The best zombie stories center relatable every-people to root for in the ongoing apocalypse. Zombieverse, a new Korean unscripted TV series featuring people trying to survive a fictional zombie outbreak in Seoul, has an eclectic, mostly relatable cast of characters going for it (in addition to the truly remarkable stunt team).
Heading into this show, a Korean audience would be familiar with most if not all of these celebrity cast members, tipping the average viewer off to the fact that this is a reality show almost immediately. However, if you’re not part of the Korean audience—and you don’t regularly watch Korean variety shows—then you are probably, at least initially, at a loss.
The series begins with five celebrity hosts sitting on a couch, commenting on a fictional dating reality show mere feet away. Without warning, one of the dating show contestants starts mauling the neck of their potential love interest, sending our celebrity host characters into a mad scramble to avoid getting bitten themselves. From there, the group takes off across Seoul, encountering other Zombieverse cast members along the way.
Because this is such an odd, relatively untested concept—an unscripted series about a fictional disaster in which the contestants have to pretend they believe the zombie apocalypse is actually happening—the success of the show hinges on how interesting the cast (and their dynamics with one another) are to watch. Here’s a rundown of every cast member you will meet in Netflix’s Zombieverse, along with a breakdown of their relatability as a zombie apocalypse protag.
10. Noh Hong-chul
Noh Hong-chul is a mainstay of the Korean variety show format, known for his co-hosting duty on Talents for Sale, as well as appearances on wildly popular variety shows Infinite Challenge and I Live Alone. The 44-year-old’s biggest international claim to fame comes from his cameo in Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video, which is considered one of the first viral internet hits and also a major moment in the history of Hallyu. In the video, Noh is seen doing his trademark jeojil dance; he is seen thrusting his pelvis above Psy in an elevator. Classic.
Hong-chul definitely had his moments of relatability in Zombieverse—notable examples include when he requested green grape-flavored candy and “the sweet [cereal] with the tiger” during a supermarket dash—but, ultimately, his willingness to literally push his co-contestants into the arms of zombies made it hard to relate to the goofy reality TV star. Pop culture often depicts greed as more realistic than camaraderie, but I’m not buying it.
9. Park Na-rae
Park Na-rae is a 37-year-old Korean comedian and variety show celebrity best known for her appearances on shows like I Live Alone. In 2019, her stand-up comedy special Park Na-rae: Glamour Warning was released on Netflix. She also appeared as a guest in Netflix’s first attempt at a Korean variety show hit Busted!. She has also appeared on K-dramas like Modern Farmer, Msaengmul, and What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim.
Na-rae is probably the cast member who provides the most consistent energy throughout the series. Despite being in recovery from surgery for her torn ACL, Na-rae is always in on the action—verbally, physically. She’s not here to die, and will do whatever she has to in order to ensure her survival, even if it means pointing the finger at someone else. Ultimately, I have trouble relating to the sheer degree of Na-rae’s energy during the zombie apocalypse.
If you’re a screamer, Tsuki is probably your Zombieverse audience surrogate. The 20-year-old Japanese singer, best known as a member of MYSTIC Story girl group Billlie, is often a sweet and comforting presence on the Zombieverse team. In “Episode 1,” when the cast members are first trying to decide who will leave the relative safety of the production van to pump gas, Tsuki immediately volunteers. It’s probably best she doesn’t end up having to go on the mission. When she is outside of the car, she runs, screaming, around the gas station parking lot, immediately (and mostly unintentionally) drawing the zombies to her location. Ultimately, I cannot relate to Tsuki’s commitment to immaculate makeup in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, though I can relate to her vocal love of ramyeon.
If you’re a Single’s Inferno fan, then you may have recognized DEX as Jin-young, the former UDT soldier-heartbreaker who could have dated any of the female contestants in season 2 and, instead, ruined his chances with all of them. How much you relate to DEX, as Jin-young is called in Zombieverse, is probably directly related to how invested you were in Single’s Inferno season 2. The 28-year-old is actually pretty relatable in Zombieverse as a lowkey team player. However, as someone who is highly invested in Single’s Inferno, I cannot stop seeing DEX as the charming yet messy hunk of the second season.
