Running Man is a popular South Korean Variety show focused on a main cast of seven celebrities who compete in various games and races throughout a number of locations in Korea. The show became famous with its signature set up of velcro-ed nametags of the players on their backs and ripping them off in the final game to ‘oust’ other players.The earlier episodes featured the popular ‘hide and seek’ game where half the group became the mission team (with some special task to do) and the chasing team (who must rip the mission team’s nametags in order to win). The show has since developed from locking the group in an empty building overnight into a race around the city with minor games at different places that eventually lead up to a nametag-ripping game among the teams or individual members at the end. The show is responsible for creating the new sub-genre of ‘urban variety’ for its unique structure. While the show's action-oriented format helped the show earn early fame, the camaraderie and chemistry of the cast is the main reason for its continued popularity.Not to be confused with TheRunning Man.
This show provides examples of:
The Ace: Song Ji Hyo's nickname. Kim Jong Kook could also apply since he's proved to be talented at almost everything (much to the cast's annoyance).
Yonghwa from CNBlue is a frequent guest who also has this nickname.
Accidental Pervert: When Ji Hyo spills tea on her chest, poor Gwang Soo instinctively tries to dry her with his napkin. Cue uproar from the rest of the group.
All-Star Cast: Jae Suk and Suk Jin are comedians and MCs, Kim Jong Kook was a former member of the band Turbo, Gary is one-half of the hip-hop duo LeesSang, Ji Hyo is a TV and film actress, Haha is a recording artist, actor, and a stand-up comedian, Gwang Soo and former cast member Joongki are both actors.
In the Romantic Comedy episode, the entire group gathers to watch Jong Kook punch Gwang Soo a few times with a boxing glove before ripping off his name tag. Gwang Soo then rips off Jong Kook's (who is the only one with the power to eliminate Gwang Soo at that point) name tag causing the rest of the cast to run off
During Song Joong-Ki's time on the show, Gwang Soo would often claim to be close friends with him due to similar age, only to have Joong-Ki deny it. In his departure speech, Joong-Ki finally admits to being close friends with Gwang Soo.
Awesome, but Impractical: Yoomes Bond (and other characters too at times) is always offered a wide variety of water guns, including some huge ones with awesome water capacity, or others that can shoot powerful blasts extremely far. He always chooses the smallest and most unassuming one because he can't be a very effective spy if he's lugging a huge water gun that everyone can see.
Back to School: There are several high school-themed episodes, notably episode 98 where they are all high school classmates going on a field trip.
Yoo Jae Suk, Ha Ha and Song Ji Hyo managed to get one during the Ryu Hyun Jin episodes, completely eliminating all of EXO during a hide-and-seek mission BY THEMSELVES. It's an achievement in itself, especially considering that their usual ace-in-the-hole, Kim Jong Kook, was eliminated early in the mission.
The entire cast has their moment in Episode 178. See Badass Crew below.
Badass Crew: Played with. Sometimes the cast works well together and other times they completely fall apart because they start betraying each other left and right.
Put to the test in Episode 178 when the cast had to cross the Han River in nothing but a boat made out of cardboard. Cold winds, exhaustion, freezing waters and even one of the boats capsizing didn't deter them. AND they passed!note One of the boats managed to barely make it to the opposite shore just in time. Truly a moment of glory for the crew, and very well-deserved.
Big Brother Is Watching: In Episode 151, the members have to shut off 108 surveillance cameras around the SBS building before they can confront Jung Woo Sung, who is using them as his eyes.
Big Damn Heroes: Happens pretty often in team battles as they try to save their own team members from opposing teams during the nametag games. It's also extremely common for anyone on Jong Kook's team to start screaming his name when they are on the verge of getting eliminated, hoping this trope happens.
Big "NO!": Gwangsoo likes to scream "ANDWAEEEEEEEEEE" whenever the PDs give a tough mission. It's extremely irritating to the other members, and he got arrested for it in episode 175. When his 'crime' is revealed to him, he promptly screams "ANDWAEEEEEEEEE".
