[TV Review] Sports stars turn into TV entertainers

Former basketball player Seo Jang-hoon, left, and former footballer Ahn Jeong-hwan, second from left, pose during a press conference for the variety show “Flower Crew” at SBS’s headquarters in Mokdong, southwestern Seoul, on Aug. 22, 2016. / Korea Times file

By Kim Jae-heun

Many Korean sports stars are becoming TV personalities and continuing to enjoy popularity after their professional athlete careers end.

The most prominent athletes-turned-entertainers are former national football player Ahn Jeong-hwan and former national basketball player Seo Jang-hoon.

Ahn retired from Chinese football club Dalian Shide in 2011 and first appeared in the TV series “Law of the Jungle in Himalayas.” He rose to stardom with the TV show “Dad! Where Are We Going,” and “My Little Television,” where he formed a great partnership with football commentator Kim Sung-joo. The two became a perfect team to star in four more TV shows, including “Please Take Care of My Refrigerator,” “Cook Representative” and “Around the World Travel Package.”

“We have been shooting TV shows together almost every day since March 23,” Kim said during a press conference for their new TV series “Oh, Cool Man” at Dong-A Digital Media Center (DDMC) in Sangam, western Seoul, on March 28. “I will see Ahn for another week every day. We see each other more often than we see our wives.”

Seo is another sportsman-turned-TV personality who is active in TV shows along with the former footballer. Since he retired from basketball team KT Sonicboom of the Korean Basketball League in 2013, Seo has appeared in 14 variety shows, including the recent popular TV series “Knowing Bros.”

He only appeared once on the popular variety show “Infinite Challenge” as a guest in 2015, but instantly gained popularity for his honest and straightforward talk. Seo won the 2015 SBS Entertainment Award for Rookie of the Year for his appearance in “Flaming Youth.”

Seo is currently contracted to entertainment company and record label Mystic 89.

Former Korean national judoka Choo Sung-hoon launched an entertainment company called BONBOOENT.

Choo’s agency represents many athletes, including Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Kim Dong-hyun and former Olympic swimming star Jeong Da-rae.

Choo is not an active TV personality like Ahn or Seo, but he starred in commercially popular TV shows like “My Little Television” in 2015 and “The Return of Superman” in 2013 to 2014, which brought him stardom with his young daughter Sarang. With the appearance of his daughter, Choo gained wide popularity as a father. Choo also appeared in TV dramas occasionally, with cameos in “Athena: Goddes of War” and “Triangle.”

Star gymnast Son Yeon-jae did not turn into an entertainer, but she has proven her potential with her appearances on TV shows like “Infinite Challenge” and “Running Man.” She is currently contracted to Galaxia SM, after having retired from her gymnast career recently.

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