SEOUL — Music Hae, who fled North Korea as a tender guy all through the Korean Struggle, changed into a cherished tv character in South Korea and was once known by means of the Guinness International Data as the world’s “oldest TV music talent show host,” died at his domestic in Seoul on Wednesday. He was once 95.
His demise was once showed by means of Lee Gi-nam, the manufacturer of a 2020 documentary on Mr. Music’s existence, which charted a tumultuous direction that mirrored South Korea’s fashionable historical past via warfare, department, abject poverty and a meteoric upward thrust. No explanation for demise was once given.
A jovial Everyman determine identified for his cheeky grin and folksy wisecracks, Mr. Music changed into a family title in South Korea when he took over in 1988 because the host of the weekly “Nationwide Making a song Contest,” a town-by-town pageant that combines down-home musical ability, farcical costumes, poignant existence tales and comedic episodes.
His ability display, which he introduced along with his booming voice piped into families in South Korea each Sunday, ran for greater than 3 a long time. Mr. Music traveled to each nook of South Korea and to the Korean diaspora in puts like Japan and China, or even to Paraguay, Los Angeles and Long Island, N.Y. He persevered as host till the display went on hiatus all through the coronavirus pandemic, and formally remained at its helm on the time of his demise.
Whilst the display was once on grasp, his well being gave the impression to go to pot with out his weekly outlet, in keeping with Jero Yun, director of the documentary, “Song Hae 1927.”
“It was once, in many ways, the motive force of his existence, assembly other folks from all walks of existence via this system and exchanging existence tales,” Mr. Yun mentioned. “Other folks would all the time acknowledge him, crowd round him and need to communicate to him.” Relating to the Ok-pop megagroup, Mr. Yun added, “He would possibly as neatly were BTS.”
Mr. Music was once posthumously awarded a presidential medal for his contributions to South Korea’s tradition, the president’s workplace introduced on Wednesday. He was once entered into Guinness International Data in April.
Mr. Music was once born Music Bok-hee on April 27, 1927, underneath Jap career in what’s now Hwanghae Province in North Korea. His father was once an innkeeper. A couple of months after the Korean Struggle broke out in 1950, he left his domestic at 23 to keep away from being drafted to battle for the North, and made his approach south. He in the end boarded a U.N. tank touchdown send, no longer figuring out the place it was once headed. Staring out on the water, he would later say, he renamed himself Hae, for the nature that means sea.
He left at the back of his mom and a more youthful sister in North Korea, and neatly into his 90s, any point out of them would cut back him to tears.
After the send took him to the South Korean town of Busan, at the peninsula’s southern coast, he served as a signalman within the South’s military. He had mentioned in interviews that he was once probably the most squaddies who tapped out the Morse code in July 1953 transmitting the message that there was once a cease-fire halting the warfare.
After his discharge from the military, he peddled tofu in impoverished postwar South Korea prior to becoming a member of a touring musical theater troupe, through which he sang and carried out in selection displays. He in the end changed into a radio host, anchoring a site visitors call-in display that catered to cab and bus drivers. It aired an occasional section through which the drivers would dial in for a sing-off.
In 1952, Mr. Music married Suk Adequate-ee, the sister of a fellow soldier he had served with within the warfare, they usually had 3 kids. After 63 years of marriage, Mr. Music and his spouse held the marriage rite they by no means had, having at the start married within the poverty and turmoil in their early life. She died in 2018.
He’s survived by means of two daughters, two granddaughters and a grandson. In 1986, his 21-year-old son was once killed in a bike coincidence, and Mr. Music may just no longer undergo to proceed operating on his radio site visitors display. Round the similar time, he was once tapped to host the making a song contest for the nationwide broadcaster, KBS.
With Mr. Music at its heart, the display briefly changed into a countrywide hobby, specifically amongst older citizens and the ones in rural communities — teams that this system spotlighted and that have been seldom observed on tv.
Grandmothers break-danced and rapped; grandfathers crooned sexy K-pop numbers. Numerous small children charmed the host onstage, a few of whom went directly to turn out to be stars. As soon as, a beekeeper covered in bees performed the harmonica whilst a panicked Mr. Music cried out, “There’s one in my pants!”
Mr. Music by no means fulfilled his lifelong dream of revisiting his place of origin in North Korea, however as a result of his display, he got here tantalizingly shut.
In 2003, all through a period of détente between the Koreas, the display filmed an episode within the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. The songs have been in moderation screened by means of the North’s censors to incorporate handiest propagandist ones, and the ambience was once so worrying that Mr. Music by no means broached the potential for visiting his place of origin, Chaeryong, although it was once simply 50 miles south of the capital, he mentioned in interviews.
At one level all through the commute, he recalled, he were given under the influence of alcohol along with his North Korean minder, who informed him that he wouldn’t acknowledge his place of origin anyway as a result of the whole thing had modified within the intervening 5 a long time and most people had moved away.
In a 2015 biography of Mr. Music, Oh Min-seok, a poet and professor of English literature, wrote: “As a refugee who fled south all through the Korean Struggle, there’s a loneliness this is wedged in his middle like a knot. He has no drawback connecting with any person, from a 3-year-old to a 115-year-old, from a rustic lady to a school professor, from a shopkeeper to a C.E.O. That’s as a result of inside of, he’s all the time pining for other folks.”
In South Korea, the display’s contestants and adoring fanatics changed into his circle of relatives. Girls — together with the display’s oldest contestant, a 115-year-old — took to calling him “oppa,” or older brother, Mr. Music later recalled.
“Who else on the planet can declare to have as many more youthful sisters as I do?” he mentioned. “I’m satisfied as a result of the individuals who spice up me, applaud me, convenience me.”