Bond Villain Stupidity: In episode 13, after getting cornered by no less than three members of the seeking team, Yoo Jae Suk essentially invokes this to his advantage, pretending to give up so they don't even bother ripping off his name tag right away. True to the trope, this ends up biting the "villains" in the ass, costing them the whole game.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Given the show's format, there's technically No Fourth Wall to begin with, but it's worth mentioning that the cast members often interact with elements of the show that you might typically expect to be "off-limits" on a show like this, e.g. borrowing a VJ's camera to disguise themselves as members of the production crew.
Of note, Yoo Jae Suk's VJ, Kwon Ryeol, is probably one of the most well-known crew members due to Jae Suk frequently interacting with him and, at times, asking for his assistance; among other things, this has included blocking the doorway to hold off the chasing team, acting as a Body Double while the real Jae Suk prepared an ambush, and even impersonating Song Ji Hyo over the phone.note That last one obviously didn't work.
Brick Joke: In episode 13, Gary at one point stakes out the 16th floor by propping up two poster boards in the corner of the room to use as a makeshift hiding spot, where he sits down and waits patiently. The game then carries on as normal for a while, until Jae Suk eventually makes his way up to the 16th floor himself...
Episode 108 was more or less centred entirely around his Butt Monkey status.
Reaches unbelievable levels in Episode 143, with the raw egg incident. Also proves he is a Cosmic Plaything.
By the Power of Grayskull!: How all the superpowers are activated. It is always extremely embarrassing and impossibly cheesy, and the very first time Yoo Jae Suk got a superpower in episode 74, he hesitated to use it precisely because it was too embarrassing to scream "THE ONE WHO CONTROLS SPACE" and tear up a map to activate his power.
Cannot Keep a Secret: Lee Gwang Soo and Ji Suk Jin. Sometimes they give away that they have a secret before the members even knew there was supposed to be a secret at all.
Casanova Wannabe: Haha constantly asked female guest to "Be my last love!" until he got married. He promptly swung to the other extreme and turned into an extremely enthusiastic Would Hit a Girl character.
The Chew Toy: See Butt Monkey, Lee Gwang Soo. Ji Suk Jin can also apply, well known as the easiest member of the group. Guests often say that their goal for that episode is to rip off his nametag. He's even nicknamed the 'Race Starter' since he's usually the first to go and it's as if the real race starts after he's been ousted.
"JONG KOOK AH!!" Usually yelled out whenever Chu Sung Hoon is a guest on the show and calls out Kim Jong Kook.
Cassandra Truth: Two different examples happen to Kim Jong Kook. One in episode 62 where no one believes him when he says Jihyo is the thief, and another in episode 130 where no one believes him when he says Gary was the winner eighty years ago.
Dare to Be Badass: Yoo Jae Suk in Episode 13. And how badass he was. To elaborate: after his entire team was eliminated with only half of the mission completed, he singlehandedly carried the rest of game, surviving multiple close shaves in the process.
Dumb Muscle: Averted. Kim Jong Kook may not be the smartest cast member, but he's definitely better than most of them.
Easily Forgiven: Gwangsoo's betrayals. Lampshaded himself in a recent episode, where he teaches another guest how to properly betray other people. Gwangsoo mentions that it's even fine to hit or kick Jong-Kook, as long as he makes sure to apologise later.
Subverted for Ji Suk Jin - he runs into the elevator and asks the cameraman why the door isn't closing. That's because Kim Jong Kook already has a hand on the door.
Embarrassing Nickname: A kind of inversion of this trope with the nickname "Kookie". The name refers to the Commander when he's acting cute or like a child much to the annoyance of the rest of the cast. But Jong Kook embraces the name (even sometimes getting it on his nametag with little hearts) while it embarrasses everyone else to watch or say. Even the staff.
Kim Jong Kook's early days as a young singer/actor...
Yoo Jae Suk's self camera...
