Yoo Jae-suk: Who’s Who in Korean Variety
As there is a lack of English language information on Korean MCs and TV personalities, I came up with this “Who’s Who in Korean Variety Television” series to help out fans of Korean variety shows.
This series is designed to provide background and context to help viewers understand Korean variety shows more thoroughly.
Since I am aiming to create comprehensive biographies, which will take a lot of time, I plan to continue updating each post for two weeks after publishing them. This post is currently a work in progress.
The first round of information for the “Who’s Who in Korean Variety Television Series” will be based on information from Naver profiles, official website biographies, and the Korean version of Wikipedia.
Subsequent updates of this post will rely on a variety of sources including television appearances, news interviews, official biographies, and more.
The Nation's MC
Number of Daesang Wins
Yoo Jae-suk was born on August 14, 1972 in Suyu District, Seoul. He is the oldest of three siblings, and has two younger sisters who he has a good relationship with, although he often teased them when he was young. Yoo Jae-suk’s father was a civil servant, so he often moved homes and schools as a child. Because of the constant moving and because of his shy and timid personality, Yoo Jae-suk often had trouble making friends at school.
He spent many days at school eating lunch alone, until one day his mother encouraged him to try approaching his classmates first. Yoo Jae-suk started making jokes during lessons which he got in trouble for, but it made his classmates think he was funny and through his comedic skills, he was finally able to make friends.
Because his father often worried about Yoo Jae-suk’s timid personality, when Yoo Jae-suk entered sixth grade, his father ordered Yoo Jae-suk to sleep in his own room. However, Yoo Jae-suk was too scared sleeping alone and instead would secretly carry his sleeping sisters to his room at night. The next morning, when his father asked what happened, he’d lie that he had no idea what happened. His sisters must have walked into his room while he was asleep. From a young age, Yoo Jae-suk used his smarts to figure out crafty solutions to his problems.
While attending his sixth year at Seoul Youhyeon Elementary School, Yoo Jae-suk was elected class president by his peers. The mothers of class presidents are expected to help out, usually by buying snacks for the class. However, because of their family’s modest economic situation, his mother instead tried to find something she could do that didn’t cost any money, and volunteered to clean at school. Yoo Jae-suk was embarrassed by his mother picking up trash at school, and yelled at her in embarrassment. He later regretted his actions and today is proud of his parents.
When Yoo Jae-suk entered Suyu Middle School, he became a big fan of comedian Shim Hyung-rae, and dreamed of becoming a comedian like him. His parents were against it though, so he would practice his comedy acts with his friends behind his parents’ backs. Because of this, his grades suffered, and Yoo Jae-suk once changed his report card scores with the help of a friend, but was caught by his father and was beaten for lying. That night, he couldn’t sleep because his legs hurt too much. While asleep, his father put ointment on his legs. Yoo Jae-suk woke up, but pretended to sleep through it. He was touched by his father’s actions and became determined never to lie again.
Yoo Jae-suk then entered Yongmoon High School. During this time, he often pondered about what he would do as an adult. He wanted to go to university and major in broadcasting, but his parents wanted him to go into business or politics. Reluctantly, he decided to give up his dream and go along with his parents’ wishes.
However, a TV show called “Viva Youth” came to visit his school and gave the students a chance to do comedy skits. Yoo Jae-suk did a parody of the 1986 film “A Better Tomorrow,” which received much praise, encouraging him not to give up his dream. At the end of his high school career, Yoo Jae-suk applied to the economics department at various schools, but failed to get in. He thought this was a sign that he wasn’t meant to go there and then secretly applied to the Seoul Institute of the Arts. After getting accepted, he convinced his parents to let him attend the Arts School, saying that it was his dream to make others laugh regardless of how much or how little money he made.
In 1991, while attending the Seoul Institute of the Arts, Yoo Jae-suk saw a notice on his school’s bulletin board for the first KBS College Comedian Festival. He spent long hours planning a skit with his college classmate Choi Seung-gyung, and the two did a parody of the 1991 Nakdong River phenol contamination incident, but rather than the first place they had expected, they only got a participation award. Yoo Jae-suk was disappointed, but nevertheless, all award winners were allowed to join KBS as professional comedians.
Thus, Yoo Jae-suk dropped out of university and joined the 7th class of KBS Comedians along with Choi Seung-gyung, Kim Gook-jin, Kim Soo-yong, Kim Yong-man, Nam Hee-seok, Park Soo-hong, Yang Won-kyung, and others. Yoo Jae-suk worked hard to create humorous skits, but they were never good enough for the PDs. Yoo Jae-suk was often scolded by his seniors as well. Despite his diligence, Yoo Jae-suk suffered from stage fright and stuttered during his sketches. After constantly making NGs, Yoo Jae-suk began to question his path as a comedian.
One day, while hanging out with his old university friends at a bar near his school, Yoo Jae-suk ran into another friend who was working there part time. Yoo Jae-suk was envious of how happy the friend looked and asked for a job there too. He quit his job at KBS, thinking that he couldn’t be happy as a comedian.
