The set of the opening filming for NTV’s special show ‘The Smart Game.’
Minho was sitting in the private waiting room, waiting for his turn to film. There hadn’t been any documents to study ahead of time because everything was confidential, so Minho just spent the time looking in the mirror and checking for pimples.
“Does anyone want coffee?”
Shiwan pressed the button on the water pot. Manager Gong raised his hand and Minho shook his head. Shiwan stirred in the coffee mix and handed it over to Manager Gong as he asked,
“Manager Gong. What would be the reason for hiding this much? It feels like more of a secretive meeting than a variety show.”
“I’m not sure. It’s my first time dealing with this type of show too.”
Manager Gong turned his head and listened for movement outside. The cast, including the staff who came with them, had been asked not to move around before the briefing, so no one was able to go outside.
Minho, who was touching up his hair, said offhandedly,
“They don’t want us to network before the game.”
Shiwan looked at him curiously.
“If ten people participate in the game, only one gets disqualified. It would be easy for the majority to gang up on one person. Would you want to make someone you’re close to disqualify, Shiwan?”
Shiwan nodded his head. Manager Gong also made a face saying ‘of course.’ Minho continued looking in the mirror and focusing on his hairstyle as if he hadn’t said anything.
“Shiwan. Can you grab that for me?”
Shiwan quickly brought over the hair wax.
“Shall I do it for you? I’m learning about makeup a bit.”
“No, I’ll do it.”
After experiencing the rigors of the fashion world the week before, Minho could do a simple hair styling skillfully. He wasn’t as creative as Jay Kim but he had a better-than-average styling sense.
Minho put the wax on his hands and set his hair neatly to go with the suit. Shiwan watched with a look of admiration.
“It’s just as I heard from my makeup room sunbaenim.”
“Huh? Heard what?”
“She said you’re good at styling. That you have a good fashion sense.”
“That’s a misunderstanding.”
“Ha, you’re even modest.”
Shiwan’s expression resembled the one Manager Gong often made. Minho clicked his tongue to himself.
“Mr. Minho Kang, please come out.”
The voice of the production staffer came from outside the door. Minho stood up from his seat.
“Alright then, I’ll be back.”
Manager Gong and Shiwan energetically called “Fighting!” and cheered him on.
Minho could only shake his head to himself. It was only the opening filming and they were already stressing him. He wondered how much more the two of them would give him the ‘we believe in you’ look when it came to the main game.
Minho walked down the hallway and opened the door to the film studio. The brightly-lit set contained only a desk and chairs in front of a green background.
It felt like an interrogation somewhere.
“Mr. Minho Kang, please sit here.”
A middle-aged man with white hair and sideburns welcomed Minho. He had an I.D. around his neck identifying him as Producer Sangjoong Cheon; he was the main producer of ‘The Smart Game.’
“Long time no see, Producer.”
“It’s been a long time, Minho. Have you been well after sweeping up that award money?”
Producer Cheon smiled and held out a hand. He was also the producer of the quiz show that Minho had participated in before.
“Sweep up as much as you can here too. That’s what brings in the viewer numbers.”
“I’ll do my best sweeping.”
After they shook hands Producer Cheon quickly went over the opening filming schedule.
“There isn’t any separate filming content. Just act naturally as you follow the instructions. We’re also going to do an interview that’ll be included in the preview, so keep that in mind.”
The camera began rolling as soon as Minho sat down at the desk.
-Please look at the invitation.
A mechanical voice flowed out from somewhere. Minho fixed his gaze on the paper on top of the desk.
-Congratulations. You have been invited to ‘The Smart Game.’ In this intriguing game you will experience the extremes of human psychology.
The voice that was reading the words on the invitation felt creepy for some reason. It sounded like a tone fit for a thriller movie.
-In the pouch with the invitation you will find a basic currency called gold. The value of one gold is ten million won (about $10,000 USD). Enter ‘The Smart Game’ and obtain more gold.
Minho reached into the pouch and pulled out a gold cube the size of a dice. It felt dense.
‘This feels like real gold!’
-You must find your own survival strategy in order to become the final winner. However, keep in mind that all your choices can come back to you like boomerangs. Depending on the outcome of the game, you can become a hero or a villain in one night. And only you will be responsible for the reputation you gain.
The warning was given in a solemn voice that automatically created a tense atmosphere.
-Do you agree to participate in ‘The Smart Game’?
Minho looked at the camera which was recording his expression. This atmosphere was probably created to capture his reaction at this moment.
Reality was an ambiguous concept in the world of TV production. Youth Journal was a farming village reality show, but along with the goal of harvesting crops, the story was also composed of missions created by the production team.
But this was an unscripted show where it was unclear who would survive to the end. Minho was filled with interest rather than the general anxiety he usually felt going on a variety show.