Enemy Civil War: From the perspective of the hiders, this is pretty much what's happening any time the chasers are divided into two competing teams, such as in episode 41. At times, the chasing teams clamoring over each other trying to capture the same person proves beneficial to the target in question.
Enemy Mine: In free-for-all games, or at least games that split the members into three or more teams, it's not uncommon to see these types of temporary team-ups. Not surprisingly, the common enemy that they're teaming up against is often Kim Jong Kook.
The basic motto of Running Man is "don't trust anyone". Since secret missions can be issued in any episode, suspecting everyone else has become a natural part of the show. Some guests are shown to be completely paranoid, while other guests are not Genre Savvy enough.
The guests that claim to be a fan of the show and have watched a lot of the episodes tend to fall under the first category. Moon Geun-young is so proficient at tearing off the members' name tags that they start to suspect her of being a saboteur 20 minutes into the episode she's not.
Similarly Go Ara is accused of secretly carrying out a mission when she eliminates Jaesuk and Gary quickly and without much fanfare justified, as she really IS carrying out a mission.
Everyone Chasing You: Obviously. Most clear examples are the matches in episode 93 where their mission is to take out one member of the group specifically.
Family-Friendly Firearms: It's a variety show so no one's gonna be whipping out guns obviously! They like to use water guns instead.
Fake Defector: The guests in Episode 101 tried to do this, only to fail miserably in what the captions called "The Worst Operation in Running Man History". The male Running Man members and the three guests had been chasing after Ji-Hyo for the whole episode because she stole the gold meant to be the day's prize. At the final location, the guests decide to gain Haha's trust by letting Bum-Soo (a guest) fake catch one of them, confess that they were the true criminals for the day, and that they were leaving the criminals' side. A bewildered Haha is almost speechless as he tries to tell them that "You're not supposed to tell me that!" and even turning to the production team to express his disbelief. Finally realising something might be wrong with their plan, they try to eliminate Haha, only for the hiding Gary (who had been reduced to silent laughter by how horrible the guests were at being spies) to help out and eliminate the guests instead.
Jaesuk, Jihyo and Haha forced Gary to be one to Kim Jong Kook ... only for their plan to immediately fall apart when the suspicious Jong Kook makes Gary call Jae-suk, and mistakenly thinking Gary was trying to back out, he promptly spills everything when he tries to encourage him to go (episode 42).
Faking the Dead: In episode 79, Ji Suk Jin is revealed to have pulled off the Running Man equivalent of this, in a shocking turn of events; specifically, he had his two agents drag him off with his mouth covered, giving the appearance that he was eliminated, and then spent the rest of the game eliminating members in secret. It even leads to a He Knows Too Much moment when Gwang Soo is unfortunate enough to witness him eliminating Ha Ha.
Feel No Pain: Kim Jong Kook and acupuncture mats... usually.
Gary in Episode 8, when they use chopsticks to hit themselves on the forehead.
Fight Magnet: Any guest that wants to show that they mean business will do so by challenging the Commander.
Choo Sung-Hoon was dying to do so. He won.
Fire-Forged Friends: Although they started out basically strangers, Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo now make a great team and trust each other a lot even when they're in an individual battle.
Funny Background Event: In Episode 178, the team is expected to complete a relay involving gymnastic routines that sound difficult. They are not given any time to practice, and kick up a huge fuss about this. When a producer tries to prevent one of the members from practicing with the ribbon, Ji Hyo can be seen in the background shoving the PD away while the focus is on the members in the foreground.
Genre Savvy: Jihyo shows herself to be this in Episode 140, when she points out that it's been a year since the second Yoomes Bond episode, and people are getting themselves eliminated when their nametags are shot by water guns (which is Yoomes Bond's schtick). It doesn't help that he's been acting pretty suspiciously. Ends up as a subverted trope because she is the culprit and was framing Yoomes Bond for it.
Great Escape: The jailbreak premise for Episode 91, where members needed to find hints in their jail cells to escape. Kim Jong Kook manages it twice, a feat the staff weren't even expecting.
The earlier episodes were set up with the members locked inside different landmarks and competing for freedom.
