Song Hae, host of South Korean TV music show known as ‘Nation’s Emcee’, dies at 95

Song Hae, the beloved South Korean music TV host and veteran, died Wednesday at his home in Seoul’s Gangnam district at the age of 95.

Song has been hospitalized twice this year for unspecified reasons, most recently in May, and tested positive for COVID-19 in March. He previously expressed his intention to step down as host of KBS’s “National Singing Contest” due to deteriorating health.

The deceased veteran artist was widely known in South Korea as the “animator of the nation”. He was the host of the “National Singing Contest” for 34 years, earning him a Guinness World Record in April for being the oldest host of television music shows.

Born during the Japanese occupation of Hwanghae Province in what is now North Korea, he was once known as Song Bok-hee until he escaped to South Korea on a UN ship with the new name “Hae”, which means “sea” in Korean. Song returned to North Korea in 2003 to hold the “Pyongyang Song Contest”, but was never able to find his mother or sister who stayed behind.

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Throughout her career, Song has advocated for diversity in South Korea’s homogenous society and often featured people from different backgrounds on her show. He has often pushed for the inclusion of contestants with disabilities and expressed his support for the LGBTQ community despite the conservative nature of the country.

On “National Singing Contest”, Song was known to have an empathetic and friendly personality that brought comfort and ease to contestants as young as three years old and as old as 115 years old. As a veteran performer, he often played improv with contestants who put on bizarre performances, such as one where a woman practiced bottle-feeding on Song and another where a man came in covered in bees, which caused Song to sting more than 20 times.

Song also covered the culture of South Korea’s neglected and rural areas, exploring the struggles and stories of the individuals who live there.

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“Everyone I’ve met at the ‘National Singing Competition’ is the treasured fortune of my life. I don’t have much, but they say the richest people in life are those who have had the chance to meet many different people from all walks of life,” Song said in a January interview on KBS.

Song’s funeral was held at Songhae Memorialwhere attendees reminisced about their times with Song.

“He was bringing drinks to all the hairdressers for their hard work. I am heartbroken,” a hairstylist told a YTN reporter.

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“He would round up old people and people in need and take them to restaurants to eat together,” one soup restaurant owner recalled.

Song’s career and achievements have been celebrated in several movies and shows as well as various venues honoring his life, including a bronze statue of Song on a street named after him called “Songhae-gil” and a museum in Daegu. dedicated to the life of the late artist. .

Song and his wife Suk Ok-ee, who died in 2018, are survived by their two daughters.

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Image selected via KBS World Television

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