Radio Star, a talk show in Korea, hosted Jo Hyeon-woo, Kim Young-gwon, Lee Yong, and Lee Seung-woo, as they shared their own personal World Cup experiences (particularly their final game against Germany) before touching on their own professional journeys as footballers. Sprinkled in between it all are some candid moments where we get an opportunity to see our heroes beyond the pitch.
Each came with a story of their own; Jo Hyeon-woo the obvious star of Korea’s campaign in Russia, Kim Young-gwon’s national redemption alongside his game winning goal against Germany, Lee Yong and his moment where he literally put his balls on the line, and Lee Seung-woo’s first senior World Cup – mostly experienced on the sidelines.
What’s immediately apparent from the start is the hosts’ tone towards the footballing cohort. It’s nowhere near as reverent as one would see in other national broadcasts when hosts have the opportunity to interview a footballer. In the case for Radio Star, the players aren’t absolved from being the butt of the joke, and (especially for Lee Yong…) are on the receiving end of a punchline.
Despite that, there is a sense of respect that the hosts show to their guests even if the quartet is cut off more often than not, but more entertaining than the dynamic between the hosts and the players is the self-awareness that nearly every single guest has for himself – starting from the introductions.
It’s a fun ride; Jo Hyeon-woo never highlights the public consensus of him being a national hero, yet has no issues talking about being on camera. On the contrary, he revels it, and shares a bit about his frustration in being shirked of screen time after making saves; instead of shooting Jo Hyeon-woo, the camera would focus on frustrated opposing players for failing to capitalize on their chances. Funnily enough, that frustration is what fuels Jo throughout a match, which only solidifies him as a ‘psycho’ – just one of the many moments when Jo Hyeon-woo gets grilled. He’s surprisingly charismatic and has no qualms with being ribbed by his team-mates.
Kim Young-gwon provides the most football-related stories of the group. Considering his tumultuous career for the national side, he talks not only about the hardships he had to face as an incredibly unpopular figure going into Russia, but also his own personal endeavors of playing in one of Europe’s ‘Top 5’ leagues. Of course, he also has his moment sharing what it meant to him to break the deadlock against Germany. Kim Young-gwon’s cognizance makes him an incredibly likable figure, as his story is told almost identically to how national supports see it, and it’s even more delightful when he’s asked if Jang Hyun-soo has improved.
Unfortunately for Lee Yong, it’s almost as if the capacity for footballing variety ended with Kim Young-gwon, as the hosts never stopped talking about Lee Yong’s block in the Germany match. It became exasperating to hear the hosts somehow manage to tie every single anecdote to a nut joke, and summed up just how obsessed they were with talking about genitals when one begins to gesticulate, only to be told not to describe using his hands.
Lee Seung-woo, arguably the liveliest of the bunch, describes his time on the sidelines as well as the very brief cameos he had on the pitch. Early on, he’s amicably dubbed ‘The Fairy’ for not only looking after captain Ki in the Mexico match, but also for keeping track of time as well as trying to rid time wasting. His passion for the game shines with every anecdote he shares, and it hardly comes as a surprise after you get a glimpse of the hardships he had to overcome at a young age in Barcelona to become a professional footballer.
Overall, it’s incredibly entertaining to see how the players interact with one another. Jo Hyeon-woo gets ribbed by his ‘Sonbaes’ and isn’t afraid to be the butt end of the joke – even if he’s the one delivering it, and Lee Seung-woo brings the laughs through his atypical practice of ‘Sonbae’ culture. The receptive towards him is positive, and Kim Young-gwon aptly summarizes the general attitude for Lee Seung-woo despite his unorthodox attitude: he messes around, but never crosses the line. Although, Lee Yong does mention that if Lee Seung-woo were to act how he does in Korea, football probably would not be in his future to a chorus of laughs. A number of the Korean Diaspora empathize with you, Lee Seung-woo.
The show is good, innocent fun, but it’s also special getting to see these players interact with one another beyond the pitch. Hearing firsthand tellings of stories that we know give Jo Hyeon-woo, Kim Young-gwon, Lee Yong, and Lee Seung-woo a little more reason to love our side, and despite the hardships the national team had to overcome beyond just Russia, it’s heartwarming to see our players with smiles on their faces, cracking jokes and enjoying their spotlight.
Catch The Tavern’s highlights here: