After the passing of veteran emcee Song Hae in June, those who grew up watching KBS’ music show “National Singing Contest” has been mired in sorrow. At the same time, all eyes were on who will continue the legacy of the 42-year-old program.
Many veteran emcees with careers spanning over 30 years were mentioned as Song’s possible successor, but the Korean broadcaster announced last month that comedian Kim Shin-young, 38, was chosen as the longest-running program’s new host in 34 years.
"National Singing Contest” is an outdoor singing competition of residents in different regions, hosted by Song every week since 1988. With the new episode helmed by Kim set to air on Oct. 16, the recording took place at Misa Boat Race Park, in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, on Saturday afternoon.
Thousands of Hanam residents and special guest singers’ fans flocked to the venue, while 12 contestants participated in the contest. Veteran folk music singer Yang Hee-eun took the opening stage, singing “Good Life.”
She introduced herself as the “singer with a 52-year music career who appears in the ‘National Singing Contest’ for the first time.” When the accompaniment of “Let's go to Happy Land” came out, Kim appeared onstage and performed with the veteran singer.
As the program’s signature xylophone sounds signaled the contest’s official opening, the 38-year-old presenter, who was decked out in a black tuxedo and white shirt, belted out "National!" followed by the audience's "Singing Contest!" in response.
Kim called herself the “Sunday’s youngest daughter,” while Song used to be dubbed “Sunday’s Man.” Before making a deep bow to the audience, she said, “Like a blossoming child, please look after me.”
The comedian and the program’s host brightened up the mood by dancing and jumping for joy during the contestants’ performance. With witty words and comical gestures, she mingled with the contestants and evoked the audience’s mirth like a veteran host.
Other interesting moments in the recording were big-name celebrities’ participation as contestants, including comedian Song Eun-yi, actor Lee Kye-in and singer Navi, to show their support for Kim. Trot singer Park Hyun-bin, girl group Brave Girls and singer Ailee were the special guest performers of the day, and mayor Lee Hyun-jae of Hanam also attended the event.
In a press conference held on the same day ahead of the recording, Kim shared her thoughts on hosting the music show. “It is a great honor to become a presenter for the program. I’ll do my best to host the show until the end of my life,” she said.
“I was once a contestant of the ‘National Singing Contest’ when I was 5, although my dad and I failed to pass the preliminary. The program means a lot to me,” she said. “In my 20 years into the entertainment career, it was my very first time being nominated for such a prestigious program’s emcee role. I was just so grateful.”
Cho Hyun-a, director of entertainment at KBS, said picking the late veteran host’s successor was a “big task” for the broadcaster as a whole. Kim was tapped to lead the program because of her 12 years' experience as a radio DJ and a comedian who can laugh and cry with the audience, she explained. “We’ll blow a fresh breeze into the program with Kim Shin-young,” she added.
“National Singing Contest” has opened a new chapter with a new host, but it will keep the same format, as well as band members, to keep the tradition that Song had created over the decades, according to the program’s chief producer Kim Sang-mi.
“We wanted to make sure that we don’t disgrace Song Hae. Kim will surely lead the program well in her style, but sudden changes will hardly be made. Please look forward to Kim Shin-young’s ‘National Singing Contest,’ where she will harmonize with the audience across the country,” she said.
Calling the “National Singing Contest” the 42-year-old tree with growth rings, the 38-year-old comedian asked for time to fully fill up the late veteran host’s vacancy. “I’ve had many worries, but I’ll be humble to learn new things. Like a long-lived turtle, I’ll travel across the country slowly for a long time, so please give a lot of warm support like you’re taking care of your youngest daughter.”
Debuting in 2003, Kim, has appeared in numerous comedy and entertainment programs. She has hosted a radio program on MBC, "Kim Shin-young's Noon Song of Hope," every day since 2012.
She has also advanced into the K-pop scene as a member of girl group Celeb Five, comprised of four veteran comedians, and through an alter ego named "second aunt Kim DaVi." Kim also showed her great acting ability by recently appearing in veteran director Park Chan-wook's Cannes-winning film, "Decision to Leave."