Radio legend Bae Chul-soo celebrates 25 years on air

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Mar 13, 2015 - 18:28
  • Updated : Mar 15, 2015 - 09:10

Korea’s oldest and arguably most popular radio show, “Bae Chul-soo’s Music Camp,” has been introducing Western pop music to Korean listeners for more than two decades.

Its playlist covers an array of genres and eras, playing everything from classic bands like The Beatles, Queen and ABBA to the more recent Maroon 5 and Coldplay.

Celebrating 25 years on air, legendary DJ Bae Chul-soo will host live shows entitled “Live is Life” for three days, accompanied by 12 leading Korean bands.

From March 13-15, fans will be able to see artists on stage at the MBC Sangam headquarters; the shows will be broadcast live on radio. Participating bands include Lee Seung Hwan Band, Boohwal, N.E.X.T, Sinawi, Crying Nut, and Jang Giha and the Faces. 

Bae Chul-soo speaks at a news conference in Seoul on Thursday marking 25 years of his daily radio show “Music Camp.” (Yonhap)

Moreover, three albums featuring beloved songs played on the program will also be released, in collaboration with Warner Music, Sony Music and Universal Music. Comedian Jeong Hyeong-don, who was a guest host as part of MBC entertainment program “Infinite Challenge,” will receive an achievement award.

Looking back, Bae said he felt “immense pride” in “Music Camp” and considers it “the luckiest thing that has happened” in his life.

“I don’t think any other radio program in Korea boasts a strong and broad listenership like ours,” Bae said at a news conference Thursday. “Fans range from teenagers to those in their 60s.”

Formerly the vocalist and drummer of rock band Songolmae, Bae discovered his fate lay in DJing rather than singing.

“When I first started radio, I thought it was just going to be a temporary thing,” he said. “But then I discovered that I liked introducing music more than actually playing it.”

Now, the program has become the center of his schedule. Bae has previously remarked on the irony of being bound to a daily show when he originally chose the musician’s path to pursue a free-spirited life.

“Any arrangements that affect the show, I usually cancel,” he said. “The show is my life, my best friend and my lover.”

“Music Camp” has positioned itself as Korea's most prominent radio show, guest-starring renowned rock bands such as Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.

“In an era where we download all our music, this is one of the few programs left where a DJ plays music for people,” said producer Jung Chan-hyung, director of radio at MBC.

Bae criticized today’s K-pop as being void of meaning while advanced in technique.

“Singers like Taeyeon of Girls’ Generation and Hyorin of Sistar are very skilled,” he commented. “They’re fun to watch, but I’m rarely moved by their performances.”

He recently berated the current idol group-focused K-pop industry, saying that “lip-syncing should be banned by law” and that singers have become “dancing parrots.”

The 25 years have not always been smooth sailing. His program was once labeled “the frontrunner of U.S. imperialism” by progressive groups for promoting foreign music in Korea.

“The truth is that K-pop as we know it was first developed by those who listened to Western pop,” Bae said. “I don’t think this is an issue of nationality. ... As in any art form, I think variety is important.”

Others have even rebuked him for the show’s undivided focus on music, he said, and for talking about “frivolous” or “sentimental” topics even in the wake of more dire social situations.

“But there are other programs out there that talk about current issues,” Bae said. “If people can listen to us after a long, hard day at work and feel comforted with good music, if they can smile a little at the offhand jokes I make, that is enough for me. That is the purpose of our program.”

By Rumy Doo (bigbird@heraldcorp.com)