It comes as no surprise that yet another Korean-made Netflix show has wiggled its way into the Global Top 10 ranks. Dark dramas Squid Game (2021), My Name (2021) and Hellbound (2021) wowed fans across the globe, paving the way for future Korean titles to make their mark on international audiences. So what comes next? Another equally dark drama or thriller? It’s nothing of the sort. It’s a dating reality show, featuring a dozen hot, young Korean singles on an island, named ‘Single’s Inferno.’
Single’s Inferno is the first Korean reality show to make the global top 10. The show’s format is reminiscent of that of Love Island, the globally popular British show that now has US and Australian versions.
Contestants must mix and mingle in order to find a match. They all work together to survive on a sweltering hot island, with basic food and limited facilities. Every so often, they are called down to the beach to compete in a challenge, where the winners will have the opportunity to take their person of choice on a special date, or even to Paradise, the luxury hotel away from Inferno. In Paradise, couples can order and eat until their heart’s content, enjoy proper shower facilities and a private room.
What are the rules of the show? As per the ‘stranded on a desert island’ theme, none of the contestants have access to the outside world. They cannot use their phones or any other communicative technology — or a clock, it seems. Furthermore, the respective age and occupation of each member is kept secret. That is, until they visit Paradise, where they are permitted to discuss with their date partner.
In the first episode, we meet the original island line up of 9 members (5 men, 4 women.)
Although Love Island has historically consisted of normal people -albeit, with a higher than average level of fitness and personal grooming- Korean viewers may recognise some of the Single’s Inferno contestants as celebrities. For instance, YouTuber and influencer Song Ji-a, and TRIPLEME member Choi Si-hun.
Keen K-Pop fans may even recognise newest member, Cha Hyun-seung as the backup dancer for big names like Sunmi and EXO.
So why is this reality show gaining so many international views? Well, many people have questioned the popularity of Love Island, while others hail it as their favourite show. Indeed, dating reality shows are certainly something you either love or you hate. Nonetheless, Single’s Inferno makes for a fascinating display of cultural differences.
While UK reality shows have no problem airing one’s dirty laundry, Koreans like to keep things PG. Despite the show’s theme of love and romance, Single’s Inferno sees separate living quarters for the girls and boys, both on the island and in Paradise. What’s more, despite over half the season’s episodes having aired already, the steamiest action viewers have seen is some hand holding.
The added secrecy of age and occupation is also a new concept for foreign viewers. Although we can assume that the island dwellers are all in their 20s and 30s, age and occupation are important factors for many prospective Korean singles. Additionally, you won’t see any swearing or fighting on this show. The show definitely shake likes to shake things up, but the contestants remain civil.
On the topic of cultural differences, Single’s Inferno has already faced backlash for comments made by the show’s male contestants, as well as the commentators. The reality show sees a running commentary and discussion between well-known Korean celebrities: actress Lee Da-hee, comedian Hong Jin-kyung and singers Kyuhyun and Hanhae.
The controversy came when the commentators, along with the contestants, admired the ‘whiteness’ and ‘paleness’ of Shin Ji-yeong’s skin. Foreigners living in Korea will know that skin tone can indeed be a measurement of beauty. However, the backlash faced by such a popular Korean show may be an eye-opener. Furthermore, it could even encourage a more welcoming society for people of colour.
What do you think of Single’s Inferno?