get irritated with his antics. However, he has also proven to be a gentle giant by showing physical affection to the other cast members. Something Yoo Jae Suk doesn’t do a lot.
Yoo Jae Suk’s approach is different. He uses reason, wit and strategy to win games. One of his longest game rival is Kim Jong Kook who was also a wrestler in his younger days. Yoo Jae Suk is always at the physical disadvantage. As such, he resorted to using his brains.
However, consistent with his dignified image, he very rarely “cheats”. Although he complains when he loses, it is obvious he does it only to be funny or create “storylines” which they can utilize and go back to in future episodes.
Talk Show Style
Consistent with his game persona, Kang Ho Dong tends to be hyper and active during interviews. It is common to hear him ask consecutive questions. He also “adds fuel to the fire”. In Strong Heart, he often adapts the emotion of the person being interviewed and exaggerate it for entertainment’s sake.
For example, when the person being interviewed talks about love, his tone and manner becomes that of a person in love. He then “joins in” the experience which allows him to egg the person being interviewed to show more emotion and reveal more of the story being told.
Calm and Inquisitive
Yoo Jae Suk is the opposite. His interviews are very calm. This is his way of putting the person being interviewed at ease. He is also very watchful of his questions, careful not to put the celebrity in a bad light. He makes sure that whatever question he asks will not force the celebrity to say anything he or she doesn’t plan on saying.
He manages to make his interviews interesting by sheer inquisition. He looks for openings in the story that will provide him new and interesting information without going overboard. He also has impeccable timing and knows how to find the funny in every interview.
Running a Show
Both have proven that they can lead an entire show to greatness and sustain it. Both have proven that they can make a show. The difference lies in how they do it.
Letting the Stars Shine Brighter
In a game show, Kang Ho Dong is great in creating situations that will allow the cast to play around. He thinks of games, creates plots and puts some story to what they do. This often leads to comedic twists. He once successfully divided the whole show to two groups, with him alone on one group versus the rest. Everyone, but a new writer, chose the other group. He had to do his opening alone and travel alone. They were able to play on this situation for two episodes.
However, he requires for different variables to be given to him to create great situations. In Strong Heart, guests and regular guests often have to take the initiative to show something special or say something special for Kang Ho Dong to give them the limelight. Once there, however, you can be assured Kang Ho Dong will make it worth their while.
Creating Something Great Out of Nothing
This is one thing Yoo Jae Suk is great at. Yoo Jae Suk sees everything. He sees the opportunity in everything and anyone. He can make a star out of anyone and can turn almost every situation to comedic one. He made his VJ a star and almost another member of the cast. He also made a loveline between a coordinator and another VJ. Celebrities don’t need to step up, Yoo Jae Suk will find them and pull them. You don’t need to give him elements to create a great show, he will find it himself and if there isn't any, he will create it.
That’s the Difference
It is what separates Yoo Jae Suk from Kang Ho Dong. It is his edge over Kang Ho Dong and other MCs for that matter. He has an innate ability to create something out of nothing. In fact, he is famous for giving celebrities nicknames that essentially become their character in the show.
Many believe that it comes from his innate ability to see the good side in people. Many celebrities and ordinary citizens have talked about the random acts of kindness that Yoo Jae Suk has shown them even when he didn’t have to. He is generous, giving money to struggling celebrities, newly weds and ordinary citizens.
He is humble, sincerely humble, even passing a lie detector test proving he doesn’t think of himself superior than anyone else.
This is not to say Kang Ho Dong isn’t any of those but Yoo Jae Suk has done more of it to warrant an uninvited attention towards it.
That is why he deserves to be called the Nation’s MC.
--- This is coming from a fan who considers 1N2D the best Korean variety show ever.
Lily on December 13, 2018:
I prefer Yoo Jae Suk all the way because he's the perfect role model - I'm not saying that he's perfect because he is human. However, he's hard-working, kind, thoughtful and witty. I love and follow all of his shows. I don't prefer KHD because he's so whiny with his giant fist on his face... plus, he acts all the same in every show. I don't think he's funny whatsoever.
ALEX on November 13, 2014:
YJS's strength is that he magnifies the ability of others. You can see this a lot more in less scripted shows like IC. The group dynamic of that show is amazing whenever YJS is in the scene. I would argue that Park Myung Soo is probably the funniest in that group but his comedic timing only works if YJS is there to support him.
Esther on July 23, 2014:
Thanks for your commentary!! I am a super strong hardcore fan of YJS especially because I have heard from many people online that what YJS seems to be - gentlemanly, kind, good etc etc is what he really is! And now that you've mentioned that YJS can make something out of nothing I truly agree with you! He helps out celebrities when they're being "forgotten" on the show, and he creates wonderful personas for people like kwangsoo, calling him kwangvatar! It's definitely his innate ability to see smth out of seemingly nothing and his comment can really carry it so far! I love that he is always so humble and always exuding positive energy, YJS FIGHTING!
lianely on July 13, 2014:
I personally prefer Kang Ho Dong but everyone will definitely say YJS is a better MC, he is greater...also i know in korea they are both really popular but overseas YJS is way more popular (which i find a little bit disapointing since KHD is such a great MC..) but they are BOTH really awesomes, they have their own style and people have their own preference about how they act, react.
Jeanne :) on March 25, 2014:
A lovely piece! I absolutely agree with you on how great both MCs are! I am very fond of both kang ho dong's strong heart, 1n2d and yoo jae suk's infinity challenge, running man, family outing etc etc. Having watched so many korean variety (i'm not korean btw), I have to confess that I still prefer yoo jae suk's style to kang ho dong's. Personally I feel that Yoo is clearly more amazing when it comes to touching people's hearts, which I believe is fundamentally what a good program should do. To many Koreans, they do not simply see Yoo Jae Suk as a mere entertainer, he is also a role model. His kind personality and more evidently, his consideration for others are often presented in his shows, which is why viewers will tend to find them far more agreeable as opposed to Kang Ho Dong's "aggressive" image. Kang Ho Dong is able to make people feel uncomfortable with his overboard teasing and probing for some reason (in Strong Heart), and he tend to show his distaste for certain people far too clearly without regards for them. His gags are far too repetitive as well, limited to his body gags, slapsticks etc etc. Yoo Jae Suk on the other hand is certainly more flexible in pulling gags out of thin air and his timing is great. When people criticizes him (often over his looks), he always join in with the dissing and play along to make everyone laugh harder. His good temper and friendly demeanor is a stark contrast to Kang Ho Dong's, as he can become rather defensive at certain comments and result in a tense atmosphere. So far, Yoo Jae Suk finds greatest pleasure in the making of Infinite Challenge and it's not hard to see why as he is one of the main reasons why Infinite Challenge continues to be such a successful program in its ninth year running. He was (and continues to be) the source of influence for the other I.C. members (and others) with his positive energy, passion and dour determination through all the seemingly impossible challenges. This is also why Infinity Challenge is my personal favourite among the variety shows. What Yoo Jae Suk had accomplished with the program is truly inspirational, not to mention legendary. It's hard to find someone who's as entertaining and inspirational as him. He is definitely worthy of the title "Nation's MC".