While many fans of Running Man were recovering from Gary Kang's exit from the show, producers of the series angered fans further when it was announced that Song Ji Hyo and Kim Jong Kook were leaving the show. However, news emerged that Song Ji Hyo and Kim Jong Kook were blindsided, which led to a petition from international fans and SBS issuing an apology.It has been reported that both Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo were not informed about their departure from the show until the last minute. While they were aware that changes are coming to the show in 2017, the producers admit that there was a failure in communication in this apology published by AllKPop:
"During this process, reports of the reorganization involving Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo unexpectedly made the news when we didn't fully communicate with the 'Running Man' members. We ended up hurting Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo, who were like family for the past seven years. For that, we sincerely apologize to them. The Running Man producers also feel ashamed in front of the viewers, who've loved Running Man for so long. We once again sincerely apologize for not being more deeply considerate of Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo. We also apologize to the rest of the Running Man members, who must've been confused."Reports have also emerged that Kang Ho Dong declined a role in Running Man and many fans fear that the show will struggle to replace some of the fan favorite cast members. SBS has since responded to rumors that Running Man is being cancelled due to difficulties transitioning the show. The producers categorically deny any rumors about a cancellation and the 2017 changes are still being discussed.
So how did Song Ji Hyo and Kim Jong Kook find out? According to a statement from the actresses agency, she found out from new reports that she will not be invited back. While they did not comment on Ji Hyo's feelings, they stated that it was not an appropriate farewell from Running Man. The agency revealed that they would accept the decision and leaving the show would be natural considering the changes coming in Season 2.
Kim Jong Kook, on the other hand, found out on December 12 that he will not be returning to Running Man, according to this statement from his agency:
"Two weeks ago there were talks of a change in formatting and the co-producer visited the set to mention it again. There was still no talks of member changes back then. However, on December 12 they called in Kim Jongkook to tell him he was out. Song Jihyo only found out today after reports came out. It's true everyone knew that a change was in order due to the fact that the ratings were going low but this type of goodbye doesn't only hurt the producers it wounds the artists as well."Recent reports reveal that Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo are holding a meeting with Running Man producers. It is not clear at this point what the meeting entails; however, many fans assume that the producers are trying to end the relationship amicably.
The controversy is already affecting the future of the show. It was revealed that Kang Ho Dong won't be joining Running Man due to the way the producers handled the Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo departure in the following statement published by Soompi: "We don't know all the details of the situation, but Kang Ho Dong doesn't want his casting to cause viewers any discomfort."
Will you watch Running Man when it returns? And who would you like to join?
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[Featured Image by Neilson Barnard/Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images]