On the popular South Korean game show Running Man, energetic co-host Haha is all confidence and laughs.

As his stage name suggests, he is often the joker on the show – the one who is always up to crazy antics and saying nonsensical, hilarious things.

He is nicknamed The Betrayer for constantly turning on his own teammates and sneaking around them on the game show, which has teams competing against one another in a race to complete various missions and challenges.

But do not expect the same tomfoolery from him in real life.

Haha and Skull Story 2.jpg
PHOTOS: LEAP IMS

In an e-mail interview with Life!, the 33-year-old, whose real name is Ha Dong Hoon, says that crazy guy on Running Man is just “a character”.

“It is all just a performance. If people believe that is how I really am in real life, they will definitely criticise me, and people would not like me. I trust the audience and hope they can enjoy my performance in the show.

“I personally think that I am an earnest person who thinks a lot, actually,” he says.

Running Man, which features other cast regulars including Yoo Jae Suk, Kim Jong Kook and Lee Kwang Soo, is described as “urban action variety”. It has become a massively popular show, not just in South Korea, but also across Asia.

Haha says: “I did not expect that it would become so popular everywhere. I am very surprised and also thankful for the support South-east Asian fans are giving us. The Running Man members and I will run even harder to reciprocate the love.”

Running Man fans will get to see a different side of him when he comes to town to perform his music at a showcase at Zouk on July 20.

He will be performing reggae tunes alongside South Korean reggae musician Skull, whom he collaborated with on the reggae album Busan Vacance last year.

Newer fans will likely be surprised at Haha’s association with reggae, as he is primarily known as a variety show co-host. Other than Running Man, he also hosted hit variety show Infinite Challenge (2007) and frequently made appearances on another game show, X-Man (2005-2007).

But he says he has been “in love with” reggae for years, after first coming across it during the filming of Infinite Challenge.

“I encountered reggae when I appeared on an episode of the show, and I have fallen in love with it ever since. While being an entertainer and show host are important to me, I also have goals as a singer.”

Before Busan Vacance, he had released a solo reggae album called Quan Ninomarley A.K.A. Haha Reggae Wave in 2011. That album included catchy tunes such as Rosa and Sae Song.

In a separate interview with Life!, Skull testifies just how obsessed Haha is with reggae.

Skull, whose real name is Jo Sung Jin, says: “I know it doesn’t look like it when you see him, but he is actually really into reggae.

“In fact, he is a lot crazier than me. If I have 10 items related to reggae, then he has 10 times more stuff than I do. It’s beyond your expectations, how much he loves reggae.”

In fact, Haha’s offspring will soon be feeling some of that reggae love.

Says the entertainer, who is “nervous” as he expects his first child, due in August, with his 29-year-old singer wife Byul: “I decorated the baby’s room in reggae theme.”

Running Man airs on Channel U every Sunday at 7pm, and on One (StarHub Channel 823, mioTV Channel 513) every Friday at 11.45pm.

HAHA & SKULL 1ST SINGAPORE FAN MEET
Where: Zouk, 17 Jiak Kim Street
When: July 20, 7pm
Admission: $88 and $128 from Eventclique (go to www.eventclique.com)

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on June 29, 2013. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.