Now Korea Has A Susan Boyle

Korea's Got Talent has unearthed a new Susan Boyle-type gem, and he might be even more inspirational than Boyle herself. 22-year-old Sung-bong Choi is a manual worker with no family or home to his name. His life entire has been a struggle — hopefully, until now.


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Jee Hyung Lee

For those of you who are wondering, Choi's story seems as real as it gets so far. It seems the reality is even worse than what we know - there are hints at darker stuff that was deliberately kept off the air and the producers refused to discuss the specifics of. I hope the media keeps its nose out of it, because it should be Choi's decision and no one else's whether to reveal any aspects of his life that were not suitable for television.

But other than the tactful silence, any inconsistencies about his past were not on his part, but on the part of the show's producers. It turns out that he attended Daejon Arts High School, a school of arts at my hometown of Daejon. (Squee!) It was the first and so far only formal schooling in his life.

Choi revealed all this during shooting but the editors, seeking to maximize the drama, cut out the mention of the high school name. Later, when people found out about DAHS they accused Choi of lying, and the producers realized they'd screwed up. They apologized on Twitter and other outlets, they apologized to Choi, and they reinserted the school name into the rerun footage. Choi told them it was okay, the sweet guy, but it just gets me boiling mad that he was blamed for a stupid editing decision.

Honestly, they shouldn't have bothered because attending Daejon Arts evidently wasn't the prestigious opportunity it sounds like. For one thing the school did not offer vocal lessons, so he had to take private lessons, which he obviously could not afford unlike his mostly wealthy peers. I don't know how it is in other countries, but in Korea the arts are traditionally for rich kids because of a deeply corrupt patronage system where you just can't complete, regardless of merit, unless you have money and connections. In that sense shows like KGT are a godsend because, imperfect as they are, at least they get exposure for people like Choi.

He also had to work constantly just to support himself through school, and didn't seem to have gotten much good out of his diploma. I mean, you can sort of tell in how untrained his voice is, which I really really hope will change now that he has some name recognition and hopefully sponsors & money.