It felt like he had an exciting tournament ahead of him.
“Shall I enjoy it~?”
Minho beamed a smile and wrote his name on the signature line at the bottom of the invitation. The camera recorded his relaxed expression.
“We’re going to do the interview now so please sit comfortably and listen.”
Producer Cheon stood next to camera and talked to Minho.
The interview began with a self introduction and ended with him expressing his determination for the program.
Minho was able to conclude the interview smoothly since he’d gotten the experience while preparing for the celebrity news interview the week before.
“You can go directly to the briefing.”
A floor director exited the studio with him and led him to the briefing location. It was a bit of a walk since it was at studio B in the next building.
The floor director began to speak, maybe feeling the atmosphere was a little awkward, and said he was a staffer on the quiz show.
“Did you know no one has passed the final stage since you, Mr. Minho?”
“That’s why Producer Cheon had you in mind to cast since the planning stages. Everyone on the production team has great expectations for you.”
From this story, it wasn’t just one or two people who were interested in him. From President Im to the producers and even stylist Shiwan who started working today, Minho thought he would be in big trouble if he got disqualified in the first round.
‘I should study until next week…..huh?’
Minho was led to a warehouse-like studio with a steel door inscribed with ‘The Smart.’ He had been expecting the briefing would be in something more like a conference room. The floor director handed Minho a name tag.
It was a digital name tag with the words [Minho Kang: 1]. It seemed the one stood for the amount of gold he had.
The floor director’s voice changed and he spoke drily to Minho, who stood with a perplexed look on his face.
“You need to wait inside until all the contestants have gathered. The lounge is stocked with tea, drinks, and snacks. We would appreciate it if you remain silent until everyone finishes their opening filming to keep things fair. And keep in mind all your movements will be recorded on camera from the moment you walk inside.”
Minho asked just in case,
“Are we starting the first round today?”
“I can not provide any more information from this point. Very well then.”
The floor director disappeared. Minho checked the recording light on the camera on one side of the steel door and understood.
The game was starting right away.
Clearly no one would be properly prepared. Minho couldn’t be certain yet whether this would be a crisis or an opportunity.
He opened the steel door and stepped in, and the unmanned cameras installed in every corner captured his face. Minho turned his eyes to the stairs and started down, then looked up in admiration as the main hall came into view.
“They decorated well.”
One wall of the vast octagonal hall was hung with an oil painting by an artist he didn’t know. It portrayed scenes of life in medieval Europe, from royals in a palace to peasants tilling fields. But this oil painting had a unique feature compared to other paintings.
Everyone in the painting was wearing a mask.
It gave him a creepy feeling but was also strangely captivating. Minho felt like this wasn’t a broadcast set but a real secret palace.
‘That’s quite the attention getter!’
Minho walked through the hall filled with admiration and feeling like a boy detective.
A corridor on either side of the main hall led to rooms of unknown purpose, and one labeled as the lounge.
Minho opened the door to the lounge.
The three people who had come before looked back at Minho. Two men and one woman. It seemed they were warned just as Minho was and didn’t talk to him. They greeted him with only their eyes.
Minho nodded his head to greet the people who would be his rivals. Then his gaze naturally went to the woman.
‘It’s not announcer Jung.’
The woman in her late 20s with the name tag ‘Hyejoo Cha’ sat drinking tea with a haughty expression. In contrast to her strong aura, the two men were just silently lingering around the table.
It seemed there wouldn’t be much to do here if he stayed, so Minho went to explore the studio.
The main hall was in the middle with a sitting area and storage room on the right. On the left side was a comfortable looking bedroom and a boiler room. It would have been a perfectly believable space if not for the automatic cameras everywhere.
Someone entered while Minho was looking around.
Jin Q came swaggering down the stairs and flinched in surprise when he saw Minho. The look on his face said ‘Why are you here?’ Minho smiled and gave him a quick wave. Jin Q seemed flustered and stared at Minho for a moment before walking into the sitting area.
‘Not being able to talk is boring.’
Minho stretched his arms and then took the coin out of his pocket.
The coin flipped in the air and fell to Minho’s palm. Neither on heads nor tails but standing on its edge. What Minho had asked was ‘Can I pass the first round?’
This was how the coin evaded questions with variable answers. Minho asked the next question without any particular inspiration.
‘Is the next person to walk in Announcer Jung?’
It was tails. Minho kept flipping the coin and found out that Seoyeon Jung would walk in last.
There wasn’t anything else to catch his attention, so Minho shook his head and followed Jin Q to the sitting room. He would eat some cookies to pass the time.
-Please gather in the main hall.
A disguised voice spread through the whole stage.
The nine people who were gathered in the sitting room walked outside. Seoyeon, coming in last, smiled as she walked down the stairs.
“I heard from the producer and he said you can talk now.”
