“Commander” Kim Jong Kook definitely isn’t as scary as he appears to be on TV.
The 36-year-old fan favourite of the popular Korean game show, Running Man and member of Korean duo Turbo, took Singapore by storm when he was here over the weekend for a fan meet and showcase; and was all smiles when we met him for our interview.
Famous for his uber ripped and muscular bod, he didn’t disappoint as he strolled into the room in a tight white tee (perfect for showing off his sculpted biceps) paired with a vest and a scarf.
We managed to snag the popular Kim for a quick chat, where he shared his love for his cast, his ideal woman and of course, plans for Running Man to film in Singapore!
HWP: Let’s talk about your music. Your album is titled, Men Are All Like That. So in your opinion, what are men really like?
KJK: I think that in one of my songs, men are portrayed in a slightly negative light, with a penchant of going after things that are new and shiny. But my whole point is that there is a turning point in every man’s life, especially through love, and we become good men when we find true love.
HWP: So would you consider yourself a good man?
KJK: Me? I think so. [Laughs] I try very hard to be one.
HWP: In terms of your music, how would you describe yourself as an artiste?
KJK: There are other singers who sing very well but I think my biggest strength is my unique voice. I hope that’s what I’m remembered for and I hope that’s what the audience wants to hear more of.
HWP: People always expect you to be the winner, to dominate in every challenge. Is there anything you’re not good at?
KJK: Of course! I’m really bad at throwing balls.
HWP: How about Ttakji (a traditional Korean paper-throwing game featured in the game show)?
KJK: I’m really good at Ttakji! [Laughs] And I didn’t know that! I only realised it in Running Man. But back to it, there are many things I can’t do. However in the show, somehow the challenges tend to highlight my strengths, that’s why I may be perceived as stronger or better than the others. But I have flaws and I can’t always do it all.
HWP: We love seeing the interaction between cast members. What’s your relationship like with the cast?
KJK: I think of them as my family. They are like my brothers, and sister. Kwang Soo and I may be portrayed as enemies and we fight a lot on the show, but that’s just how the show works. In real life, they are part of my everyday life and they’ve become like family.
HWP: Isn’t it tiring for the cast to be running around and chasing guests every week?
KJK: It’s physically very exhausting, but it’s so much fun - and that’s what I enjoy most about it. It’s a great honour and I feel so grateful to be part of this fantastic show.
HWP: Which episode was the most tiring to film?
KJK: Most of the time when a guest comes on the show, they like to come after me, particularly the time when MMA Fighter Choo Sung-Hoon came on the show. That was really exhausting. He’s really strong and a real fighter too.
HWP: Moving forward, which other guests would you like to see on Running Man in future?
KJK: Will Smith! (Note: they collaborated on a song back in Kim's Turbo days)
HWP: What’s the best part of being on Running Man?
KJK: In terms of exposure, the places we go, the food we try, the experiences I get, the people I meet – it definitely expands my horizon.
HWP: Who is the fastest runner amongst all the Running Man guests you’ve encountered?
KJK: Probably Park Ji Sung (former Manchester United player who is currently with Stoke City).
HWP: So in the many episodes of Running Man, which guest surprised you the most?
KJK: The most surprising guest was Park Ji Sung, because I’m a big football fan and he has always been my favourite player, so it was a very pleasant surprise. Choo Sung-hoon proved to be a huge threat and it was nice having Moon Geun-young as a guest, as I’m a big fan of hers.
HWP: The episode when Moon Geun-young appeared as a guest, you seem very distracted and shy. Are girls of her type, your soft spot?
KJK: I’m uncomfortable in front of all women. [Laughs] I can’t use my strength against them and I don’t want to defeat them. It’s not just Moon Geun-young, it happens when I’m in front of all women. I am just shy in front of women.
HWP: You’ve mentioned before that your ideal type is a woman with big eyes and a round face – does it still apply?
KJK: When I get this sort of “ideal type” questions, I’m usually thinking of what I hope to see in my wife in future. And with the kind of features that I have, I usually think of what would balance and to offset the way I look. I’ve never actually met anyone that fits the mould before. But that’s just an ideal type - it’s more of what I’d like to see but it’s not a dealbreaker.
HWP: Do you consider yourself a romantic man?
KJK: On X-Man (another Korean variety show), I have been portrayed that way because it was expected of me. But currently, I’m happy with the kind of role I have in Running Man, nothing too romantic.
HWP: How about in your private life?
KJK: I have to be! ‘Cause I have to meet a good woman. [Laughs] I try very hard to be a nice, gentle and romantic man.
HWP: How good are you at winning a girl’s heart?
KJK: I am not the type to make the first move. When I feel that someone is interested, then I will have the confidence to move forward. So in terms of winning a girl’s heart, the odds are quite positive most of the time.
HWP: There was also a period of time when Gary almost left the show. Are you worried that someone may leave the show eventually?
KJK: It is definitely a worry, but through the experience we had with Gary, everyone realised how important being together really is. So unless it’s due to unforseen personal circumstances, some may take on a short period of leave, but I don’t think anyone will quit. The only time when we will split is probably when Running Man comes to an end, but we don’t foresee any one leaving any time soon.
HWP: I think a lot of fans would want to know – when is Running Man coming to Singapore?
KJK: I would love that too! Maybe we could do an eating race around Singapore!
All photos courtesy of Mode Entertainment.