The variety show started with a simple idea by Lee Seung-gi, and was developed by the creative mind of director Na Young-Seok. New Journey to the West captivated its hardcore fans with different concepts and roles in every broadcasting season. In this article, Channel-Korea will explain all about tvN’s New Journey to the West, cast members, concept, and funny moments. So stay tuned!
About The Show
New Journey to the West is a Korean variety program aired on Naver TVCast. The program is part of the tvN Go project that supplies digital content to tvN, one of Korea’s cable channels. The program was directed by popular variety show director, Na Young-seok, who also produced 1 Night 2 Days, Grandpas Over Flowers, and Three Meals a Day. New Journey to the West is considered a 1 Night 2 Days spin-off since some of its members had participated in earlier episodes of 1 Night 2 Days, and revolved around traveling to various places. New Journey to the West started broadcasting on September 4, 2015 and currently spanned until Season 7. The program was announced on July 16th, 2015, with Na Young-seok as the chief director. It was designed for internet broadcasting rather than common public broadcasting, and marked the start of exclusive online broadcasting by a TV network. Staff and cast members started the shooting in Xian, China, from August 5th, 2015. The first season was aired from September 4th to October 2nd, 2015. Regarding the concept, director Na Young-seok said that the idea came from actor Lee Seung-gi. He suggested traveling with the other cast members and filming all their activities. The program lacks wholeness and a true pattern, but it provides new ideas and fresh content. An episode is divided into 5 short, ten-minute clips so busy Koreans can watch all the clips in a random order or pick their favorite clips. In each episode, every cast member was dressed as a certain character and travelled to foreign places on a mission to find the mystical dragon balls. They must complete a task in order to receive dragon balls. If a member successfully gathers seven dragon balls, his wish would be granted. Due to the popularity of its members and director’s previous programs, New Journey to the West was faced with high expectation. According to a survey, around 76.9% of the recipients said that they were looking forward to watching the program. The first and second episode to New Journey to the West Season 1 gained 2.70% ratings nationwide; a very respectable rating, since it wasn’t aired on public networks.
Former 2 Days & 1 Nights members, Kang Ho-dong, Lee Seung-gi, Lee Soo-geun, and Eun Ji-won were the original cast members for the show. In Season 2, Lee Seung-gi left the program and was replaced by actor Ahn Jae-hyun. From Season 1 to Season 7, the trio Kang Ho-dong, Lee Soo-geun, and Eun Ji-won remain committed to the program. New Journey to the West was inspired by the highly popular, classic Chinese novel with the similar title. All the members traveled as one of the characters in the novel. Characters from the popular Japanese comic book, Dragon Ball, were added for Season 3. All the original characters were replaced by characters from horror movies on Season 5. Based on the classic Chinese novel, Tang Sanzang’s disciples were creatures that committed evil sins in their lives. The disciples followed Tang Sanzang and guarded him to complete his mission. All of their sins would be redeemed when Tang Sanzang completed the mission. According to director Na Young-seok, there was no casting process prior to the shooting, and cast members were selected without any consideration. According to Lee Seung-gi’s comments at the start of the first episode, it appeared that Kang Ho-dong, Lee So-geun, and Eun Ji-won were selected because of their recent scandals. Eun Ji-won had faced trial for divorce, Kang Ho-dong had faced trial for tax embezzlement, and Lee Soo-geun had received a sentence for online betting. The three of them had difficulties returning to the public TV networks after their recent scandals.
Season 1 ran from September 4th to October 2nd, 2015 and was broadcasted on Naver TVCast every Friday at 10 a.m. KST. The clips were compiled into two episodes and re-broadcast on April 8th and April 15th, 2015, on tvN. Nationwide, the ratings for the first and second episodes reached 2.7%. Lee Seung-gi performed as Tang Sanzang, a Buddhist monk and the leader of his disciples. In the novel, he guides three disciples: Sun Wukong, a warrior monkey that excels in martial arts, Sha Wujing, a monk with either an immature character or genius brain, and Zhu Bajie, a pig with super strength, but low intelligence. Lee Soo-geun performed as the monkey, Sun Wukong, Kang Ho-dong performed as the pig, Zhu Bajie, and Eun Ji-won performed as the monk, Sha Wujing. Monk Lee Seung-gi and his three disciples went on a backpacking journey to Xian, China for five days and four nights in order to find seven dragon balls. During their journey, director Na Young-seok gave them assignments. According to Na Young-seok, all four cast members knew each other too well, and knew each other’s thinking only by a quick look at each other’s eyes. The best moments from Season 1 were the opening segment, when all the members awkwardly meet with each other. Kang Ho-dong was visibly uncomfortable being in an online TV network. He crept to the side, while Lee Seung-gi and Eun Ji-won communicated and talked without hesitation in front of the camera. Adult expressions, cursing, and talking about celebrities’ scandals were completely banned on public TV broadcasts, while they were acceptable at a certain level for an online TV broadcast.
