Is the Monday Couple Damaging Song Ji Hyo’s Career?
Song Ji Hyo is the lone female member of Running Man and time has proven that she is the perfect choice. Though she may lack the athleticism of the male members, she makes up for it with her intelligence and assertive personality. In fact, she has the most number of solo wins in Running Man and she's one of the most feared members of the cast.
She's also one half of the extremely popular Monday Couple, the other half being Kang Gary. They're called the Monday Couple because (to the public's knowledge) they have not dated in real life and are only a couple on Mondays.
In fact, Song Ji Hyo was said to have been dating Baek Chang Joo (CEO of C-Jes Entertainment), a relationship that was revealed in February, 2012. Though there are rumors the two have broken up, the couple has still been seen together.
Before Running Man
Prior to Running Man, Song Ji Hyo had acted in more than 10 films and TV shows. Many consider Frozen Flower to be her biggest movie role to-date. Before that, she played mostly supporting or antagonist roles, the most famous of which is Jumong. She is largely known as a B-, or maybe a C-list actress and she is nowhere near the rank of Ha Ji Won, Kim Tae Hee, Moon Geun Young, or even Shin Min Ah.
She stated in one of her interviews that she doesn’t like playing typical characters, which are helpless and weak, and many of her fans believe that this is the primary reason she hasn't gotten many roles.
However, Song Ji Hyo also stated that she has not declined any role given to her. With that in mind, we could also assume she's simply not being offered very many roles.
Her Projects Since Running Man
Since joining Running Man, she played a main role in The Fugitive of Joseon as a nurse and the love interest of Lee Dong Wook. The show got mediocre ratings, between eight and nine percent for the most part.
She also got the lead role in a movie, The Jackal Is Coming, as a female assassin opposite Kim Jaejoong. The movie grossed a little over $1M at the box office, not a hit by any measure.
She was famously considered for the lead role in The Woman Who Married Three Times but eventually lost it to Lee Ji-Ah.
Most recently, she was in Emergency Man & Woman playing the lead role opposite Choi Jin-hyuk.
How Running Man Has Changed Her Career
Undeniably, Ji Hyo is now getting the big breaks that she needs to further her career. Many credit the popularity of Running Man for that and I agree that the show has greatly contributed to her getting noticed by producers, writers, and directors.
Though she’s still not at the level of Ha Ji Won and Kim Tae Hee, for once she has a shot at getting there. The only question is what’s taking her so long?
Running Man is on its fourth year and she is undeniably one of the cornerstones of the show. Her primary selling point is her partnership with Kang Gary, a rapper and half of the extremely successful duo, LeeSsang.
Her character in Running Man is so strongly identified and connected with Monday Couple that when her relationship with CJes CEO Baek Chang Joo became public, her character got lost in the show. She has always been competitive and a really good runner but Korea’s variety shows are primarily anchored in comedy and characters that people can sympathize with, as opposed to competition between them.
Monday Couple Fan Video
The Monday Couple has a large and devoted fanbase. Some are so devoted, they create videos like the one above.
The Power of the Monday Couple
When Song Ji Hyo’s real-life relationship became public, many fans felt Gary was cheated. As silly as it may sound (because both parties made it clear that the romance is only for the show), many fans felt that Song Ji Hyo had led on Kang Gary.
The Monday Couple broke up on the show but has since reconciled. Their resurgence proved to have a bigger impact as Song Ji Hyo became more “cooperative.” Unlike before, she has also initiated Monday Couple moments of her own instead of always waiting for Kang Gary to take the lead.
The Monday Couple is arguably the second strongest character in the show, with the first being the National MC, Yoo Jae Suk. Netizens are always abuzz whenever Song Ji Hyo and Kang Gary display some form of sweetness on the show. Some even speculate that they might have real feelings for each other or are even dating.
Even though the show has been helpful for Song Ji Hyo’s popularity, it’s hard not to notice that the break she’s been given hasn’t led to better projects. In fact, her role in Emergency Man, Woman was the very role of a cute and lovesick woman she swore never to play. The show had some success but she has yet to get a follow-up project.
Could it be that fans are rejecting her partnership with actors because they can only see her with Kang Gary?
Could it be that her character in Running Man as the ace and the Monday Girlfriend is so strong that fans are having a hard time seeing her any other way?
Sweet Monday Couple Moment
Why Kang Gary Is Different
Kang Gary’s case is different because before Running Man, he was able to create a strong connection to hip hop. He started at the bottom, with no label or management company willing to take him in. To get started, Kang Gary and Gil invested their own money to record their first album and did live concerts to promote themselves (because no TV show would pay attention to them). It was a long haul to success, but one that eventually paid off.
In other words, Kang Gary was already successful in his field before Running Man, and the show only helped him become more mainstream. By that time, however, his credibility, skill, and reputation as a rapper and musician had already been solidified.
Unconsciously or consciously, Kang Gary was also able to differentiate his career as a musician from his persona as a variety star. In his LeeSSang interviews, he almost never mentioned Song Ji Hyo. It was only recently that he accommodated Song Ji Hyo-related questions in his LeeSsang interviews and even then it was quite brief.
Because he was already established, he will have no problem continuing with his career as a musician either with or without being identified with Song Ji Hyo.
Other Actresses That Have Been in Similar Situations
Song Ji Hyo, on the other hand, had a mediocre career prior to Running Man. As a result, her commercial success became deeply connected to being the ace as well as the Monday Girlfriend, and it’s possible that people are having a hard time seeing her any other way. They see her only as a great variety star and find it hard to detach themselves from that image.
In the past, there have been other actresses who suffered the same fate. Park Ye Jin was a character actress highly respected for her acting skills. But after being a member of the highly successful Family Outing, people started rejecting her presence in other movies and TV shows. She then decided to leave the show altogether so she could concentrate on acting, her real craft.
Then there's also Yoon Eun Hye who “played” the love interest of Kim Jong Kook in X-Men. To date, there are still some supporters who believe that they used to be together and that they will eventually reconcile.
Park Ye Jin has yet to bring back the brilliance of her acting career. On the other hand, Yoon Eun Hye was lucky to have been young enough when her love interest with Kim Jong Kook happened. She was able to rest for a couple years and then come back to make several successful TV shows.
Should the Monday Couple Be Stopped?
Song Ji Hyo, on the other hand, is in her mid-30s. People like Ha Ji Won and Shinhwa are making being 30 and unmarried a bit more acceptable nowadays in Korea even though just last decade, 30 was considered ancient. However, Ha Ji Won and other women who are now in their 30s had reached success even in their 20s. In contrast, Song Ji Hyo is just starting and needs to be very wise in her career moves.
With the Monday Girlfriend following her everywhere she goes, can she build a strong enough identity outside of it?
Song Ji Hyo is not a great actress. She’s not terrible but she’s also not excellent. She’s not prolific. She’s not one of those actresses that can be given any kind of role and fit it perfectly. She has a personality that requires her to be selective about the kind of roles she will play and those roles aren’t numerous.
With the extra baggage of being most well-known as the Monday Girlfriend, things are becoming more difficult for her.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for the Monday Couple to lie low a bit and let Song Ji Hyo blossom on her own until enough people can see her brilliance beyond being the Monday Girlfriend and, eventually, beyond being a variety star.
Badass Moments from Song Ji Hyo
Do You Think the Monday Couple Should Lie Low or Be Stopped?
More on the Best of Running Man
Here are some other articles on the very best of the best Korean variety show of all time, Running Man:
Running Man has been on the air since 2012 and has over 200 episodes. Here are ten of my favorites that each have some special moments that set them apart from other episodes. I also have links to the full episodes.
While the Running Man cast always goes crazy for pretty female guests, usually the funniest episodes are when they have a guest they can mess around with and treat like an equal. Here are some of the best female guests that have been on the show and given the cast a run for their money.
The best part about watching Running Man is seeing the cast interact in funny ways with the guests and watching relationships develop. Some of my favorite episodes have been with guests that either have a history with the cast outside the show or have been on the show multiple times. The shared history makes for a lot of very funny moments.