The Korea Herald


Korean TV programs show former couples together amid cultural shift

Discussing past loves, expressing desire no longer taboo on TV

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : Jan. 23, 2024 - 14:38

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A scene from A scene from "Transit Love" (Tving)

South Korean entertainment shows which invite past lovers on the program are gaining popularity. Following a shift in Korean culture towards more openly discussing past relationships, there is an increase in audience demand for shows to more directly fulfill innate desires, according to experts.

Korean streaming service Tving said the reality dating show "Transit Love 3" ranked first among the platform's original titles in contributing to the rising number of paid subscribers on Jan. 4 -- a week after the release of its first episode on Dec. 29, 2023.

Tving's hit dating reality series "Transit Love" brings together men and women who once dated but broke up and invites them to live together for a certain period. The show centers around participants grappling with decisions about who to end up with, between their past lovers and potential new romantic interests.

"I ended up watching the entire 'Transit Love' series because the show realizes an impossible concept, which is bringing together broken couples and publicly broadcasting the process of them reuniting with their past loves, or seeing their past lovers seek new love," said Kim Hye-won, a college student in her fourth year living in Seoul.

"I found such a dating reality show format really unique. It was portraying a concept that was largely shunned in the Korean dating reality show industry. Korean dating reality shows usually highlight the heart-fluttering process of people meeting new people," she said.

Also, a clip of popular Korean comedian Shin Dong-yup appearing on the YouTube channel run by Korean model Lee So-ra, his past lover, recently gained popularity. In a YouTube video posted on Dec. 6, 2023, Lee interviewed Shin about their past relationship and their current lives. The video garnered over 7.7 million views.

"It seems like the entertainment industry is attempting to capture and adopt a social atmosphere that values individual freedom," said Hwang Young-mee, a film critic and director of the Cinerature Cultural Contents Research Institute.

"We all have the desire to one day see our past lovers again. Some films have fictitiously touched upon the topic, but entertainment shows deal with reality. The audience is craving more methods to directly address their innate desires. The reality programs that achieve such ideas might function as such a method," she said.

"What is now most important is individuals' respective emotions, and not how people view them," she said, explaining that that could be why there is such change in the current Korean entertainment show industry.

Lee So-ra (left) and Shin Dong-yup talk in a video screenshot captured from Lee So-ra's YouTube channel, Supermarket Sora, on Dec. 6, 2023. (YouTube) Lee So-ra (left) and Shin Dong-yup talk in a video screenshot captured from Lee So-ra's YouTube channel, Supermarket Sora, on Dec. 6, 2023. (YouTube)