For Season 2, the cast members traveled to Chengdu, China and Lijiang, Vietnam. Ahn Jae-hyun replaced Lee Seung-gi as a new cast member. Season 2 was broadcast from April 22nd to June 17th, 2016. The highest rating, at 5.01%, was achieved on the second episode. Seasons 2, 3, and 4 followed the same concept as Season 1. Cast members, with their new characters, left Korea on February 18, 2016, and traveled to China and Vietnam to find seven dragon balls. Ahn Jae-hyun, as the new member, was revealed on the second day of shooting. Fans criticized his selection as the new member since he had no experience in variety shows, his acting skill was mediocre, and he wasn’t very popular compared to multitalented actor, Lee Seung-gi. According to critics, Season 2 had a better flow and narration as compared to Season 1. However, the main character, Kang Ho-dong, didn’t improve much in terms of skill and memory. His winning attitude was lacking and he oftentimes enjoyed being the last person to complete a mission. Ahn Jae-hyun showed cast members and viewers that he was able to participate in variety shows. He used cunning tricks and fooled other members. Season 2 consisted of 9 episodes. After Season 2, two candidates for the next member, Super Junior’s Cho Kyu-hyun and Winner’s Song Min-ho, were being introduced to the viewers in Season 2.5. Season 2.5 was aired from January 5th to 6th, 2017. One of the funniest moments was the brand-matching game. Ahn Jae-hyun and Eun Ji-won were the last two people to compete for the chance to eat dinner. Director Na Young-seok played a bread commercial jingle over and over, but the two of them couldn’t answer the brand’s name. It took more than 15 wrong answers until Ahn Jae-hyun got it right.
Season 3 started with two additional members, Cho Kyu-hyun and Song Min-ho, and two new characters, Dragon Ball’s Master Roshi and Bulma. Season 3 was aired from January 8th to March 12th, 2017, and received respectable ratings, 2.83% – 3.70%. Season 3 marked the first broadcast on public a TV network. This time, the filming was done in China’s Guilin and Xiamen. Cho Kyu-hyun, the new member, woke up from his sleep and stayed on his bed. He spent a lot of time waiting to regain his consciousness. When his song was played outside of his room, he rushed to go out with his sleepy eyes, and immediately sang along. Suddenly, he became lively and energetic. When Song Min-ho’s song was played, staff expected him to come out and sing his song. To everyone’s surprise, It was Cho Kyu-hyun who came out of his room and started rapping, instead of the the owner of the song.
Season 4 started on June 13th, 2017, and lasted until August 22nd, 2017. New characters from the Dragon Ball comic, Krillin, Piccolo, and Goku were added, while the Sun Wukong, Master Roshi, and Bulma characters were replaced. In Season 4, all the members traveled to beautiful places in Vietnam. Season 5 received average ratings 4.63% nationwide.
Due to enlistment in military service, Cho Kyu-hyun temporarily left New Journey to the West. He was replaced by Block B’s P.O. Season 5 and Season 6 were filmed in three countries in succession: Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea. The theme for Season 5 was Ghost Special or Horror Special. Ahn Jae-hyun shocked cast members and production staff when he forgot Cho Kyu-hyun’s name and called him Drunkard Cho, instead. The members couldn’t believe what they were hearing, and were in total shock because Ahn Jae-hyun called his best friend Drunkard Cho on a national TV program. Ahn Jae-hyun was panicked, and he explained that it was a close friend nickname. In fact, since Cho Kyu-hyun liked alcohol, Ahn Jae-hyun bought drunkard accessories as a birthday present for him.
In Season 6, the shooting was done in Hokkaido, Japan. Episode 9 of Season 6 received the highest rating, 6.82%, compared to all the other episodes. The theme for Season 6 was Season of Harvest. P.O and Song Min-ho teamed up for the Shout in Challenge. P.O was given the task to say some words, while Song Min-ho must guess all of the words with his ears blocked with earphones. P.O was very animated when he said all the words, while Song Min-hoo looked like a helpless man, desperately trying to read P.O’s lips. Despite P.O’s intense efforts, Song Min-ho failed to guess all of the words.
Season 7 was aired from October 25, 2019, to January 3rd, 2020. Cho Kyu-hyun returned after completing his mandatory military service. After several journeys to the west, all the members returned to Korea. Season 7 was divided into 5 different concepts: Homecoming, Retro Special, Innocence Special, Global Special, and Cinema Special. In each episode, members were dressed as characters matching the concepts. The average ratings for Season 7 ranged from 6.63% to 5.45%. Cho Kyu-hyun and Eun Ji-won paired up in a Shout in Silence challenge. Cho Kyu-hyun, one of the smartest idols, managed to say the words while Eun Ji-won calmly guessed the words correctly. One of the words was easy, and it took less than 10 seconds for Eun Ji-won to answer correctly. The third one is extremely difficult. Cho Kyu-hyun had to say the word Parasite. At first, he connected the word with the popular movie Parasite. But later, he connected the word with the parasite animal, and explained the sucking process. Slowly but surely, Eun Ji-won gathered the information and guessed the word correctly. Other members were amazed by Cho Kyu-hyun’s simple description and their collaboration.
New Journey to the West Season 7 completed the airing of its last episode on January 3rd, 2020. The last episode gained average ratings 5.84%, a respectable rating for a season ending episode. The rating showed that fans and viewers want more action and fun from New Journey to the West. At the beginning of Season 7, Ahn Jae-hyun said that he temporarily resigned from the program and promised to return in the future. For upcoming episodes in Season 8, fans are waiting for better concepts and more entertaining segments. Let’s wish that director Na Young-seok can come up with better ideas and fresh concepts. That was all the information about tvN’s New Journey To The West. Don’t forget to give your thoughts in the comment section below!