Entries in Sung Bong Choi (2)


Korea's 'Susan Boyle' Choi Sung-Bong's Overcomes Troubled Past

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- He sings of a fantasy where everyone lives in peace, honesty, free-spirit, and full of humanity.

That's something Choi Sung-Bong never imagined to have even existed before signing up for the "Korea's Got Talent" show hosted by TVN, an entertainment cable channel, in South Korea.

The 22-year-old manual worker has been living like a "dayfly," as he calls it, barely making a living enough for a day.

But his baritone challenge at the finals on Saturday pulling out a powerful rendition of "Nella Fantasia," marked him first runner up following Joo Min-Jung, an 18-year-old popping dancer by only 280 votes.

It was the same song he had stunned the world with in the pre-trials in June when he told the judges of his tragic childhood story.

The video instantly became an international sensation, attracting almost 12 million YouTube and Facebook fan page hits and has been dubbed a Korean version of Susan Boyle from "Britain's Got Talent."

But Choi's life has been an uphill battle, a very steep one. He was abandoned at an orphanage at age three. To run away from frequent beatings there, he got on a bus when he turned 5-years-old and ended up in a red-light district full of nightclubs and bars in Daejeon, about 100 miles south of Seoul.

When asked what was the most difficult part of his past, he bluntly said, "having had to talk to people."

Eventually, he found Park Jung-So, a then-college student who posted an ad online for vocal training.

Park started teaching basics of musical scales and codes from scratch and Choi reciprocated by doing chores. To Park's surprise, Choi's learning curve took on an incredible speed.

"Yes, he had talent. But if you teach him one step, he would go day and night until he masters it. I think Sung-bong knew that he had to try ten times harder than the other kids," Park said.

Park also helped his determined apprentice who had always wished to attend something called school.

"I got into an art high school," Choi told judges during the pre-trial.

But that comment was deliberately deleted by the producers in the initial broadcasted version of the show, drawing doubts and sharp criticism of sensationalizing his story.

It turned out that Choi could not afford the extra fees required for lessons in school no matter how many part-time or overnight jobs he worked.

He ended up barely going to classes but the teachers gave him a graduate diploma anyway out of pity.

"He's got an incredible range of emotions. I mean who, how many of us have gone through what he's gone through?" said Kolleen Park, one of the three judges at the show. "Us as artists, we learn to express, search inside ourselves. Well he's got a whole basket full of ingredients, so much more than anybody else so he needs to learn the technique, really study hard, learn actually music and voice."

That's exactly what Choi is hoping for. But as of now, he is back to reality seeking once again a safe roof and a music master to teach the passion of his newfound life.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


The Next Susan Boyle?

George Doyle/Stockbyte(SEOUL) -- Sung Bong Choi, 22, had never performed in front of a large audience before. In fact, the South Korean, orphaned at the age of 3, had been homeless for much of his life. But his rendition of the Italian song "Nella Fantasia" or "In My Fantasy" on a popular South Korean talent show has made him into an instant Internet sensation, drawing immediate comparisons to the likes of singers Susan Boyle and Paul Potts.

Like Boyle and Potts, who rose to fame on reality TV show Britain's Got Talent, Choi took the stage of Korea's Got Talent, appearing unfit for the part. Sporting a bowl cut and flannel shirt, the shy contestant introduced himself as a "manual worker" who had made a living selling "gum and energy drinks" for 10 years. The audience laughed initially, but Choi had them in tears, by the time he finished singing.

The stunned panel of three judges called the performance "unbelievable," and offered to coach Choi "no matter where he ended up in the competition."

"I don't sing that well but when I sing, I feel like I become a different person," the contestant said.

Choi's voice may have blown the judges away, but his story is what has captivated viewers around the world. Orphaned at the age of 3, he ran away from the orphanage two years later after he says he was abused. He says he has been homeless since, sleeping on the stairs and public toilets whenever possible.

The singer took the Korean equivalent of a GED test to get through elementary and middle school. He graduated from a high school for the arts, but could not continue with any professional training because of his financial situation, according to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.

Choi told judges, singing was his only escape.

Choi's rags to riches tale has drawn comparisons to Scottish singer Susan Boyle, who wowed British TV show judges in 2009 with her rendition of Les Miserables song "I Dreamed a Dream." Like Choi, Boyle gained global notoriety for the stark contrast between her plain appearance and her powerful voice. Her first album "I Dreamed a Dream" debuted at the top of the charts around the world.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio