’60s-’70s comic ‘Bae the Weak’ dies

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’60s-’70s comic ‘Bae the Weak’ dies


Bae Sam-ryong

Bae Sam-ryong, one of Korea’s most beloved comedians in the 1960s and ’70s, renowned for his slapstick humor and trademark image as the fool, has died, his family said. He was 84.

Bae died early yesterday after three years in the hospital, his family said. His condition had recently worsened to the point that he could not recognize those close to him.

Nicknamed “Bae the Weak” for his characterization of a helpless fool with outlandish facial expressions, Bae was by far the country’s top comedian during a time when Korea was under military rule.

Competition among TV stations to get him to appear on their shows was so intense that it resulted in physical scuffles between producers. “As I’m getting on a bus after finishing a TV show, about 30 employees of a TV station suddenly surrounded me and tried to kidnap me,” Bae once said.

Bae’s fortunes changed abruptly in 1979 as the government was toppled by a military coup. The ruling military junta banned him from appearing on TV, saying his comedy was damaging to “social morals and good manners.” Bae later said that he believed the junta’s ban was because he openly backed “one of the three Kims,” referring to the three major politicians of the time - Kim Dae-jung, Kim Yong-sam and Kim Jong-pil.

Following the ban, Bae headed to the United States for three years.

He never regained his earlier popularity after returning home in 1983, however, and eventually started a series of businesses, all of which failed. Toward the end of his life Bae struggled to pay for his hospital bills.


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