Born Kang Hee Gun on February 24, 1972, Gary is a rapper, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, and TV personality. He is one-half of the hip-hop duo LeeSsang and is widely known for his appearance on Running Mam as a regular cast member.
In middle achool, Gary was known by his nickname “Gae” which means “dog” in Korean. He adapted it as his stage name over other options “gaemi” (ant) or Gary.
When he was younger, Gary was more interested in dancing than rapping. He once participated in a dance competition where he won over other contestants including Jang Woo Hyuk and Moon Hee Jun, both of whom would later be part of the widely popular all-male group, H.O.T.
All three of them were scouted by Lee Sll Man and offered contracts to SM Entertainment. Gary, however, refused the offer.
In college, Gary went to Yong In University where he trained as a bodyguard. He later on became an amateur boxer for 10 years.
Gary’s musical career began in 1997 when he joined X-Teen, a hip-hop group where he met Gil, who would later become his partner in LeeSsang.
Both Gary and Gil participated in in X-Teen’s activities until their album release in 1998 before being dropped from the group. According to Gary, thy quit the group because they didn’t have the looks and talent for it.
After leaving X-Teen, Gary and Gil joined Honey Family with whom they released two albums in 1999 and 2000. When the group eventually broke up, Gary said he was partly responsible because he “started feeling like a celebrity”.
Afterwards, he, Gil, and fellow Honey Family member, Diggity, formed the Leessam Trio. The three of them released a compilation album titled “2000 Korea” in 2000, but Diggity left the group not long after. Gary and Gil then changed their group’s name to LeeSsang.
It was with LeeSsang that Gary found bigger success and a much more stable career. Since their formation in 2002, the duo has produced a total of eight albums with several hit songs.
They achieved critical success in the Korean music scene with their first few albums, but they decided to remain underground.
In 2008, while still considered an underground act with LeeSsang, Gary tried his hand at acting with a cameo appearance in the Dachimawa Lee starring Im Won Hi and Gong Hyo Jin.
The following year, the success of LeeSsang’s last three albums paved the way for their entry to the mainstream Korean music industry.
The albums “Hexagonal” (2009), “Asura Balbalta” (2011), and “Unplugged” (2012) broke numerous records with Asura Balbalta’s title track, “Turn Off the TV”, topping the Melon music chart for 25 consecutive days.
In between the production of Hexagonal and Asura Balbalta, Gary joined the cast of the new SBS variety show, Running Man, in 2010.
In January 2014, Gary made his official debut as a solo artist and released the mini album, “Mr. Gae”. Upon its release, the album was deemed unfit for broadcast and was banned by three major broadcast stations—KBS, SBS, MBC—because of its explicit content and for being “too sexually provocative”.
However, the album’s title track, “Shower Later”, grabbed the number 1 spot on 8 real-time music charts despite the ban.
Around the same time, Gary appeared in a cameo role for the tvN drama, Emergency Couple, starring his fellow Running Man member, Song Ji Hyo. It was followed by another cameo in the romantic-comedy movie, Wonderful Radio.
In May 2014, Gary and his long-time collaborator, Jung In, formed the group Jung In and Gary, and released their first collaboration, “Your Scent”. Gary wrote the lyrics of the song, while Jung In produced the music together with Duble Sidekick.
The song bagged a win on the June 7 broadcast of Music Core even without having live promotions, and was later ranked #6 by Gaon Chart on their yearend national digital ranking. Four months later, the two released their second collaboration, “Bicycle”.
In September 2015, Gary, who, by then, has co-founded LeeSsang Company, released his second solo album titled 2002.
The title track “Get Some Air” featured the vocals of Mi-woo, who is signed under Gary’s company.
Other tracks in the album also featured several hip-hop artists like Jung In, Jay Park, Kanta, Deepflow, Double K, Skull, Don Mills, Park Myung Ho, John Park, and Young Jun of the group Brown Eyed Souls.
That same year, he made another cameo appearance in the SBS drama The Girl Who Sees Smells along with his fellow Running Man members.
In 2016, Gary released the single “Lonely Night” featuring Gaek of Dynamic Duo. He worked with Running Man co-host, Song (Ji Hyo), again, this time for the single’s music video.
Gary won the top award for the January 10 broadcast of SBS’ Inkigayo for the song.
Later that year, however, producers of Running Man announced Gary’s decision to leave the show in order to focus on his music career. He finished his last filming for episode 324 of the show, but returned as a guest in episode 325.
In January 2017, he once again appeared on the show as a guest for their Member’s Week episode. Five months later, Gary returned to his activities with the “K-Pop Sensation 2017 Kang Gary Promo Tour” held in Penang, Malaysia.
On October 11, 2017, Gary dropped a surprise single titled “Concern”. It was his first musical comeback since May 2016 and is also his first release since he got married.
