Second anniversary of Songhae’s death: A national MC looking back through review of KBS’ ‘Songhae Musical’


By Younghoon Choi *

SEOUL: When I was the editor-in-chief of <Dong-A Ilbo>, I put a lot of effort into serializing the memoris of Mr. Song Hae (27 April 1927 – 8 June 2022) that are a treasure trove of stories. But it failed. This is because of the painful memory of having his son, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1988, buried in his heart.

After several rounds of persistent persuasion from me, I got a half of an approval and even appointed a reporter in charge to meet with him a couple of times for preliminary work.

However, Teacher Song called me over to drink soju and shook his head again, saying, “I can’t do this.” “If I write a memoir, I can’t help but talk about that story, but even now, I can’t cross Hannam Bridge because I think about my son… “Looking at Teacher Song’s eyes as she spoke, there was dew in his eyes. So, I also gave up on ‘Songhae Memoirs.’


However, a few months before the teacher passed away, KBS broadcasted the ‘Songhae Special Musical’. Here, it is said that Song Hae joined the music troupe at the recommendation of a friend while selling tofu at the Gukje Market in Vietnam during the Korean War.

The journey of his life, from doing odd jobs putting up propaganda posters in a musical theater company to standing on stage as an emcee and meeting his partner. Singer Shin Yu acted and sang during his childhood, from his late teens to his mid-20s, and from his late 20s to mid-30s, taking on the role of the young Song Hae until he meets his partner, gets married, and starts a family.

The musical team realistically staged the separation scene between Song Hae and his mother during the Korean War, with shells exploding and smoke rising. His real name is Song Bok-hee, and he came to Busan alone on a naval landing ship heading south during the Korean War.

It is said that he gave himself the name Songhae, which includes the character ‘sea (海)’ while looking at the horizon on the other side of the open sea from a naval ship.

There is a joke he makes every now and then: “How many seas are there in our country?” There are 4 answers to the old man’s joke. It means ‘there are four from the East Sea, West Sea, South Sea, and Songhae.’

After traveling to South Korea, he completed the Army Communications School and began his life in South Korea as a signal soldier. The doors of many refugees and their hardships were opened. While showing the scene of his separation from his mother, the song ‘Aunt in the Rain’ flows beautifully. Written by Yoo Ho and composed by Park Si-chun, it is the song that the people enjoyed so much that it was ranked among the immortal classics of Trot history.


When you were a college student or younger, you probably have memories of singing this song with your friends over a glass of carbite makgeolli. ‘I let go of my mother’s hand/ When I turned around/ Even the thistle cried/ I cried too/ The leaves of the crotch were waving/ The mountain horse The aunt who climbed over ~a~ru’s chin… ’

Mr. Song took out his handkerchief and wiped away his tears, blaming himself for his disloyalty in being forced to separate from his mother and move to South Korea alone:

“My mother, whom I have never seen even in my dreams, why would I show up to see my unfilially child? Forgive this child’s unfilially piety… “Mr. Song sings the second verse of Gomoryeong ‘… It’s so strange that I can’t forget~/ Manghyang~cho Shin~~/ It’s raining~ my aunt~/ Always… ’ At this point, he stops singing and says, “I really miss you, mother! “Please forgive the unfilially son,” she screamed… Again, “Num~ne~nya…” “She ended the song in tears. There were many people in the audience who took out handkerchiefs.

The winners of the National Singing Contest hosted by Mr. Song for 35 years shared their joys and sorrows with him in the audience with tears and applause. Teacher Song’s singing skills are comparable to those of a singer. Listening to his deliciously sung tunes makes me feel proud. A few years ago, I saw Song Hae singing a song called ‘Hometown Seoul’ on the ‘Gayo Stage’ that Kim Dong-gun has been hosting for over 20 years.

It was sung by the most popular singer of the time, Hundred Years of Snow, and OK Records released an album in 1942. It was written by Da-in Kim and composed by Bong-ryong Lee:

‘Even if I look at this snow, it’s my hometown/ It’s snow/ Even if I look at the snow, it’s always snow/ It’s pouring down without end/ In the snow/ ‘As I call home/ As I recite home’s incense/ My heart aches’ I secretly got teary-eyed as I watched him mournfully sing this sad old song that describes the hometown he left behind in the North. The sad and touching songs of displacement contained in the album titled ‘Until I Go to My Hometown’, one of Mr. Song’s 10 albums.


