Eugene Cho

the story and voice of sung-bong choi

Have you heard the story of Sung-Bong Choi?

I absolutely love these kinds of stories.

And it’s not that I just love these kinds of stories,  I need these kinds of stories. Perhaps, we all need these kind of stories.

Sung-Bong Choi, a self-described “manual worker” is a recent contestant who shocked many on Korea’s Got Talent. While an easy comparison might be the story of Susan Boyle, his story is even more compelling. In his own words:

“When I was three years old, I went to an orphanage, but because of the beatings, I ran away when I was five and lived alone by selling gum on the streets. For ten years, I lived like a fly. I was eventually able to graduate elementary and middle school through qualification examinations and the first thing that I ever liked was music.”

Susan Boyle surprised us because while she didn’t look the part, she sang with such beauty. And you can certainly say the same thing about Sung Bong Choi. Let’s be honest. We know we shouldn’t but we sometimes judge a book by its cover and yes, we do exactly that with people. I don’t like to admit it but sometimes, I fall into that trap.

But it’s not just the outward appearance, it’s really Sung-Bong’s deeper story:

Sung-Bong Choi is a manual worker – his lowly profession is laughed at by the audience in the studio, and is slightly mocked by one of the judges – who has lived alone basically his entire life – he has no family and was raised in an orphanage, but left after being beaten up by people there. He was homeless for ten years and survived by selling gum and energy drinks on the street. Basically, we can barely summarize Sung-Bong’s life without tearing up, so we’ll ease the pain by letting you know that his singing is absolutely divine. Let’s hope his newfound Internet fame gives him a better life. (source)

Lastly, I love these stories because they remind us that everyone

has beautiful gifts that need to be discovered, recovered, and empowered.

Beautiful gifts. Everyone.

Check out his beautiful voice and even more so, his inspiring story.

One of his recent performances:

CNN’s coverage of Sung Bong Choi:

And yes, I’m aware of the mini-controversy as a result of the producers’ editing:

It may have seemed like he had a tough childhood, but when netizens researched and found out that he actually was musically trained from attending the Dae Jun vocal department, controversy arose. His side defended this by saying that he had already revealed this information previously.

Although he had also revealed that he took the qualification exams for elementary school and junior high school before graduating from an arts high school, this statement was edited out of the broadcast.

Although touching the hearts of viewers with his beautiful voice, the editing by the producers caused him to become embroiled in a controversy that left viewers both confused and angry after discovering that he had graduated from an arts high school.

“Korea’s Got Talent” producers emphasized that they did not edit it that way intentionally and aired the full interview on June 5th at 9:50 PM KST. Producers stated, “We merely wanted the episode to flow. We did not have any other intentions. We have decided to broadcast the interview in full because we felt that there was room for misunderstanding by the public.”

They continued, “It is true that Choi Sung Bong passed his qualification exams in order to enter Daejun Arts High School, but he was not able to attend classes because of his financial difficulties. The fact that he graduated from an arts high school was already known by not only the producers and judges, but by the audience members as well. We didn’t feel that it was necessary to include his high school career when people were already so touched with his singing, which is why we cut it out.”

In the video, Choi explained, “I did enter an arts high school, but there was no instructor. I wanted to drop out, but instead, I attended classes by myself and studied alone.” [via allkpop]

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39 Responses

  1. Wayne Park says:

    i caught this last night
    stirring, moving – pretty fantastic.
    Loved his choice of song too..

  2. Tony Lin says:

    Wow and to think that there are still millions of God’s 5 year olds out there living like flies right now…

  3. Dennis Lyons says:

    The heart needs this kind of refreshing every now and then, we don’t know where the road will take us but we do know we’re not along!

  4. […] the story and voice of sung-bong choi Have you heard the story of Sung-Bong Choi? I absolutely love these kinds of stories. And it’s not that I just […] […]

  5. Peachez says:

    He has an amazing voice, that is certain. But my question is, did the writers of the show exploit him with a made up story just to get some attention? If he had in fact been homeless since the age of 5, his hygiene wouldn’t have been so good and his teeth would have been rotting out of his head from lack of nutrition and oral hygiene.

    As far as being talented, yes he very much is, but I am very skeptical to the story. It just seemed a little staged to me. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m wary.

  6. John says:

    I agree with Peaches, it seemed a bit staged. But if it was meant to be like that to have him in a better place, then so be it, i have no problem what so ever.

    He seems a lovely guy, he’s obviously seen hard times (like lots of others), and its good to at least see something come of good to such a nice person.

    I’lle buy the Album if he puts one out – even though i cant speak a word of Korean, lol.

    • Roco Batungbakal says:

      The emotion that he draw to give life to the song he sings, is for me a revelation of his pain far more than the words he utter. He bears it with grace and resignation.

  7. bensonellie says:

    There is someone who commented on YouTube that the judges and audience were not making fun of his “manual labour” job, but in the slang he used to desdcribe it, which is really hard to translate properly into English.

  8. g says:

    I won’t lie… even though I knew the video was going to be a tear-jerker, I still got misty eyed.

  9. Rick says:

    What a fantastic story and yes, there are many kids out there in the World who live on the Streets as young as this Korean boy Sung-Bong Choi..

    It jus made me cry to see how someone could be so talented and living like this…..

  10. Simbee says:

    I hope one day he will able able to help children who went through hardship like him. That will be good for him.

  11. dmcoleman24@hotmail.com says:

    I am happy for his opportunity.
    He can be rich or poor or in between. I would not feel sorry for him, he made himself ready.