Groin Attack: Happens more often than you'd think. You can almost guarantee that there'll be at least one if there's dodgeball involved. Never intentional, though. Probably.
Halfway Plot Switch: Episode 118, which starts out as a dating episode with guest Park Bo-Young. Then she disappears without any explanation, and Choi Min-Soo shows up and the episode becomes a Hunter vs Running Man mission.
Happy Dance: Ji Hyo does one during a 1 vs 8 battle, when Ha Ha asks her a self-created question he thinks she won't answer correctly. She does, and she celebrates by excitedly jumping up and down while joyously shaking her arms.
Heroic Sacrifice: In one episode, Ji-Hyo and the guest (who happens to be this tiny twenty-something year-old girl) end up the only survivors of the mission team. On their way to retrieve the last mission item, they hear bells approaching, so Ji-Hyo confronts them head-on to create a distraction. She even hugs the guest before heading off.
High Dive Hijinks: First appeared in episode 3. Appeared again in the Winter Olympics episode.
Episode 70 interestingly plays this trope straight and averts it at the same time. It's played straight in that audience knows the entire time that guest Son Ye Jin is the spy, but the aversion is in the identity of her secret partner, where neither spy knows in advance who they're supposed to be working with and must figure it out during the game. They eventually do so and start working together, but even then, the audience is kept in the dark until near the end, when it's revealed she's been working with Kim Jong Kook.
In Universe Nickname: Too many to count. Meat Monster Haha, Framer Gwang Soo, Song Ji Yok, Race Starter, Easy Brothers, Kim Jong Kook and the Kids...
I Surrender, Suckers: Yoo Jae Suk in episode 13, who at that point was the only surviving member of his team. He finally finds the last Plot Coupon, but at the pivotal moment, he soon finds himself cornered by almost the entire opposing team. So of course, he resigns to his fate and casually engages in idle joking and chit-chatting with his captors...until he shoves Jong Kook out of the way and makes a mad dash out of the room to turn in the Plot Coupon, with Jong Kook and co. in hot pursuit. He ends up winning the game.
Surprisingly averted for the One Chance jump rope mission that they beat in only three tries. The staff was not happy, and made an even crazier One Chance mission for the next episode. It didn't work out for them either.
Just in Time: Some of the games can come remarkably down to the wire. There have been multiple occasions where either the last surviving member of the mission team barely survives to complete the mission or the chasing team catches the last person just in time to stop them. Of course, depending on who you root for, this could also count as a Hope Spot.
Kansas City Shuffle: In one citywide find-the-mystery-guest manhunt, the two teams at one point end up taking the same subway line, both heading for the same location. The blue team, however, soon makes a change of plans and intend to get off an earlier stop, and to deter the red team from following their lead, they pull this trope; namely, they feign getting back onto the train, making it look as if they were trying to fool the red team into following them off.
Kinda Busy Here: When teammates try to communicate via walkie-talkie with a member who is currently being chased.
Large Ham: Jong Kook and Haha. Kwangsoo has his moments as well.
Laugh Track: Of course - it's a staple in Korean variety shows.
Leitmotif: Most famously "St. Agnes and the Burning Train" by Sting for Lee Gwang Soo.
Kim Jong Kook: "What We Need is a Hero" from the Beowulf OST
In addition, his song "Loveable" whenever there is a karaoke or other singing mission
There are also theme songs for certain moments or running gags like Playboy Ha Ha, the Jail, the Easy Brothers, the Monday Couple...
And most of the guests get their own theme songs as well. For example: if the guest is an actor/actress, the leitmotif would be his/her show's OST, and if the guest is a singer, the leitmotif would be his/her/their latest single or signature song.
Lethal Joke Item : Water guns. Using this, Yoomes Bond manage to eliminate the whole Running Man, twice.
Live-Action Escort Mission: Inverted. The guys were tasked with escorting Ji Hyo to the soccer goal in episode 95, but they end up being more or less useless as she was the one who spotted the "assassins".