The deceased was a ‘talented singer’ who released the ‘Around Nineties’ series of albums (versions 1 to 6) a few years ago, as well as ‘My Life Ding Dong Dang’ and ‘Wandering Theater Company’. “The program my father always watched every Sunday lunch was ‘National Singing Contest.’”

I have seen too many people say this. “My mother prepared lunch in time for the national singing contest, and without fail, our family gathered at the table and ate while watching Teacher Song.”

The National Singing Contest started in 1980, so it was 42 years until 2022, when he passed away. Teacher Song has been in charge of hosting the show for 34 years since 1988. There were over 30,000 performers on stage at the National Singing Contest, and the audience watching the performance was well over 10 million. Teacher Song joked, “It’s not just the audience sitting in their seats, but if you include the audience watching from trees, on walls, or standing, there are more.”

After Vietnam, he lived as a displaced person, working hard to make ends meet, including selling tofu at Gukje Market. After working as a handyman, including putting up posters, at the Changgong Music Theater Company, which was introduced by a friend of a displaced person, he debuted as an emcee at the Music Theater Company.

Tae Jin-ah gave a passionate performance as an evil theater performer on the KBS program yesterday. The song wasn’t very good. Perhaps it was because of the flu or poor physical condition, but the song was embarrassing to listen to as the voice sounded muddy and cracked in the high-pitched areas.


It was thought to be Song’s actual retirement stage, and even though Tae Jin-ah was in poor condition, I wondered, ‘Did she overdo it?’ The scene where she calls her best friend Song Dae-gwan and asks him to help her with Song Hae was beautifully acted. Tae Jin-ah was not good at singing, which was her main job, but her acting, which was her main job, was the highlight.

Yeong-tak begged Tae Jin-ah for her music theater and finally Song Hae, who made her debut as an emcee for her music theater troupe, did her acting. At that time, Kim Yeon-ja came out and sang ‘Amor Party’ passionately. Many male and female winners stood up and danced enthusiastically in the audience:

‘Marriage is a choice / Dating is a must… The popular lyrics of ‘ made this song a huge hit. The touching lyrics, ‘Don’t be disappointed in yourself/ You can’t be good at everything/Better than today/You can do it tomorrow/ Life is now’… Amor fati is a phrase that contains the esprit of the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s view of fate.

The concept of “amor fati,” was first introduced by Friedrich Nietzsche. Translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate. It is a Nietzsche-style expression that eloquently describes the life attitude that humans should follow. It is love of fate.

Young host Song Hae (Young Tak) praised Trot queen Kim Yeon-ja, saying, “It was the best stage with exciting and cheerful singing.” The movie ‘Songhae 1927’, which tells the story of Mr. Song’s life, was released. A book of the same name, “Songhae 1927”, was also published. The book compiles interviews with her teachers.

Director Jae-ho Yoon and producer Ki-nam Lee conducted interviews with Mr. Song and his acquaintances and compiled them into a book. It includes interviews with comedians Bang Il-soo, Eom Young-soo, Kim Hak-rae, National Singing Contest band leader Shin Jae-dong, and the teacher’s second daughter and grandson.

His age is one year older than revolutionary Che Guevara, two years older than everyone’s lover Audrey Hepburn, two years older than Martin Luther King Jr., and eight years older than Elvis Presley, making him everyone’s older brother. In an interview on August 18, 2020, he confessed how he felt when he rose from a minor role to a supporting role and from a supporting role to a leading role.

“If you are someone who knows this job as your calling, if you stand on the same stage 100 times, you will be nervous 100 times. Even if there is only one audience, you must act with the attitude that there are 10,000 people. “The audience is different every time.”

Songhae 1927

Songhae 1927

His philosophy has been ingrained in him as he has lived as an actor and singer for nearly 60 years since he first appeared on stage as an emcee during a musical theater troupe. Teacher Song is a ‘living legend’ who has struggled, or rather enjoyed acting, with strong mental and physical strength for a long time. Mr. Song was 24 years old during the Korean War, and the book <1927 Songhae> begins with the story of his refuge from Haeju, North Korea, to Busan.

As fate would have it, he joined the Changgong Musical Troupe in South Korea through the experience he gained at North Korea’s Haeju Music School and through a friend’s introduction. I have taken the first step towards a ‘life like a stranger’.

