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Song Hae, veteran presenter of ‘National Singing Contest,’ mulls retirement from show

Veteran television presenter Song Hae (KBS)
Veteran television presenter Song Hae (KBS)
Veteran television presenter Song Hae is considering stepping down as the host of KBS’ “National Singing Contest” after 34 years, following reports of his latest hospitalization for an unspecified illness, a KBS official said Wednesday.

The 95-year-old, the longest-running presenter of a local television program, told the show’s production team that “now is a good time to leave the show due to health issues,” according to the official. The broadcaster however stopped short of confirming the veteran emcee’s departure.

“It is true that (Song Hae) has expressed his intention to leave the show. But he has not discussed details about his plan,” a KBS official told The Korea Herald on Wednesday. “We’re in discussions with Song about his possible departure and a potential replacement.”

The official further mentioned that the program staff will respect the veteran host’s opinion and plans to fully comply with his decision. The next recording is scheduled for sometime early next month, the official added.

The “National Singing Contest,” which was held at outdoor venues throughout the country with thousands of residents getting together to watch their neighbors take part in a singing contest, halted touring the country in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Instead, reedited clips from previous episodes have been aired.

An industry official, who is familiar with the issue, also said that Song is wavering over whether to continue.

“Song has a deep affection for the program. Instead of leaving the show, he and the staff may discuss ways to keep him as the host by doing outdoor and indoor shootings,” the source said. Outdoor filming often requires long-distance traveling which can take a physical toll on production staff.

Song has suffered from health problems in recent months. He took a break from hosting the show in March when he tested positive for COVID-19, after another break in January for different health issues. Recently, he was admitted to a hospital with an undisclosed illness but was not in a “critical condition,” according to the KBS official.

Song is one of Korea’s oldest active celebrities. He started hosting “National Singing Contest” in 1988, while the show aired its first episode in November 1980. In his decadeslong his career, he has worked as a comedian, actor and radio show host as well.

In an effort to honor Song’s achievements, KBS is seeking confirmation from the Guinness World Record for being the world’s oldest television music talent show host. In January, the public broadcaster also aired a special trot musical titled, “Thank You, Song Hae” which recounted the veteran entertainer’s life. Song’s life was made into a movie, “Song Hae 1927,” last year.

By Jie Ye-eun (
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Korea Herald daum