The Load: Female guests tend to fall into this category, much to the annoyance of some fans.
Lured Into a Trap: Given the show's many "combat" and/or "hunting" oriented games, this trope inevitably happens from time to time.
Mass "Oh, Crap!": In episode 93, the group thought that voting for who you'd want to oust the most would actually oust them. When they realize that the person they vote for is actually now their target, their faces say it all.
Mistaken for Spies: The hunt for spies usually starts with ousting the wrong people. Typical traitors Gwang Soo and Ha Ha are often suspected early.
The Actors team on episode 132 had this going on for almost the entire episode when their leader believed that either Jae Suk or Kwang Soo was the enemy spy on his team. It was actually Ji Hyo.
Mood Whiplash: Song Joong Ki's farewell. It comes very abruptly at the end of episode 41, so sudden that you barely have time to stop smiling before his tearful goodbye. The members also crying doesn't help matters much.
Mundane Made Awesome: The show heavily uses a lot of tongue-in-cheek dramatic editing, and suddenly a bunch of grown men in their 30s and 40s playing hide-and-seek or blasting each other with squirt guns becomes this climactic battle for the ages.
Noisy Guns: The added sound effects are a comically exaggerated use of this trope in that the guns in this case are water guns. Of particular note, Jae Suk pumping up his BFG in episode 67 was accompanied by mechanical powering-up noises, and the blasts fired were appropriately loud and explosive.
Ji-hyo's answer when Ji Suk Jin asks her why she didn't kill him when he wandered around as bait.
Now It's My Turn: The hide-and-seek switching game for the Running Man Olympics. This trope gets invoked every ten minutes when the hiding team becomes the chasing team.
Only a Flesh Wound: Much to the concern of fans, Kim Jong Kook continues to participate and give it his all even if he's injured. He used to take pain medication to relieve his back pain and ignore it to film, but eventually had to have back surgery. Even while recovering from surgery he returns to the show.
Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Jong Kook makes it clear that he is not happy being voted as the person they'd want to oust the most.
Jong Kook: Everyone listen well. Everyone can hear me, right? You wrote my name? That's too much, isn't it? I'm telling you now: This may be a variety show, but Round One is not variety. Take that to heart. I'm going to do this properly today. See you later.
Refuge in Audacity: Gwangsoo in episode 158, where he completed his final mission of doing the limbo while wearing an animal hat right in front of the guests who weren't supposed to see him.. Also, when he hid under the table in the first part of that mission.
Sadistic Choice: A lighthearted example, of course. One 1 vs. 9 game challenges Haha to use only his own knowledge (i.e. no looking things up on the internet) to stump at least three other cast members with trivia questions. Haha admits Jae Suk is more knowledgeable than he is, so rather than attempt to stump him, Haha's plan is to ask him a question that would be embarrassing for him to know the answer to, namely the name of the lead actress in the adult film Emmanuelle. In other words, the choice is between humiliation or bringing his team 33% closer to defeat. Could also be viewed as something of a Xanatos Gambit if you count Haha getting to laugh at Jae Suk's embarrassment as an alternate winning scenario.
Sarcastic Confession: Kim Joong-Kook in the China Special. He was the spy but one of the conditions was that he couldn't tell a single lie. Not so much sarcastic, but he did nothing but tell the truth the entire day and managed to keep the suspicion off the real thief Song Ji-hyo completely, despite claiming that it was Ji-hyo every chance he got.
Ship Tease: The 'Monday Couple' love line between Gary and Ji Hyo, even if it's mostly one-sided. At the beginning of the show, Ji Hyo was too shy to really keep it up as much as Gary who seemed to use it just to make her more comfortable in the variety setting. Ji Hyo ended it when she began her real-life relationship though. That doesn't stop the fans.
Monday Couple also has to compete with shippers of the Spart-Ace couple with Kim Jong Kook and the Secret Couple with Ha Ha.
Spy Versus Spy: Everyone is told that they're a spy in episode 82, unaware the "actual" spy is the guest. The "Tru-Gary" show episode could also be a complicated inversion of this... but it's ambiguous.
