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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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
#seattle
#northwestisbest

my tweets

  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 2 days ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 2 days ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 2 days ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 5 days ago
  • Father, bless these Iraqi and Syrian refugee children that have already endured so much. As we pray, teach us how t… twitter.com/i/web/status/9… || 6 days ago
  • Pray for Iraq. Pray for persecuted Church, minority groups (Yezidis) and Muslims alike who are suffering under ISIS: instagram.com/p/BZF2j6Ngrna/ || 6 days ago