The song is about relaxing and keeping concerns at bay. Many also believe that the lyrics about finding solace in a significant other despite having many concerns is dedicated to Gary’s wife.
Three months after his last appearance on Running Man, Gary made headlines when, on April 5, 2017, he announced on his Instagram account that he had married his non-celebrity girlfriend.
The sudden news shocked the fans, as well as his former Running Man co-hosts, his agency, and other close acquaintances, who apparently had no idea about his marriage plans, let alone the relationship.
The news didn’t sit well with his fans, especially those of his love line with Song while he was still in Running Man. Gary had to take a social media hiatus to allow things to simmer down a bit.
In June 2017, a month and a half after his short absence, Gary returned to social media after wiping his Instagram account clean of his posts.
He has since posted a photo with the silhouette of a woman believed to be his wife.
On November 17, Gary and his wife welcomed their firstborn child. He surprised his fans by sharing a picture of his son on his Instagram account with the caption, “Gary Junior”.
On Running Man
Gary’s first and only foray in the world of variety was with SBS’ Running Man. He became part of the show as an original cast member alongside Yoo Jae Suk, Lee Kwang Soo, Song Joong Ki, Kim Jong Kook, Haha, and Ji Suk Jin with Song (Ji Hyo) joining after the first few episodes.
When he first joined the show, he was introduced as one of the “variety rookies” alongside Kwang Soo and Joong Ki because of their lack of experience in variety shows.
He was mainly involved as part of the official loveline of the program with Ji Hyo, and HaHa as his rival.
Gary is known to be the most gullible and honest member during his time in Running Man. He is sometimes shown as a clueless individual, but is also known to be the one who is always full of surprises and the “dark horse” during their missions.
This was especially noticed by loyal viewers of the show when he won the Best of the Best Match two times in a row.
Although he seems like a peace-loving guy, Gary also becomes sensitive whenever the other members call him “squid”, which is another slang for ugly. He gets particularly annoyed when HaHa does the teasing.
Gary’s official color on the show was blue and his animal was a monkey.
In 2016, however, he decided to leave the program to focus on his music career as a solo artist and as part of LeeSsang.
His last appearance on the show as a regular member was on episode 324, but he returned as a guest in January 2017 for the Member’s Week episode.
Member’s Week is a long-running project on Running Man where members are rewarded for their several years of hardwork in the program.
The members take turns in hosting a Member’s Week episode where they are given the power to choose a theme that they like.
On the January 29, 2017 broadcast, Gary was the chosen member and he decided to hold a “Best of the Best Match” in the episode.
Since he has already left the program three months prior, his appearance was kept as a surprise to the current members.
Nicknames on Running Man
During his stay on the show, Gary was known for several nicknames such as:
- Peaceful Gary
- Stress Gary
- Industrial Spy
- Straight-Going Gary
- Monday Boyfriend
- Mr. Gary
- Wild Gary
- Sudden Commander
- Random Mr. Capable
Gary with Song Ji Hyo – Monday Couple
The Monday Couple loveline was arguably the most popular relationship in Running Man among the viewers. They were called as such because Gary and Song usually show on-screen affection towards each other on Mondays, which is also the day Running Man episodes are filmed. It first started a few episodes after Song was made a regular on the show and seemed one-sided in the beginning until a couple of episodes later (episode 16 in particular) when Song quipped that on Mondays, she has a man, referring to Gary.
Gary with Song Ji Hyo and HaHa – Song Ji Hyo and the Two Kids
This group was formed when other members took notice of the love triangle forming among the Monday Couple and HaHa. It became even more obvious when the two guys started competing against each other over Song. HaHa, however, is seen as the playboy type unlike Gary who is loyal to the actress.
Gary with Song Ji Hyo and Ji Suk Jin – Father and the Monday Couple, Monday Couple and the Third Wheel
The group was created thanks to Yoo who, when the three were teamed up together for the first time, said that it was as if the Monday Couple are on a date with a father or chaperone. In a later episode, Ji acknowledged that he really felt like Gary and Song were out on a date and he was the third wheel.
Gary with Kim Jong Kook, HaHa, and Lizzy – Kim Jong Kook and the Two Kids, Kim Jong Kook and the Three Kids
The name of the group is an allusion to Seo Taiji and Boys, a popular male idol group in the 90s.
The group was formed when the members who act like little kids on the show were put on the same team with Kim Jong Kook. Gary and Haha are always afraid of Kim whenever they are grouped together.
The name later changed to “Three Kids” when former member Lizzy was added to their team.
Gary with HaHa – Ga-Ha Combination, Two Kids, Real Rivals, Squid and Octopus
Gary and HaHa’s rivalry has long existed even during the earlier episodes of the program. But it was only in episode 275 that it was confirmed because the two were seen bickering with each other a lot more than usual.
Despite their rivalry, however, they always end up being in the same team together and winning during missions.