Yuna Kim: Reality TV Korean Style

Stephan Potopnyk
Yuna Kim

Not even the star power of Yuna Kim has been able to turn South Korea’s first figure skating reality show into a smash hit. While “Kim Yuna’s Kiss and Cry” has received reasonable ratings, the production has not hit the level of “American Idol” — yet.

The show, which debuted in May, has a familiar format. Ten stars from pop culture, mainly Korean singers and actors, are paired with 10 figure skaters to learn how to skate, create entertaining programs and compete against each other every week.

The winners of the first series earned a spot in the cast of Kim’s annual mega-show “All That Skate Summer.”

Kim, who acts as an emcee, mentor, judge and guest performer, is the focus of the show. While it has many similarities to Great Britain’s “Dancing on Ice,” especially in that it capitalizes on a skater with mainstream popularity, the delivery of “Kiss and Cry” is a little like a caricature.

While the competitors perform, the camera often cuts to Kim sitting on the judging panel. Viewers are constantly reminded that this is their chance to see her on a weekly basis. With the series so focused on her, the competitive aspects of the performers seem less important.

it is clear that the show is targeted to a mainstream audience. While North Americans viewers are subjected to cuts from the skaters to the onstage performers in television specials, the Koreans are not.

If the focus is not on the reactions of the judges or the audience, then replays of the most dramatic moves are inserted in real time, directly into the performances. It was a little distracting the first time this happened — I thought my computer was skipping like my Mom’s old turntable.

Word is that the SBS network is planning a second season. Let’s hope it turns into a resounding success.

Originally published in October 2011