Gracefully-attired Seoyeon attracted all the men’s gaze as she came in. She greeted each of the cast members and stopped in front of Minho.
“It’s good to see you, Mr. Minho.”
“It’s been a while.”
There was a tinge of admiration on her face as she saw Minho dressed up in a luxurious suit.
“Wow. You’re a real broadcast personality now.”
“It’s turned out that way….”
Minho was about to say that he’d gotten into broadcast work thanks to the quiz show, but he stopped. He could feel the unfriendly gaze of some of the other cast members, with him being the only one that Seoyeon recognized. And Jin Q was glaring the most.
Jin Q pushed Minho’s shoulder to jump in with a look on his face saying ‘you dare?’
“Nice to meet you, Ms. Seoyeon. I’m a fan!”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Jin Q”
Seoyeon faced Jin Q with a courteous smile. Minho stepped back slightly. It would be better to keep quiet, since there would be no benefit to exposing his personal network from the start.
Just then, the giant monitor in the middle of the hall lit up.
An edited sequence began to play, showing everyone signing their invitations at the first location.
-My goal is to not get disqualified in the first round.
It was Seoyeon’s voice. Her specs and details from her interview popped up below her face.
Minho understood it was to introduce the contestants’ information all at once, so he turned his gaze to the screen.
Seoyeon Jung. Age 27. Player with intellectual charm and extensive background.
[My name is Seoyeon Jung. I’m MCing for the news and the quiz show. I graduated from S university with a mass communications degree.]
“My goal is not to get disqualified in the first round.”
Dongmook Jang. Age 36. Unpredictable player with adaptability and boldness.
[I’m Dongmook Jang. I came to take over the game. Don’t underestimate me because I’m a comedian. I’m quicker in wits than anybody else.]
“Being good at studying won’t do the trick If you don’t have the wits. Heh heh.”
Suwon Yoon. Age 27. Expert on method acting. Player who disrupts opponents with his ever-changing performance.
[I’m Suwon Yoon. I act a bit. When I’m given a script I memorize it on the spot.]
“Is that okay? Were you surprised?”
Sangcheol Lee. Age 45. Logical player who has experienced many hardships in life.
[I’m Sangcheol Lee. I won’t ever be at a loss. Since I lost everything I can in this life through business failures.]
“It doesn’t matter if it makes me look shifty. I must return after obtaining a lot of gold. Creditors please watch and cheer me on.”
Jingyu Park. Age 24. Brash player graduated from H University with a business management degree.
[I’m Jin Q. I’m in charge of looking good. I ranked in the top 0.03% in the SAT score. Perfect perfection.]
“I have a lot of knowledge in my head~ There’s lots of places to show my skills in the game~ I’m gonna sweep up all the gold~”
Minsoo Baek. Age 50. Insightful player who penetrates the psychology of gamblers and has an unrivaled ability to calculate probabilities quickly.
[I’m a card shark.]
Habi Park. Age 43. Player of dignity refined through defending many different cases.
[I am Habi Park. Me just the way I am? Harvard law school. Elite. romantic.]
“An eloquent speaker? That’s certainly true, but for a lawyer the important thing isn’t being a smooth talker. It’s a strength of will that makes everyone accept my reasoning.”
Hyejoo Cha. Age 28. Player of great leadership skills who mastered the financial industry and will master all players.
[I am Hyejoo Cha. I received a salary of 500 million won just two years after being hired. I’m a financial consultant who plans the futures of VVIP customers through thorough data analysis.]
“The Smart has a system of obtaining gold and maintaining that gold per round. That’s my field.”
Heojun Choi. Age 35. Player who will survive until the end through calmness and relaxation.
[I’m a doctor of eastern medicine. My name is Heojun. All the professors laughed like crazy when I got accepted into eastern medicine.**]
“If the game make you burst into a fit of rage, come to me. I’ll give you acupuncture.”
Minho Kang. Age 24. Strategic player, the specialized dark horse of The Smart.
[I’m Minho Kang. I’m a professional gamer. I won 500 million won on the quiz show. The secret to winning The Smart? It depends on how well you understand that round.]
“Shall I enjoy it~?”
The screen went dark.
The eyes of the contestants gleamed as they looked around at each other.
[Round 1 of ‘The Smart Game’ will begin now.]
Heo Jun (허준, 1537?/1539 – 9 October 1615) was a court physician of the Yangcheon Heo clan during the reign of King Seonjo of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. He was appointed as a court physician at the age of 29. He wrote a number of medical texts, but his most significant achievement is Dongui Bogam (lit. “Mirror of Eastern Medicine”), which is often noted as the defining text of traditional Korean medicine. The work spread to East Asian countries like China, Japan, and Vietnam where it is still regarded as one of the classics of Oriental medicine today.