Oh Eun-young tries her hand at controversial comeback with 'Dr. Oh's Game'

Scenes from the teaser video for "Dr. Oh's Game" [ENA]

Oh Eun-young, the renowned child psychiatrist and television personality, is attempting a controversial return to the small screen through her new reality television program "Dr. Oh's Game."

Unmistakably modeled after the hit Netfix series "Squid Game" (2021) — with children dressed in track suits competing on a playground and the hosts of the show monitoring their every movement, "Dr. Oh's Game" says it aims to “teach parents how to play with their children in a way that builds character and aids in the development of the children.”

But doubts are abounding as to whether Oh can pull off hosting her latest show after the recent controversy surrounding an episode of "Oh Eun-young's Report: Marriage Hell” that aired last year.

The MBC reality show “Oh Eun-young’s Report: Marriage Hell” took a two-week break last month after an outpour of viewer outrage over an episode in which a stepfather makes inappropriate physical contact with a 7-year-old girl. Though the stepdaughter vocally protested against his physical advances, Oh and the show’s hosts were seen trying to defend the stepfather. The show was accused of allowing a child to be sexually harassed and then airing that openly on television.

An apology released by the producers of "Oh Eun-young's Report: Marriage Hell" after the controversy of an episode where a stepfather made physical contact with a seven-year-old girl. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Oh herself faced backlash for making comments during the episode in question, appearing to play down the stepfather's actions. Previously, Oh had been praised as an expert in child psychiatry and was a popular host on child and marriage counseling shows.

The new show, airing on channel ENA, a revamped version of Sky Channel in Korea, is an apparent attempt to amend Oh’s past mistakes and skyrocket her back into the good graces of viewers.

Whether or not Oh really can pull off hosting another show on child psychiatry after the heavy public backlash is the big question.

During the online press conference for “Dr. Oh’s Game” on Jan. 18, Oh and fellow hosts Shin Dong-yup and Lee Min-jung did not address the controversy surrounding “Marriage Hell” and focused instead on introducing the new reality show.

“I hope the world can be a place where our children can play freely, well and together with parents,” said Oh. “The answer to the question of how children can play healthily is in the hands of the parents. In the past, play was seen as something unproductive and useless in children’s education, but playing and hanging out well is a central element for their development.”

Main poster for ″Dr. Oh's Game″ [ENA]

Oh went on to say that children need active stimulation and support from their parents for their psychological development and well-being, adding that the 100 children gathered on the playing field in “Dr. Oh’s Game” was a “magnificent sight.”

“It was incredible to see so many children gathered in one place after the pandemic,” said Oh. “We are placing them on a pentagon-shaped field for them to play together, because a pentagon represents the five developmental categories of children.”

Hosts Shin and Lee, both well-known celebrities in Korea, said that they jumped at the chance to take part in “Dr. Oh’s Game” because they wanted to seize the opportunity to work with Oh.

“I did not hesitate to say yes to this program since it’s Dr. Oh,” said Shin. Lee also said that she joined the program because, as a mother of an 8-year-old child, she wanted to “learn from the best.”

“I hope that parents and children alike will learn the best ways in which they can play together from our show,” Oh continued during the press conference. “'Dr. Oh’s Game' will teach viewers the right way to play with and how to aid in the development of our beloved children.”

Following the controversy of “Marriage Hell,” Oh issued a statement on Dec. 23 last year saying that the episode that sparked the backlash had “failed to reflect the full scope of [her] comments due to heavy editing” and that she does not condone any physical touch by an adult against a child’s will.

“Marriage Hell” received over 3,600 viewer complaints according to data from the Korea Communications Standard Commission as of last month.