Netflix’s popular survival show “Physical: 100” is facing allegations of having rigged its final challenge.
The show topped the charts as the world’s most-watched non-English language show for two consecutive weeks after its initial release on the streaming giant’s platform in late January and has been likened as the real-life “Squid Game,” inciting some to wonder whether reality programs are the next big South Korean cultural trend.
The finale, which aired on Feb. 21, saw CrossFit athlete Woo Jin-yong crowned as winner of the show and the coveted 300 million won (approximately $230,000) cash prize.
Accusations of a rigged finale have circulated since the finale’s release last Tuesday.
The show’s final challenge consisted of a rope-pulling showdown between two remaining contestants: Woo and Olympic cyclist Jung Hae-min.
In a post uploaded to the forum Fomos the following day, one netizen was quick to point out a perceived discrepancy in rope tension between the finalists. The post also speculated on the relationship between Jung and Woo based on their Instagram activity — Woo does not follow Jung and has not tagged him in any group photos, and Jung has not uploaded any posts related to the show.
The show’s producer, Jang Ho-gi, appeared to address the rumors surrounding the finale in an Instagram post on Tuesday, saying, “A lie can become famous but it can never become the truth.”
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The producer’s comment prompted Jung to address the matter in an interview with South Korean news outlet Ilyo published on Tuesday.
Jung previously declined to make any comments and said that he was planning to remain silent until he saw the production team’s statement over the weekend claiming that there had been no rematch during the final and after reading Jang’s post.
“From my point of view, I wanted to talk about what is false and what is true,” he said.
Jung went on to explain that he was initially winning during the final challenge, with Woo trailing far behind. The challenge was then interrupted when Woo claimed that there was too much noise coming from his equipment. The production crew found no problems but stopped the match to oil the machines and lower the rope’s tension.
The competition resumed and just as Jung was about to win, the production team suspended the game again.
In the moment when I thought to myself, “It’s really over now,” the production staff said they would stop the match. I could see the end right in front of me so even though they were trying to halt the match again I kept pulling [the rope] thinking I should finish the challenge first. But the production team appeared and shouted to stop the game.
According to Jung, the production crew claimed that there were issues with the audio and said that they should move to a different location.
At the time, Jung did not feel comfortable moving but was told that the production staff would cut the rope to account for the gap between the two contestants before resuming the match.
Although he continued to refuse these conditions, Jung said he eventually felt pressured to follow along with the production’s plans.
I told them multiple times that I had used up all my energy and can’t do it again. The production staff said that I could take more breaks or that we could do it again tomorrow. They said that they would listen to everything I wanted. But I couldn’t bear having to make hundreds of people come back again the next day. In the end, I told them that I would play again.
After agreeing to continue the match, Jung was told to take a snack break. He claimed that when he returned to the set, his rope was wrapped around the pulley like it was when the match first began. “They said they would cut the rope by as much as I was winning, but I don’t know if they did.”
Jung emphasized that he is not seeking first place, a rematch or the prize money, nor does he want to blame Woo.
The Olympian stated that all he has wanted from the start is for the production team to portray the competition as it actually played out. “As an athlete, it’s hard to accept looking as if I just lost in vain without the circumstances,” he said.
Allegations of the rigged results are not the only controversies surrounding “Physical: 100.”
A netizen recently accused female contestant Kim Da-young of bullying her in middle school — Kim later admitted that the allegations were true and issued an apology. Two male contestants are also facing accusations of dating violence.
Netflix canceled an upcoming press conference for the show amid the allegations and said it will be looking into the matter.