Suicide Mission: Ji Hyo has to make this sacrifice in both Olympics episodes, as well as in episode 143 as ordered by guest Lee Kyung Kyu. Ha Ha also gives himself up as bait in episode 68.
Talkingthrough Technique: The Monday Couple seem to be very adept at this. In the Avengers episode, they were able to communicate the desire to ditch Jaesuk's team and go over to Joong-Kook's car simply by a leer of the eyes without anyone noticing.
Joong-Kook and Ji-hyo do this on occasion, though Ji Sukjin was able to decipher it and jump on board with the plan despite not being in on it, leading to Haha being named the number 1 person the Running Man would like to eliminate.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Because the entire cast is made up of Vitriolic Best Buds, this trope gets invoked in every episode. Especially the alliances that sometimes have to be formed in individual competitions.
The Nose Knows: In episode 98, this is how Jaesuk manages to evade the zombified Jihyo and Gary. He kept smelling her perfume and running away.
Time Bomb: This trope appeared as early as episode 12, which lead to a Wire Dilemma and then Wrong Wire. The James Bond special is also focused on diffusing one, and episode 47 invokes this in a timer race.
The entire cast has taken several levels of badass over the years. Just compare their first few episodes to the ones where the entire Running Man cast faces off against another team without any handicaps in the Attack/Defend matches. More often than not, the cast proves that their experience and teamwork lets them best almost anyone
Though there is a hint in Episode 93, when Gary says the Tru-Gary episode was his favourite. Presumably, he wouldn't choose an episode where he was tricked for by everyone for the entire day, especially since he could have chosen Episode 74 too where he won the second individual battle and a trip to Europe, though he could have chosen it as his favourite because he was the main character. The whole thing is basically ...
Useless Superpowers: Gwang Soo's 'Death Note' can only take out one person and can only be used once. The power is even voted the least useful by fans.
The aforementioned 'Death Note' superpower may not be useless at all as it may have the an override through certain superpowers like Ji-Hyo's deflection ability and Suk-jin's three lives. However, this was not explored upon as Gwang Soo was eliminated fairly quickly.
Jong Kook's 'Red Card' power during superpower soccer isn't incredibly helpful either. In fact, using it would make the team weaker rather than stronger.
Unexpected Guest: Lee Gwang Soo's own father in ep. 165. The other cast members didn't know that a mission location was in the building he worked in, with the obvious exception of Gwang Soo who recognized it right away.
He even gave three of the cast members, Gwang Soo included, a ride to the next mission location.
Unstoppable Rage: If Kim Jong Kook wants revenge, Kim Jong Kook will get revenge.
In episode 52, shortly after Jae Suk backstabs Choi Min Soo while their teams were under a temporary alliance, the latter declares he'll return for "Grasshopper Hunting."
In episode 69, when Min Soo makes good on his threat and successfully gets his revenge, Jae Suk makes a surprisingly Badass Boast after being terrorized for the majority of the episode and retorts "Min Soo hyung...it's one win, one loss."
Wouldn't Hit a Girl: The members generally go easy on the girls, including Ji Hyo, though Kim Jong Kook is the one who most strongly adheres to this trope. Haha and Lee Gwang Soo have been known to go all out against female guests, with Haha wrestling several to the ground without remorse. As for Ji Suk Jin, he tries his best against them as well, but then again his best is... well...
The first no-holds-barrel fight between all of the Running Man cast had this particular gem in the end:
Women Are Delicate: Although it's true that there is a physical difference between the genders (especially when the guests are well-muscled male stars and tiny female stars), this can come into play a lot depending on the guest or the mission.
Kim Jong Kook, on his team of three people against another team of three, tried to argue that his team was technically only two people since Ji Hyo was a girl and didn't count when it comes to a fight. He knows how good a player she is, and was probably trying to trick the other team into only approaching them with two people, but no one objected to his logic.
The trope is of course, averted by Ji Hyo. It says a lot that the ace of the team is a girl.