He was a comedian and broadcaster who was more active than anyone else. He began broadcasting when he toured the country with the Changgong Musical Troupe and became an MC for <Dong-A Broadcasting>’s ‘Twenty Pass Dictionary’. Since then, he has gained popularity and attracted attention since he was the host of the traffic broadcast ‘Traveling through the Trees’ on “TBC”.

Then one day tragedy struck. ‘My son’s motorcycle accident’ made me give up on his memoir. As fate would have it, the national song boast came again to Mr. Song Hae, who was in shock due to the evil image of his son being buried in his chest. His life as a clown traveling around the country, making people laugh and cry, began again in May 1988.

Who would have known then that this show would run for nearly 40 years? It was also included in the Guinness Book of Records. This is the ‘Oldest TV Music Talent Show Host’ category.

I hoped that Mr. Song would continue to surpass 100 songs and become the MC of the National Singing Contest until his death, but on June 8, 2022, he became a star in the sky. Teacher Song Hae blames himself with tears of sorrow because he was too busy working in broadcasting all his life to look after his son’s talent as an aspiring singer.

As the daughter’s treasure that her father kept secret was revealed, the meeting between the teacher and his deceased son took place through a book. Many people said they could feel his trembling voice and overwhelming emotions as he remembered his son.

He was in his 50s when he took on the role of MC for the National Singing Contest, and to this day, he remains by our side as the longest-serving MC of ‘Sunday Man.’ He always said that his lifelong wish was to see a national singing competition in his hometown, Jaeryeong, Hwanghae Province. About 10 years ago, I saw a singing contest hosted on the stage of the Grand Theater in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. After that, before his death, he wanted to see a singing show in his hometown.


Songhae controversy and Songhae-gil

The road in Nakwon-dong from the entrance of Jongno 3-ga to the vicinity of the building where the ‘Senior Celebrity Sarangbang’ is located is ‘Songhae-ro’. In the middle of the road, there is a poem monument commemorating him called ‘Songhae’s Tanttara.’:

I like the rivers and mountains, I like the people.

A wandering path along Pungak

Youth goes in the wind

Life is like this

Who can say?

Ah! Where are you today

Sing my unclaimed song

A happy life even if you have nothing

I am, I am different

From ‘Songhae’s Tanttara’

Dalseong-gun, Daegu, established the ‘Songhae Comedy Museum’. You will remember. At the end of 2016, the ‘Songhae death rumor’ suddenly circulated. At that time, the news of the death of a senior entertainer who had just turned 90 was completely false news. A few months later, he said on a broadcast, “Before, when such rumors circulated, I thought, ‘You’re going to live a really long time,’ but then I started to worry.”

He generously withdrew the complaint against the sender of false news. And like a comedian, he delivered witty comments. “Didn’t you do that so you could live longer? “The doctors said my lifespan was 120 years, but they gave me 30 more years after going around the world.”

The KBS stage came to a close with singers Park Seo-jin and Song So-hee appearing. Park Seo-jin sang ‘First Marriage’ passionately, as if sweating like rain, while playing drums and drums. Song So-hee sang Odoltogi, a Jeju folk song, with a bewitching expression.

Next, video letters from past winners of the National Singing Contest who debuted as singers or became popular through broadcasting were introduced. Among them, 12-year-old Hong Jam-eon and Kim Tae-yeon, who appeared on Mr. Trot and Miss Trot, did a great job in ‘Boys of the Port’ and ‘Saetaryeong’.

Even an 8th grader who became famous for Son Dam-bi’s singing and dancing and even became an advertising model was a ‘young friend’ to Song Hae. Song Hae’s 50-year life of laughing and crying with audiences as a clown in a traveling theater troupe, as an emcee, and as a broadcaster! A teacher who, more than anyone else, lived a turbulent life full of tears and loneliness, but eventually overcame it and tried to bring laughter to his fans.

His words, which he said after struggling to climb the ladder of life one step at a time, have deep resonance. “If someone complains about their job, say something. In everything in the world, there are pros and cons, light and heavy, and high and low. Why is there no high place for me? It’s all there. But the time has not come yet.”

I sincerely hoped that Song Hae would continue to be the MC of the National Singing Contest for over 100 years… Teacher Song Hae once nominated Lee Sang-byeok as the next MC to succeed him. What you added at that time is a masterpiece. “But 50 years later… “Called.

* Choi Young-hoon is the former editor-in-chief of Dong-A Ilbo, and an editorial writer


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