    Dot

  12. myyellowbike says:

    I think some Korean last names are Chang, anyway, on America’s got talent, undoubtedly you know, This Cindy Chang sang well and made an impression, here is but one article on her I happened to pull up, I am not saying I agree with this analysis but if you did not see the show, it tells you who she is a little bit. http://technorati.com/entertainment/tv/article/why-americas-got-talent-contestant-cindy/page-2/

  13. myyellowbike says:

    Side note here, Japan’s women are doing well in the World Cup, currently they are playing in a game they don’t need because they won their group: http://women.soccerway.com/international/world/womens-world-cup/2011-germany/group-stage/ So, especially because of the hardship that struck Japan this past year, I am hoping they win the whole Women’s World Cup, yes, our USA team has won it two times and if they can win it again, I’d be happy, Germany has won it 2 times and is the favorite to win it all. Norway has won it one time. I also would not mind seeing someone else new win it as well, all in fair and good sportsmanship.

  14. The emotion he draw to give life to his song is a revelation of pain he has inside a testimony to his revealation. I love his humble resignation and forebearance, truly the man…

  15. […] story about the latest “Susan Boyle” type of story on Korea’s Got Talent.   Read about Sung-Bong Choi.  (No relation to Song Sung […]

  16. Geeky says:

    I pray that one day you would be the greatest singer the world has ever known.

  17. James says:

    Wow! His story and his singing just blows me away. The fact that he was abandoned in the orphanage not experiencing a mother’s or father’s love and having to fend for himself for 10 years or so after that already puts him on such a gaping disadvantage in terms of a fighting chance in facing the challenges of life. And yet he was able to do some schooling even take up voice lessons with many absences as he had to work for a living is an achievement in spite of the odds! So marvelous a voice! So inspiring a story!

    This is a wake up call for some teenagers who have all the resources of parents, home and finances, and yet waste their life away.

  18. Global says:

    Whether he attended Art School or have vocal training, just think about the period before all that happened.
    – Left at orphanage at the age of 3
    – Wondering and living on the streets since the age of 5, for 10 years.
    After all those years of hardship, he still managed to attend school, keep his passion for music, that itself already amazing.

  19. […] a sucker for these kind of stories. Stories like Susan Boyle and Sung Bong Choi (an orphan boy who can sing like the heavens). I love these stories because vocalized or not, we […]

  20. Chauxner says:

    A truly fantastic story of tenacity and perseverance that makes us look another time at that image “Homelessness” with not exactly the same eyes.

    Psychologists explain that many enter their profession as patients saying they have been persecuted and systematicaly a whole legal course has tracked to classify this condition as delusion. It could be that many things are imagined and a sort of scapegoat label: ‘paranoia’ suddenly covers some truly odd situations which have no explanation out of no where.

    We have Police, Sheriff stations who employ officers of the law whom are assigned duties to carry out for the protection of communities. Then we have Federal agents who’s badge alone is a warrant, whom also observe: International laws which carry of itself a weighty charge. We need protection, some have this; some don’t through no fault of their own. What is disturbing is that No one stepped up to the plate, people seem to have fallen prey whom were innocent, but this lad kept forward from FIVE years old!

    This darling sweetpea where ever he may be is now known. His voice learned and skilled by his willingness to explore, wasn’t a mistake. He, isn’t the world around him, and yet he carefully preserved his dignity the best he could and ‘showed up’. He did it.

    I anticipate with a thrill to see what else this precious Korean soul will do next!

    J. Chauxner

    Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves. ~Dale Carnegie

    • Regina says:

      Nella Fantasia (english – In My Fantasy )
      In my fantasy I see a fair world,
      Where everyone lives in peace and honesty.
      I dream of a place to live that is always free,
      Like a cloud that floats,
      Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

      In my fantasy I see a bright world
      Where each night there is less darkness.
      I dream of spirits that are always free,
      [Nella Fantasia (english – In My Fantasy ) lyrics on http://www.elyricsworld.com%5D

      Like the cloud that floats.

      In my fantasy exists a warm wind,
      That breathes into the city, like a friend.
      I dream of souls that are always free,
      Like the cloud that floats,
      Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

  21. pammower says:

    What is the song he is singing?

  22. […] like Susan Boyle (“Wow…she’s old and doesn’t look the part.”), Seung Bong Choi (“What good can this orphan kid do?”) and this duo: Jonathan and Charlotte. […]

  23. richelle says:

    he is great

  24. William Southard says:

    im 65 years old and its the best voice i have ever heard, is there a chance that he would ever come to America to sing, i would sell my home to buy the tickets

  25. is thee a followup regarding his mother or father???

  26. jcuevas says:

    Let’s agree on a day to live w/o sarcasm,suspicion or ironic remarks! Let’s make it a day for love,respect and celebration of overcoming adversities-big or small,yours or mine!!! Agree on a date,let me know & let’s do it before ugliness overcomes and wins!!! 🙂

  27. I am also commenting to make you know what a excellent experience my princess experienced going through yuor web blog. She came to understand several things, which include how it is like to possess an incredible helping mood to have certain people very easily fully grasp specific very confusing topics. You truly exceeded our expectations. Thanks for distributing the warm and helpful, healthy, edifying and even cool tips on that topic to Julie.

    • jcuevas says:

      Lord bless you & yours in a very special way! My goals are simple & non pretencious…1.respect to all,2.compassion w/o judgement,3.silence before hurting others (words can mark & hurt if used carelessly!) That should keep me busy all 2013,don’t you think!?!? Happy & Blessed New Year!!! Thank you so much for your kind words!

  28. joe larter says:

    Sung Bong can I please encourage you to come to England

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One Day’s Wages

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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