Over the Rainbow: Korean reality show stars underwhelmed by reality of HK Insta hotspot

South Korean Park Na-rae struggling to take a photo of the famous Choi Hung Estate during a South Korean reality TV show. Screengrabs via YouTube.

If the plethora of “expectations vs. reality” memes have taught us anything, it’s that applying an Instagram filter and boosting a photo’s saturation can make just about anything look amazing.

Well, a group of Korean reality show participants learned that the hard way this week after arriving at the endlessly ‘grammed, purportedly rainbow-hued Choi Hung public housing estate, only to find the actually somewhat drab structure a far cry from the candy-colored shots they’d seen online, prompting one to ask: “Where’s the rainbow?”

The SAR’s most photogenic spots have been overrun by selfie stick-wielding hordes in recent years — often to the consternation of locals — thanks largely to a bizarre Instagram feedback loop in which devotees of the platform seek to recreate striking photos they’ve seen posted by others, with the recreations in turn being recreated by ever-widening circles of obsessive social media psychopaths users. The end result is literally dozens of people waiting in line at an otherwise anonymous apartment block, for instance, to take the same photo from the same vantage point so the background is positioned just so — which is to say, the same — for their Insta-fans.

Caught up in the madness is Choi Hung — Cantonese for “rainbow” — one of the most heavily trafficked Instagram backdrops, which often appears on the platform looking something like this:

Photo by Jimmi Ho.

The building was put on the map as a bucket list destination for Instagrammers in part by Hong Kong-based photographer Jimmi Ho, whose photo of the estate (above) won a Sony World Photography award.

Bereft of the boost from hyper-saturation that photo-editing software (and Instagram!) can provide, however, that Day-Glo riot of colors looks a bit more like this.

Photo via WikiCommons/Anson888free.
Photo via WikiCommons/Anson888free.

But that hasn’t stopped the building from being prominently featured in, among other things, K-pop music videos, including ones by the boyband Seventeen and the girl group Loona — the latter of which features more of that oh-so-misleading color correction.

All which brings us to the poor, poor cast of South Korean reality show Salty Tour, in which a group of celebrities go on a budget holiday together, with one person from the group selected each day to handle tour guide duty.

Enter Kim Jong-min, Salty Tour guide du jour and member of the K-pop/hip-hop group Koyote, who pitched the housing estate to his fellow cast members as “colorful and especially beautiful.”

Unfortunately for Kim, “colorful and especially beautiful” was not the impression that his tour group got when they arrived.

As the group climbs up the stairs, Kim’s grandiose “welcome to the Choi Hung public housing estate!” is met not with oohs, but with aggravated confusion. “Where’s the rainbow?”  “Why are we here?” “Why is everyone taking photos on the basketball court?” All fair questions, to be sure.

As Kim, in a panic, looks at his guidebook, someone else in the group muses that all those eye-popping Instagram shots must have been “taken when it was just freshly-painted.”

No, sightseer, they’re just digital lies, or, as group member and comedienne Park Na-rae aptly puts it: “It’s a con.”

Kim later explains that when he first saw the housing estate in the flesh, he too thought it looked “bland,” adding that he thought the colors would be brighter and that he was “very confused.”

Nonetheless, the group put on a brave face and made the most of it, taking a few shots of their own — with the help of some filters, of course.

The episode was first broadcast on South Korean channel tvN on March 16, and a clip from the episode of the group’s trip to Choi Hung recently appeared on online message board HKGolden, where the tourists’ disappointment was sweet, sweet nectar to Hong Kong netizens.

As one joked: “Just to be clear, Choi Hung has no rainbows, Diamond Hill has no diamonds, and Lei Yue Mun [carp gate] has no carp.”

“Fortunately for them, Disneyland station does have Disneyland,” said another.

Others questioned whether the show’s editors intentionally edited the video in post-production to make the building look more gray. Some insisted the building was definitely more colorful when they used to go to school in the area in the ’70s — proving that the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia are just as effective as any Instagram filter.


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