'Running Man' Line-Up Changes Causes Major Drama -- Kim Jong Kook And Song Ji Hyo Claim They Were 'Blind-Sided' By SBS Producers, Kang Ho Dong Declines Offer To Join Main Cast

Since 2010, one of the most popular variety shows to watch on the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) during their "Good Sunday" program was Running Man. Originally consisting of Yoo Jae Suk, Ji Suk Jin, Haha, Lee Kwang Soo, Kim Jong Kook, Gary, and Song Joong Ki, the variety show pitted the main cast as contestants to "complete missions" all for the entertainment of viewers both domestically in South Korea and internationally around the world. Eventually, Running Man's popular reached a fever pitch becoming one of the five most influential Korean television programs/series to heavily influence the popularity of Hallyu.

Unfortunately for Running Man, it has seen better days. Starting last year, there has been an extreme decline in viewership. The SBS producers on-set have tried numerous ideas to get the viewership back to the high numbers from the variety show's heyday. This includes the 100 Vs. 100 Challenge featuring GFriend, the special episode featuring the cast of People Who Are Searching For Smile, and the 300th Episode Special featuring BTS. It would not be enough as rumors of cancellation or cast members leaving began to circulate social media. Eventually, one of those rumors came true as original cast member Gary decided to leave Running Man to concentrate more on this music career.

Gary Kang, one of the original members of "Running Man" recently left the popular K-variety show claiming he wants to concentrate more on his music career. Prior to Gary, the last original cast member to leave the show was Song Joong Ki. [Image by Leessang Company]

SBS producers for Running Man are scrambling to make changes to the variety show before the 2017 season airs. Just yesterday, a major bombshell was dropped when it was reported that Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo would be leaving Running Man while Kang Ho Dong would be joining. Now less than 24 hours after the news dropped, it is being reported that Jong Kook and Ji Hyo were "blind-sided" in being kicked off of Running Man while Ho Dong has declined to join as a cast member because he felt "uncomfortable."

Song Ji Hyo (left) and Kim Jong Kook (right) were two of main cast members of
Song Ji Hyo (left) and Kim Jong Kook (right) were two of main cast members of "Running Man" since 2010. Both members were reportedly "blind-sided" in being forced off of the variety show. [Image by Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]

We will start with the news pertaining to Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo being "blind-sided" in being kicked off Running Man. According to AllKpop, Korean news outlets revealed that neither cast member was given proper notice on the situation.

"Two weeks ago, there were talks of a format change, and a co-producer visited the filming set to announce it again. There were no talks of member changes at the time. On December 12, they had a meeting with Kim Jong Kook to tell him he was off the show. Song Ji Hyo only found out after the news made headlines. Everyone did know a change would happen as the ratings were dropping, but this type of farewell not only hurts the producers but the featured stars as well."
At this moment, both Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo have not made statements directly on the situation. However, the entertainment labels and companies both are signed to, Maroo Entertainment and MY Company respectively, have provided a statement on their behalf.
Maroo Entertainment: "It's true he was told he was leaving with no decision about the matter. It's disappointing. He featured in the show despite his health issues because he cared about it so much."

MY Company: "We knew Running Man would undergo format changes from SBS, but it's true we found out from news reports which members would not return. We won't comment on Song Ji Hyo's feelings on the matter."

If the news of Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo being "blind-sided" in being removed from Running Man was not controversial enough, it was also recently revealed that Kang Ho Dong will not be joining the main cast of the variety show. According to a statement provided by Kang Ho Dong's entertainment label and company SM Culture & Contents, he feels "uncomfortable" in joining the cast.
"Hello, this is Kang Ho Dong's label SM C&C."

"As it was reported yesterday, Kang Ho Dong was given an offer for SBS Running Man Season 2, and he did make the decision to join after giving it a deep thought. However, we found out that Kang Ho Dong's decision has become uncomfortable due to various situations. As a result, we are here to officially announce our stance."

"We don't know every detail of the situation, but we don't want Kang Ho Dong's appearance to be uncomfortable to the viewers even a little bit. With that in mind, we feel hurt and sorry, but will politely decline the offer."

"We apologize for creating complications to the loving fans of Running Man, the producers, and SBS associates who made the offer. We apologize."

Kang Ho Dong is the main host of "Our Neighborhood Arts and Physical Education" on KBS. He declined the offer to be a cast member on "Running Man" because of an "uncomfortable situation." [Image by Korean Broadcasting System (KBS)]

If one were to look at the buzz being accumulated among the communities of fans who like Running Man, Kim Jong Kook, and Song Ji Hyo, it is evident where Kang Ho Dong's "uncomfortable feelings" are coming from. Many have expressed their disdain for the situation and some have gone as far as to insult Ho Dong, saying they "hate his comedy" or whatnot.

Let's hope that SBS can resolve this situation with everyone who's been affected by their decisions. There is already talks of boycotting the next season of Running Man which may in turn result in the cancellation of one of the most beloved K-variety shows in Hallyu history.

Running Man airs on Sundays at 6:30 p.m. KST on SBS during their "Good Sunday" program. For those who do not have access to Korean channels, the variety show can be viewed for free, with ads, on DramaFever, Viki, and OnDemandKorea.

[Featured Image by Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]