KBS Song Festival: A History

By Alexa Manery

The KBS Song Festival wasn’t a festival at all when the show first began. Premiering on TBC broadcasting station as the TBC Broadcasting Awards in 1965, it was designed to be a music award show honoring an array of artists, presenting the winners with their rightful trophies. The show primarily gave awards to male and female solo artists at the time because there wasn’t a huge emphasis on groups within pop culture. The late singer Choi Hee-Jun was the first to win an award on the show in 1965 with “Every Corner of Korea,” and Yoon Si-nae’s “Passionate Love” became the last to win in 1980 before TBC merged with KBS and the title changed to KBS Music Awards.

While the show lasted for fifteen years under TBC, it continued another twenty-four years. Broadcasting annually on KBS1 on December 30th, it served as an excellent way to show appreciation and recognition to the songs that filled the hearts of listeners everywhere, paving the way for all the new tracks that would be released in 1981.

During its run on KBS1, the arrival of groups came to fruition. In 1998, H.O.T became the first group to win the notable KBS Music Award with their song “Hope.” Two years later, pop group G.o.d scored a win with “Lies.” Turbo member and Running Man star Kim Jong-kook became the last artist to receive a KBS Music Award in 2005 with his song “Lovable.” After 2005, KBS moved the show to KBS2 and rebranded it completely, shifting the focus to a festival.

The start of the annual KBS Song Festival in 2006 could be summed up in one phrase: Go big or go home.

The festival had a runtime of just under four hours and consisted of 20-30 performers, allowing each artist almost thirty minutes of stage time depending on their popularity and amount of songs. They also accounted for special stages, such as covers, dance routines, and collaborations with other groups; a practice that is still present in today’s KBS Song Festival.

KBS stayed true to its award show roots by having 2-3 hosts per year guide the viewers through the program. From 2006 to 2011, they mostly hired famous TV presenters such as Han Suk-Joon and Jun Hyun-Moo; but in 2012, they introduced different artists and actors to host, such as Park Bo-Gum (Encounter) and singer Suzy.

Hosts weren’t the only changes made in 2017. The lineup of artists was scaled back by a significant margin, keeping it contained to eight groups, two singers, and contestants from KBS2’s survival show, The Unit. Due to an ongoing network strike, the stage saw drop in size from 2015, utilizing the same one used for both the KBS Drama Awards and KBS Entertainment Awards. It didn’t hurt the song festival, but instead gave it a much more intimate feeling.

That leads us to where we are now with the KBS Song Festival being one of the most anticipated shows airing during the holiday season! Fans of the festival are shrouded in mystery as to who will be invited back in years to come, and there’s no doubt that some familiar faces will show up again, but will we get the chance to see someone new?

We can only wait until December to find out, but don’t worry about needing a live stream to witness all the fantastic madness. KBS is so kind as to upload the entirety of the festivals in two parts on their YouTube page!

Who are you hoping to see at this year’s festival?
What have been some of your favorite performances?
Let us know in the comments below!


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