TV Personality Retiring After 34-Year Hosting Run

The South Korean television host Song Hae has asked to step down as host of the Korean Broadcasting System's (KBS) National Singing Contest after 34 years, the broadcaster said. 

"Song Hae revealed that he wanted to leave National Singing Contest, a KBS staff member told Korea JoongAng Daily. "We are discussing our plans for the future and will release an official statement soon."

Song cited his health as the reason for wanting to leave the show, which worsened after he contracted Covid-19 in March." He said that he was no longer confident hosting the show and that time has come for him to step down," said the staff member.  

On May 18, a KBS official announced that Song was considering retiring from the show. As the longest-running presenter of the local television program, the 95-year-old told the National Singing Contest's production team, "now is a good time to leave the show due to health issues," the official told The Korea Herald. However, at the time, the broadcaster did not confirm 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. "We're in discussions with Song about his possible departure and a potential replacement."

Furthermore, the official stated that the program staff would respect the veteran host's opinion and comply in full with his decisions. An upcoming recording is scheduled for early this month, the official noted.

As a result of the pandemic, the National Singing Contest, held at outdoor venues all over the country and with thousands of spectators watching residents take part, ceased touring the country in March 2020. Rather than new episodes, previous episodes have aired reedited.

In recent months, Song experienced health issues; he took a break from hosting the show in March when he tested positive for COVID-19 and another in January for different health problems. An unnamed illness forced him to be hospitalized in May, but he wasn't in a "critical condition," according to the KBS official.

Song is one of Korea's oldest active celebrities. The nonagenarian was born in 1927 and made his showbiz debut in 1955. National Singing Contest launched in November 1980, and he became the program's host in 1988. He has worked as a comedian, actor, and radio show host throughout his decades-long career.

On May 24, Guinness World Records recognized Song as the oldest TV music talent show host at 94 years and 350 days, reported The Chosunilbo. The veteran entertainer credited all his fans who supported the show for many years for the record, which was confirmed as of April 12. Last year, Song's life was made into a movie, Song Hae 1927.