Veteran actor Lee Kwang Soo has always been known for his over-the-top and competitive onscreen persona. This came in handy as an entertainer, especially when he was a regular on SBS‘s hit variety show Running Man, where he starred for over a decade. Sadly, he was forced to leave the show in 2021 due to recurring health issues.
Thankfully his fans were still able to see the actor on screen in 2022 through his latest TV series, The Killer’s Shopping List, and the high-budget film The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure. He starred alongside AOA‘s Seolhyun and Kang Ha Neul in each project, respectively.
There was a time when it was unclear whether Lee Kwang Soo, commonly known as the “giraffe” among his fans due to his 1.93m height, would return to variety shows after his company stated he needed time to rest and rehabilitate his injured ankle.
Last year, Lee Kwang Soo suffered severe ankle injuries from a car accident. He has been receiving physical therapy since, but he inevitably faced difficulties with maintaining top condition for the (Running Man) shoots.
— KINGKONG by STARSHIP (April 27, 2021)
Still, it seems like the variety show spirit within the beloved superstar could not be stopped as he maintained his competitive fire and wit throughout many of his media and promotional appearances after leaving Running Man.
In an episode of House on Wheels: For Rent in 2021, while promoting The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure, Lee Kwang Soo and his fellow cast members Kang Ha Neul and Han Hyo Joo were meant to spend their time relaxing on a scenic field in a beautiful mobile home. It only took a few minutes for Lee Kwang Soo to begin to feel uneasy. He asked his companions why they were trying to sit down and rest. The two laughed and patiently asked him to calm down, to which he chalked his discomfort up to “Running on TV for 11 years.” Kang Ha Neul even compared his old habits to a “Sickness.”
In another instance, while promoting his movie titled Sinkhole a few months after leaving Running Man, Lee Kwang Soo and his castmates Kim Sung Kyun and Kim Hye Joon were being interviewed on an episode of Jessi‘s Showterview when he was suddenly challenged to a one-on-one Kung Kung Ta game by the host! Kung Kung Ta is played by chaining the ends of 3-syllable words together. For example, if the first player says “Ko-re-a,” the second player would have to respond with a 3-syllable word starting with the syllable “a.” As usual, Lee Kwang Soo exclaimed that he was extremely good at the game and that Jessi had no chance against him. Of course, before she could even collect herself, he launched a cheap sneak attack to try and win!
Jessi quickly caught onto his tactics and threw him off with the word “Sinkhole” (which is 3-syllables in Korean.) Without missing a beat, Lee Kwang Soo tried to continue the game with the words “Holy sh*t” (also 3-syllables in Korean), stopping at nothing to get the win.
Despite his profanity, the game continued until the staff inevitably packed up the set, leaving Jessi and Lee Kwang Soo to continue playing until the lights went out. It seems that fans have nothing to worry about because despite leaving the show where many of his fans came to know him, it doesn’t look like Lee Kwang Soo has any plans of retiring as a variety show entertainer.
Looking forward, Lee Kwang Soo will star in the Disney+ variety show The Zone: Survival Mission with his old friend Yoo Jae Suk and Yuri of Girls’ Generation. Funnily, at one point in a trailer released by the show, Yoo Jae Suk exclaims, “You left Running Man for this!?” at him. It looks like even his friends recognize that variety shows are embedded in Lee Kwang Soo’s bones, and it was only a matter of time before he returned to them. The series premieres on September 8th, 2022.
Check out Lee Kwang Soo’s full interview with Jessi below!
A previous version of this article said “The Zone: Survival Mission” would star Yoona of Girls’ Generation. It stars Yuri of Girls’ Generation.