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What Makes the Perfect Physique? Lean is King, According to Top Korean Reality Survival Series ‘Physical: 100’


When it comes to the perfect body, Woo Jin-yong proves that bigger isn’t necessarily better.

The lean CrossFit athlete and snowboarder beat 99 other contestants in Netflix survival game show Physical: 100 to win 300 million won (US$ 243,188) after a series of grueling challenges, most notably winning a circular catch-the-tail quest in which the 37-year-old ran more than 20 laps around a race track.

The popular Korean reality series saw a hundred contestants in tip-top physical shape, including national gymnasts, bodybuilders and MMA fighters, hanging on to bars, holding up boulders and hauling two-ton ships as they competed to be crowned as having the ideal physique.

Physical: 100 was the first unscripted show to hit No. 1 on Netflix’s Non-English TV list and has remained in the Top 10 for the past month. This week, with 45.4 million viewing hours, it continues to be the most popular non-English TV program while powering ahead to become the second most-watched show on our service.

A quest to determine the perfect physique

What defines the perfect physique? This was the question that intrigued producer Jang Ho Gi after he chanced upon a “Best Body of the Month” poster at a fitness center, showcasing members with different body types, postures and fitness routines.

The winner was not who he expected, which led him to wonder: “What is the best body? How can bodies be compared to other bodies? Is there a standard for it that is agreed upon by everyone?”

Embarking on a quest to find answers to these questions, he decided to design a series of quests to challenge the very marks of physical prowess: muscular strength, balance, endurance, agility and willpower.

With a massive set spanning two soccer fields and boasting an acclaimed production crew including art director Yoo Jae-heon (Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, BTS World Concert), music director Kim Seong-su (Squid Game) and costume director Choi Se-yeon (Parasite, Okja), the show served up unexpected twists and turns in each episode.

The significance of the human body

Jang believes that the human body is the history and story of mankind itself. By focusing solely on a person’s physique, Physical: 100 tells the story of each participant, regardless of age, profession or nationality.

He even did away with emcees, who usually lead the story in unscripted reality shows, so that the audience can focus squarely on the contestants and their bodies as they moved and responded candidly through the challenging quests.

The circular gallery, one of the more significant locations on set, was designed based on Ancient Rome’s Pantheon, which combines the word “pan” meaning “all” in Greek and “theon” meaning “god” to convey the message that “various types of physiques exist in this world, and all of them are to be respected.”

Physical: 100 not only entertains but also inspires viewers to question their own ideas about the perfect physique. “Our show provides an opportunity for people to reflect on their bodies and think about what they can do to improve themselves,” says Jang. “It’s not just about physical strength; it’s about mental fortitude and the willpower to push oneself to the limit.”

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