6. Kwachu-hyung / Hong Seong-woo
A urologist and sex education YouTuber, Kwachu-hyung meets up with the rest of the Zombieverse cast at Star Mart supermarket, in “Episode 2.” He’s sometimes depicted as a voice authority in the group, perhaps in part because, at 49, he is the eldest of the main cast members, but also sometimes wears an animal onesie (they found it on the side of the road). I can’t relate to his ability to drive a fork-lift, but I can relate to his zombie apocalypse wardrobe choices.
5. Jonathan Thona Yiombi
Along with his sister (mentioned further down on this list), Jonathan Thona Yiombi is considered one of the most popular Congolese celebrities in the world. Jonathan and Patricia came to Korea as kids in 2008, after fleeing their home nation. Jonathan became well-known following his 2013 appearance on the uber popular documentary series Screening Humanity in 2013. The 23-year-old is now a successful YouTuber and variety show star. On Zombieverse, Jonathan is a strong, relatively low-key member of the group who also has his moments of panic. Honestly, a pretty relatable cast member.
DinDin is a 31-year-old rapper and singer who rose to fame in Korea during the second season of talent show Show Me the Money in 2013. Since then, he has released music and contributed to several OSTs. He also is a regular on the reality show circuit, with notable appearances in Dunia: Into a New World, Welcome, First Time to Korea?, and 2 Days & 1 Night.
On Zombieverse, DinDin sometimes acts a reluctant hero, carrying out a mission after the others have harangued him into it. His reluctance is highly relatable, as are his moments of exasperation. For example, when some of the contestants start swooning at DEX’s good looks in “Episode 2,” he says aloud: “We’re about to die. This isn’t a time for romance.”
3. Patricia Thona Yiombi
Patricia is Jonathan’s younger sister, and a YouTuber/reality show star in her own right. The 21-year-old doesn’t get as much to do as I would have liked in Zombieverse, but she’s a consistent team player who’s often seemingly overwhelmed by the chaos of this group. I would be too.
2. Yoo Hee-kwan
Yoo Hee-kwan is a 37-year-old baseball player who pitches for the Doosan Bears. This isn’t his first Korean reality show appearance. The southpaw previously appeared on reality shows Strongest Baseball and Sports Golden Bell.
Hee-kwan gets major relatability points for his introduction. We first meet Hee-kwan in “Episode 2,” when he is introduced as one of the shoppers caught unawares by the zombie apocalypse while perusing the aisles at Star Mart. As an intro, the following caption flashes across the screen: “YOO HEE-KWAN, FORMER BASEBALL PLAYER. STRANDED WHILE BUYING FRUIT FOR A FRIEND’S HOUSEWARMING PARTY.”
1. Lee Si-young
Lee Si-young is a former amateur boxer (good for fighting zombies) and current veteran actress in Korean pop culture—she played a supporting character in Boys Over Flowers, one of the foundational K-dramas of the Hallyu. Within Korea, she rose to national recognition in 2009, when she appeared on popular reality TV series We Got Married, which has celebrities pair up as fake married couples and has them complete a series of challenges. International viewers may also recognize 41-year-old Lee as Sweet Home’s Seo Yi-kyung, a former firefighter and expert martial artist with trust issues.
Within the world of Zombieverse, Si-young is often portrayed as the level-headed one, but her tendency to break down into laughter at moments, presumably at the glorious absurdity of this reality show situation, made her the most relatable of the bunch. When she is voted to be the leader of the group, she politely declines, instead recommending herself for the role of “subleader.” My queen. Finally, her ongoing difficulty remembering her castmates’ names is probably the funniest, most relatable joke of the entire show.
All eight episodes of Zombieverse are available to stream on Netflix now.