[BEHIND TALK] Extreme Cave Exploration with Park Hang-seo, Ahn Jung-hwan, Choo Sung-hoon, Kim Nam-il, and Kim Dong-jun!

11월. 29. 2023

The Adventure Squad: Son Doong Cave is Korea’s first travel program to explore a cave dating back three million years. Let’s hear the stories behind the scenes from the well-traveled producers Hwang Da-won and Jeon Min-young, renowned for their expertise in crafting "extreme variety shows." 


Korea’s First Cave Adventure Variety Show



Q. How did you come to visit Son Doong Cave?

Producer Hwang Da-won: I've always had a passion for explorations and jungles, so naturally, I ended up producing such shows. After completing my last project, I felt burned out and had no desire to go anywhere. While resting at home, I stumbled upon Son Doong Cave and felt an overwhelming urge to explore it. 


Producer Jeon Min-young: One day at work, I was tasked with a cave show. Obviously, I thought it would take place in Korea. But after talking to Da-won, I realized we were heading to the world's largest cave in Vietnam. I was even more surprised to learn that it required special permission and had a visitor limit. (Laugh)



Q. What challenges did you face while preparing for the shoot?

Producer Hwang Da-won: Access to Son Doong Cave is not permitted to everyone. You have to obtain permission via email in advance. Only those who passed a detailed screening process regarding health, exercise routines, and medications can enter the cave. 


Producer Jeon Min-young: We even had to submit a photo of ourselves exercising. I was a bit stumped because I'm not a fan of working out. Thankfully, I had a photo from a recent hike to Chiaksan Mountain, so I submitted that and barely passed the screening.


Producer Hwang Da-won: In Korea, no cave poses life-threatening dangers, so when we decided to explore Son Doong Cave, the staff were quite anxious about the cave and the wellness of the cast.


Producer Jeon Min-young: Given the challenging nature of the Son Doong Cave, it's tough even for those in their thirties, so we were concerned for Coach Park Hang-seo, the oldest member of our team. Yet, at 64, his determination and endurance were remarkable.



The Shooting was as Challenging as the Preparation


Q. The preparation must have been difficult. Was the filming process just as challenging? 

Producer Hwang Da-won: On the bus ride to the cave, our phones lost all signal. Unlike other places where you get some signals from time to time, there was absolutely none. 


Producer Jeon Min-young: I didn't mind not being able to contact anyone personally, but it was tough not being able to coordinate with the crew about their locations and the footage they captured.


Producer Hwang Da-won: Because we couldn't communicate, we relied on notes left by the advance team detailing what they had filmed — a method that was unexpectedly humorous.


Producer Jeon Min-young: You might expect the bus heading to the cave would drop you right at the entrance, but there was a limit to where the bus could travel, so we ended up disembarking in the middle of an unpaved road. It took us about four to five hours of trekking along that path to reach the cave. For me, the jungle trek was actually more difficult than the cave exploration.


Producer Hwang Da-won: We were concerned that the cast might become too exhausted to talk due to the heat and fatigue, expecting them to be less talkative. However, they never stopped talking and joking. Their continuous chatter that didn't even give a chance for the audio equipment to rest brought smiles to the production staff as well.



Overcoming Hardships Through Teamwork  

Q. The cast seemed to have great chemistry; how was it with the staff? 

Producer Jeon Min-young: Entry to Son Doong Cave is limited to 1,000 visitors annually, so our team, including the staff, was capped at ten. Normally, such restrictions would lead to a shoot cancellation. However, our comprehensive and meticulous site survey paid off, as we were familiar with the key areas, allowing us to carry on with the shooting. And as a result, it solidified our teamwork even more. 


Producer Hwang Da-won: Our team was incredible. People took on multiple roles; the lighting director would handle the camera, and the camera director would cover for the grip. Not only the staff, but the cast also lent a hand and helped out. The challenges we faced bonded us and showcased our exceptional teamwork. (Laugh)



Producer Jeon Min-young: Da-won, don't you have another episode to share? 


Producer Hwang Da-won: Inside the cave is a natural underground pool where we all swam. After swimming, I realized my luggage hadn't arrived, leaving me without a change of clothes. When I was in trouble, Ahn Jung-hwan generously offered me a shirt, which I've treasured even after the program ended.



Why Son Doong Cave despite everything?


Q. Any final message for the viewers who are curious about Son Doong Cave?

Producer Jeon Min-young: Cave might evoke images of dark, confined spaces, but Son Doong is different. It has a collapsed ceiling forming a circular hole that lets in light, creating an indoor jungle with vibrant green grass and blooming flowers among the rocks. This unique landscape is unforgettable. 


▲The exhausted members after the completion of the cave exploration (Left) and the entrance to Son Doong Cave (Right)


Producer Hwang Da-won: I've traveled extensively, yet I've never encountered a landscape like Son Doong Cave. It presents nature untouched by humanity, reminiscent of the era when dinosaurs roamed. The plants there are shrouded in mystery, grander than what can be captured on camera. For those who are intrigued by exploration, I truly recommend visiting.


The Adventure Squad: Son Doong Cave is Korea's first program to explore Son Doong Cave, and it brings the grandeur of nature through jungle trekking and mythical cave exploration. We hope it captures your heart!




BEHIND TALK was produced based on CJ ENM YouTube channel's More and More Fun.

Some photos and images used in this content were taken from tvn_joy's Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).