’60s Korean pop diva Hyun Mee dies at age 85

April 5, 2023

Hyun Mee, who was one of the most popular Korean pop singers in the 1960s, died Tuesday, police said. She was 85.

According to the police and music industry sources, the singer whose original Korean name is Kim Myeong-seon, was found dead at her home in Ichon-dong, central Seoul, by the head of her fan club at about 9:35 a.m.

She was moved to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Born in Pyongyang, Hyun Mee crossed the border into the South, along with her family, during the 1950-53 Korean War.

She began her entertainment career in 1957 at age 20 by performing on stage for the 8th U.S. Army, just like many other Korean musicians and other entertainers at that time.

Singer Hyun Mee is seen in this photo provided by local cable TV channel OBS. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
Singer Hyun Mee is seen in this photo provided by local cable TV channel OBS. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

At first, she performed on the stage as a sword dancer but became a singer by chance when she filled in for a certain female singer who had canceled her performance.

Hyun Mee later married late composer Lee Bong-jo after three years of dating. But they were not a legally married couple.

She skyrocketed to stardom with “Night Fog,” a track off her debut album released in 1962, and churned out more hits, such as “The Face I Want to See,” “Leave Without Saying Goodbye,” “All My Love” and “Just Good” with her composer husband Lee.

Her most popular song, “Night Fog,” is a Korean adaptation of legendary American jazz pianist-singer Nat King Cole’s 1962 hit song “It’s A Lonesome Old Town.”

In 2007, she showed enthusiasm for her musical career, saying she would continue singing until her voice was completely gone, during a press conference to mark the 50th anniversary of her debut.

The police are trying to determine the exact cause of her death by examining her medical history and contacting the fan club president and the bereaved family.

The funeral home will be set up at Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul.