South Korean variety shows partially resume shooting in anticipation of massive MBC, KBS strikes succeeding

Infinite Challenge was one of the popular variety show that was put on hold.
Infinite Challenge was one of the popular variety show that was put on hold. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM / MBC_MUDO

Seoul (Korea Herald/Asia News Network) - MBC and KBS television channels and radio stations have come to a standstill since over 3,800 union members at the two South Korean broadcasters went on strike in September.

Left only with a scant number of staff, the broadcasters have aired minimum news coverage, reruns and stand-alone features.

It has been nine weeks and counting since popular variety shows including MBC's I Live Alone, Infinite Challenge and King Of Mask Singer were put on hold indefinitely.

The state-owned KBS' variety programmes like Happy Together 3 have also been put on hold, though the broadcaster churned out new episodes earlier by dispatching senior-level executives to shoot and edit, according to reports.

News programmes have been either cancelled or drastically minimised. Uninterrupted music, from pop songs to classics, is being played around the clock on MBC's radio stations.

The union members are demanding the resignations of KBS president Ko Dae Young and MBC president Kim Jang Kyeom.

Public broadcaster MBC, whose largest shareholder is a public organisation, the Foundation of Broadcast Culture, has a long history of problems with its leadership. In 2012, the union boycotted production for 170 days, demanding the resignation of then-CEO and president Kim Jae Chul, who was accused of hindering journalistic freedom.

Kim, who was removed from his position in 2013, was grilled by prosecutors on Monday (Nov 6) as part of an investigation into the alleged censorship of anti-government programmes and unfair labour practices.

Meanwhile, current developments suggest the tide may slowly be turning. The shooting of MBC's I Live Alone took place on Monday, for the first time in two months - its most recent episode was broadcast on Sept 1.

The shoot was in anticipation of a potential turn of events, a staff member of the show said.

On Wednesday, the Foundation of Broadcast Culture, a major shareholder of MBC, will hold a meeting to determine whether to dismiss the MBC president.

"The shoot is in case the union's goal of removing Kim Jang Kyeom is met," a spokesperson for I Live Alone told the local media. "We have come to an agreement with the union that if that goal is not achieved, we will cancel additional shooting."

Infinite Challenge was also partially shot recently, as its cast members were selected to carry the Olympic torch ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. But the crew also stressed that the footage would only be aired after the strike.