‘Physical: 100’, the Reality Show that is Better than ‘Squid Game’

Physical: 100 exploded in popularity around the world, proving once again that brutal gamesmanship needs no translation. Dominating Netflix’s Global Top Ten in 78 different countries, the number of fans kept growing as 100 competitors winnowed down to a single winner. We won’t spoil the ending but the drama and cut-throat tournament “to find the most perfect physique” captivated over 45 million viewers each week.

Physical: 100 is an extreme survival game entertainment in which 100 contestants are out to prove they are the strongest people in Korea, physically and mentally. The contestants are made up of special forces soldiers, body builders, professional athletes and fitness influences among others including a car salesman who seems to be the strongest of them all. 

No one dies but fans compare the series more often to “Squid Game” than “American Ninja Warrior”. As the fierce competition continued to heat up, the show’s viewership kept growing as fans eagerly watched to see who would be the last one standing.

Since premiering on January 24th, the show released two episodes weekly and there are nine episodes in total, with the thrilling finale airing on Feb. 21. The sole winner received 300 million won (about $250,000 USD).

Squid Game meets Gladiator

Physical: 100 presents the new possibilities of K-entertainment. It is the first time since Single’s Inferno that a Korean reality program has received a huge world-wide reception, not only from Asian countries but also from Western countries such as the US, UK, Europe, and South America.

Non-English-speaking shows often find difficulty reaching global success due to cultural differences. But twice in its series run, Physical 100 became Netflix’s Number One Global (non-English-speaking) Show.

Physical: 100

Physical: 100 minimizes the background explanation and focuses on the gripping competition that boasts fair but ruthless rules. The simplicity of the games require little translation or explanation. The flow of the series is reminiscent of Squid Game but the process of winning or losing only with “physical ability” provides a raw kind of entertainment that is seldom seen.

The competition to survive is fierce, but after the victory or defeat is decided, the opponents show respect to each other and each episode is loaded with emotion from the camaraderie and sportsmanship.

One Physical: 100 showcased 20 competitors who survived the challenge to pull a 1.5-ton boat, a feat that tested the limits of human strength.

Watching both winners and losers honor their opponents is a refreshing aspect of Physical: 100 that is different from Western survival programs. Even in the finale, we see the last two competitors rallying each other on during their torturous final challenge. Physical:100 makes us realize that even in competition, we can also be colleagues and friends.

Fun Facts about Physical: 100

  • Producer Jang Ho-gi served as a member of the special forces unit during his mandatory military service.  
  • The round indoor arena, where the 100 participants gather at the beginning of the show, is inspired by the Pantheon from Ancient Rome. 

  • The producer hopes to make future seasons in other countries– developing a program that lets contestants participate from all over the world. 
  • Among the contestants was K-Pop star Sunmi’s backup dancer, Single’s Inferno Season 1 star Cha Hyun-Seung, actor Kang Han (Mr. Trot Season 2) and rapper Ovan.
  • Also featured were several professional athletes, such as Japanese mixed martial artist and 2002 Asian Games gold medal winner Choo Sung-hoon (aka. Yoshihiro Akiyama), 2018 Olympic skeleton gold medalist Yun Sung-bin (also known as the “Iron Man of South Korea”) and former Korean Navy SEAL and sniper Agent H. 

Hanyoo Park is a content creator for Best of Korea. She was born in Seoul, Korea, and currently lives and works in Manhattan. She is a mom to a middle schooler and a proud maximalist who loves everything about life.

For more articles like this please sign up for the Best of Korea newsletter!   


Welcome to Best of Korea!

Please Sign Up for Updates

We hate spam.
You can unsubscribe