However, not long after, his comedian seniors visited Yoo Jae-suk at the bar and reminded him of his dream to become Korea’s number one comedian. They said they’d help him overcome his stage fright, and Yoo Jae-suk agreed to go back to KBS. Thankful that they took him back, Yoo Jae-suk resolved that he would work even harder.
For KBS’s “Explosion of Laughter Gayo Festival” (폭소 가요제), Yoo Jae-suk prepared a version of New Kids on the Block’s of “Step by Step’ which was the most popular song at the time. He worried that if he didn’t prepare properly, NKOB fans would get angry, so he worked extra hard and was able to perform on stage successfully. This seemed as if it would be a turning point in his career, but unfortunately, his stage fright continued, and Yoo Jae-suk lost many of his segments to younger comedians.
Meanwhile, at the 1993 KBS Comedy Awards Ceremony, his peers Kim Gook-jin, Park Soo-hong, Nam Hee-seok, Yang Won-kyung, were all nominated for the rookie award which ultimately went to Kim Gook-jin. Yoo Jae-suk’s heart felt heavy watching his peers do well, while he was still floundering.
At this point, Yoo Jae-suk decided to take a break from the entertainment industry and began his mandatory military service in 1994. He was a daytime solider, so at night, he was able to go home and practice his comedy skills.
After two years in the military, Yoo Jae-suk was discharged and returned to the comedy industry. Yoo Jae-suk visited various broadcasts networks contacting the PDs there until finally he was able to land a cameo spot in one segment of “Comedy All Things That Happen in the World” (코매디세상만사). Unlike his rookie days, he didn’t make mistakes and was able to overcome his fear of the camera.
It was during this time that the PD of “Declaration of Liberty! Today is Saturday – Continuing 60 Years” (자유선언 오늘은 토요일 – 60년을 이어라) recommended that he wear a grasshopper hat while on the show. At first, Yoo Jae-suk was worried that people would look down on him. He suffered from an insecurity complex. Furthermore, after work, he had to carry his over sized grasshopper hat home which he found embarrassing, but while going home one day on the subway, some people recognized him because of his hat. It was the first time he had been recognized in his nine year career. He gained hope as a comedian and worked even harder as he interviewed celebrities and did silly dances in his grasshopper hat.
Yoo Jae-suk had his first big break in 1999 when he appeared on the segment “Talkbox” on the popular KBS talkshow “The Seo Sae-won Show.” (서세원 쇼). This led to more job offers on shows such “To You Who’s Forgotten Sleep” (잠을 잊은 그대에게).
In 2000, after a recommendation from the actress Choi Jin-shil, Yoo Jae-suk got his first job as a main MC while hosting the variety show MBC’s “Star Survival – Donggudongrak” (스타 서바이벌 동거동락). In this show, several celebrities survived overnight in one room while completing missions. It is often credited as the predecessor to real variety shows such as “1 Night 2 Days,” “Infinite Challenge,” and “Family Outing.” The show was an instant success and soon after Yoo Jae-suk received more offers to host variety shows.
In 2003, Yoo Jae-suk earned his first Daesang (Grand Prize) award for “Happy Together Friends,” a show where celebrities try to find their childhood friends from a panel of actual friends and fake friends.
Then in the mid 2000s, Yoo Jae-suk cemented himself as one of Korea’s top MCs through iconic shows “Happy Together,” “X-Man,” “Come to Play,” and “Family Outing.” He became known for his ability to make his guests feel comfortable and his considerate personality.
After getting married to MBC announcer Na Kyung-eun on July 6, 2008, Yoo Jae-suk took a semi break from the entertainment industry and faced a crisis in 2010, when his new show “Running Man” failed expectations. He was able to conquer this crisis by continuing to work even harder and advising the producers to shift focus from the numerous games to creating lovable characters. To this day, he continues to works hard and continually study how to be a better comedian. Yoo Jae-suk even began working out, in order to increase his endurance for long filming days.
Yoo Jae-suk also made his life story into a song, “As I Say” (말하는 대로) which was praised by fans for bringing hope. Yoo Jae-suk currently hosts three shows, “Infinite Challenge,” “Happy Together Season 3,” and “Running Man.”
Yoo Jae-suk has one son, Yoo Ji-ho, who was born on May 1, 2010.
Who? The Nation's MC Yoo Jae-suk
The illustrations from this post are from the Who? Series – Nation’s MC Yoo Jae-suk. I figure the least I could do is help promote the comic book, so if you’re interested in learning more about Yoo Jae-suk please check out the book through the link below. The comic book is in Korean, but the language level is good for those trying to learn the language.
How Much Money Does Yoo Jae-suk Make?
Click on the left and right slider arrows to scroll through Yoo Jae-suk’s appearance fee per episode over the years.
Yoo Jae-suk can be contacted through his agency, FNC Entertainment.
Fan letters or questions from fan clubs should be addressed to
서울특별시 강남구 청담동 111번지 FNC Ent. 우편 135-955
FNC Ent. 111, Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea 135-955