Song Hae, a popular South Korean TV host who served as the warm-hearted emcee of a nationally televised singing competition for decades, has died at the age of 95.
According to the Seoul National University Hospital, he died on Wednesday at his residence in Seoul, South Korea’s capital. The reason for death was not disclosed by hospital officials.
Song had indicated a wish to depart KBS TV’s “National Singing Contest,” the weekly show he emceed for more than three decades, in recent media appearances, complaining about a poor recovery from COVID-19 after being diagnosed with the condition in March.
As new sessions for the show began last week, KBS was reportedly trying to persuade Song to stay. Because of pandemic limitations that banned big gatherings, the program has primarily depended on replays since early 2020.
Song, who was born in 1927 in what is now the North Korean town of Jaeryong, was one of the millions of North Korean refugees who fled to the South during the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953.
He began his career in the entertainment industry as a singer in the late 1950s, but it was as a comedian that he broke through. As a cuddly personality who peppered visitors with wisecracks and quips, he became a staple on TV and radio shows.
Since 1988, Song has hosted the “National Singing Contest.” The show, which airs on Sundays at noon, travels across the country to cities and villages where amateur singing competitions are held.
Song’s long tenure on the show solidified his reputation as a television legend. In the heart of Seoul, he has a street named after him, and in the southern city of Daegu, there is a “Song Hae Park.”
Song leaves behind two daughters. The Seoul National University Hospital has put up a grieving hall for Song, who will be buried on Friday after a three-day funeral procession.