I thought that Kim Joo Hyuk’s decision to leave the program would affect 1N2D’s group dynamics but while we all miss Gutaeng hyung’s charming awkwardness, the remaining members and the whole team behind Season 3 continues to one-up itself. This episode proves why the show totally deserves its Viewers’ Choice Best Program in last year’s KBS Entertainment Awards. And Kim Jong Min, his Top Excellence Award.
The team flies all the way to Harbin, the northernmost province of China known for its rich history, Russian architecture and harsh winter conditions. Sans Kim Joon Ho who still has a schedule to finish in Seoul, the members arrive in Harbin in their furry, Big-Foot lookin’ outfits, with a crowd waiting for them at the airport. Jung Joon Young has lived in China but Kim Jong Min was surprisingly the crowd favorite. Good for him. He’s starting to reap the fruits of his labor. He’s been in variety shows for ages and he’s been a solid 1N2D member since Day 1, I admire his hard work and dedication. With his knowledge in history and manliness in arm wrestling, people have been seeing him a new light recently.
The crew seriously set up a tent in the middle of a cold busy street in Harbin. Battling the cold with bare bodies isn’t something new for the members and hilariously play strip rock-paper-scissors in the middle of a busy foreign street with an almost -20 degree temperature. I wonder why they didn’t get a flak for doing so, while the boys from Reply 1988 were reportedly criticized for taking off their underwear underwater during their trip to Africa. I guess that’s just how good-natured the whole 1N2D team is, for them to be able to get away with something as crazy as that and people just laugh it off.
And of course the craziness doesn’t stop with the stripping as the show also features some famous food that originated in Harbin. However, instead of focusing on Guobaorou (sweet and sour pork), these “little kids” continue to dare each other to eat the exotic turtle dish instead.
The whole “going to Russia” set up is quite exciting. Too bad, it is just a lie. Jung Joon Young figures it out easily thanks to his street smarts and Chinese knowledge. The excitement kicks back in when they hear about the nerve racking, individual, survival challenge that awaits them. Each member would be blindfolded and left in different areas of a wide Russian theme park. The goal is to find their way back to base camp. It’s quite obvious who’d win this race but this is where the Season 3 members show off their variety skills. I imagined that if Season 2 members were to do this, this race would simply have an “I win-you lose” ending but Season 3 members being naturally mischievous, they themselves made the twists for an awesome “I thought I won but I found out I didn’t so I have to trick the next member to think he won only to find out that he didn’t” kind of ending.
This episode takes a more serious tone as the members trace the steps of famous Korean independence activitist, Ahn Jung Geun. Jong Min breaks his idiot TV character once again and shows the world his appreciation and knowledge of history. He is even aware of the fact that he is born exactly 100 years after the hero they’re featuring.
Being a non-Korean, I don’t really know much about Ahn Jung Geun, but since I am from the Philippines, I greatly empathize with the Korean people, as we have also learned about the horrors of the Japanese occupation in our country.
Time makes a hero and a hero makes time.
Ahn Jung Geun’s refusal to accept colonialism pushed him to plot an assassination. He was only in his early 30s when those trying times have awakened his patriotic spirit. But then again, if he lived in our current time, people would probably regard him as a mere assassin instead of a martyr.
For those who have never heard of Ahn Jung Geun prior to this, 1N2D manages to introduce him with careful thought as well as evoke a powerful message that this episode isn’t simply about a tale of a Korean hero. It is a story that goes beyond the borders of a country. South Korea and China has joined hands to build the Ahn Jung Geun Memorial Museum not far from where he assassinated the then Japanese governor of Korea, Hirobumi Ito. However, Ahn Jung Geun’s personal wishes of being buried in his hometown couldn’t even be granted since he is from North Korea. And well, we all know how bad its current relationship with the South is.
Cha Tae Hyun proves that he is indeed the heart of the show. When he laughs, I laugh. When he cries, I cry too. Reading Ahn Jung Geun’s exchange of last words with his mom made me tear up but I bawled my eyes out when Cha Tae Hyun chokes up as he pointed out what Ahn Jung Geun did from a devoted father’s point of view.
We are reminded that freedom fighters risked their lives so that we don’t need to continue living in the “hell” that they’ve experienced then. At the same time, we are reminded that 1N2D is not only an entertaining show but an incredibly poignant and informative one as well.