Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Korea Got Talent

22-year old Sung Bong Choi 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 3 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. The 22-year-old was orphaned at the age of 3, and 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.
"I've had many bad things happen to me since I was young," he said. "One day when I was selling gum at a night club, I saw a vocalist on stage. I was fascinated by the singer who sang so sincerely. I started to like singing after that."
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.
"Korea's Got Talent" is the latest version of the "Got Talent" series which originated in Britain. The reality show seeks to find the best "talent," from a wide range of fields including comedy, art, dance, and singing. It has become a hit in 35 different countries, including the U.S. and China. The winner of "Korea's Got Talent" is guaranteed $100,000, while all contestants who make it to the semi-final round have a shot at a contract with Sony Music.