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|Born|| February 18, 1990 |
Seoul, South Korea
|This article's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (December 2013)|
|Born|| February 18, 1990 |
Seoul, South Korea
|Revised Romanization||Choe Seongbong|
Choi Sung-bong (최성봉; Hanja: 崔聖奉, born 18 February 1990) is a South Korean vocalist who became famous after his appearance on Korea's Got Talent was picked up by the worldwide news media. He finished in second place in the competition.
Choi Sung Bong was born in Seoul and abandoned in an orphanage at the age of 3. He ran away from the institution two years later because he was ill-treated and beaten by the staff. He took a bus to Dae-Jeon and for 10 years he lived as a “street kid’ among criminals and drug addicts in the red light district, sleeping on stairwells and in public washrooms. He said that he survived by scraping a living by selling chewing gum and energy drinks on the street and in a nightclub.
While living on the street he was kidnapped by mobsters. He escaped, but he had to return to street life because he had nowhere else to go. Choi was inspired to pursue a career in music when he was 14 years old, after listening to a classical vocalist at the nightclub where he sold chewing gum. He later said that he was particularly fascinated by the sincerity of the vocalist in contrast to the usual type of music heard at the club and tried to find a way to learn music himself by research in an internet cafe. He was refused many times by the music teachers he approached. He later found a teacher, Park Jung-So who, after visiting the place where Choi lived (a worn couch in the night school), agreed to teach him without charge and helped him get into an arts high school at age 16.
Choi's street name was Ji-Sung (similar in sound to “Sorry” in Korean), which was given to him by a female street vendor. When he was around 14, he and his night school teacher went to the local police station where his fingerprints were taken and eventually he discovered his real name and age.
Choi passed his elementary school middle school equivalency examinations, and graduated from Art high school then studied at the Kyung Hee Cyber University.
In 2007 he registered for assistance under the South Korean National Basic Livelihood Security System. It was the first time in his life that he had ever slept in a house or received any government aid. He had several road traffic accidents during his life on the streets, but he had never received proper medical treatment because of his inability to pay. To this day he suffers from physical and psychological problems (such as tinnitus) and needs regular medical treatment.
Around the age of 14, Choi hid in a night school to escape from criminal gangs. He learned to read and write there and passed elementary school exams and the middle school entrance test. Because he really wanted to learn music and live a normal life, he entered the art-high school in Dae-Jeon but no teachers would give him vocal training at the school since he could not afford to pay for master classes. He worked at a delivery service to earn money for tuition, but that ended when he had a bad fall during a night shift. Choi seriously considered dropping out of high school and his music teacher noted that he was often absent from classes due to his difficult financial situation. Choi passed the Han-Yang University entrance exam but could not take up his place due to his lack of money. Instead, he worked as a day labourer on construction sites. Choi said that during that time he suffered from severe depression.
On 6 June 2011, Choi's performance of Sarah Brightman's "Nella Fantasia" moved judges and audience members to tears. He introduced himself as a manual laborer who had made a living selling gum and energy drinks for ten years. All three judges, Kolleen Park, Jang Jin and Song Yun-ah, were impressed with his vocal talent. Choi advanced to the finals of the competition, finishing second by 280 votes.
Choi's performance clip was posted to YouTube and triggered a worldwide Internet sensation, receiving praise from pop stars Justin Bieber, BoA, Jung-Hwa Um, several hundred thousand fans on Facebook and also political figures including South Korea's former president Lee-Myung-Park. One version with English subtitles has triggered international press interest  and a worldwide view that Choi was "the next Susan Boyle". The video itself has received over 120,386,841 views as of June 8, 2014 and the number is still rising.
4 June 2011- After his first appearance on the show, some people accused him of concealing the fact that he had graduated from art high school.
The KGT production team explained that “It was cut from the film during editing. He stated that he'd graduated from art high school at the second local tryout, and the judges, crews and hundreds of audience members heard that.” KGT later broadcast the re-edited version including the statement.
After his appearance on KGT, other major entertainment companies tried to persuade Choi to sign contracts with them and he signed up with Sony Music Korea Inc. but cancelled the contract in Dec. 2011. He is currently[when?] with Bong Bong Company.
CNN commented that “His powerful baritone voice sounds as if it belongs to a man twice his age and build.”  He is currently experimenting with different genres, including Crossover. His vocal tone is soft and emotionally appealing, drawing on his life experiences.
Choi wrote an essay entitled “Singing is my life – Memoir of my journey from homelessness to fame.” (published by Mun Hak Dong Ne, Korea) about his life and career and which has now become a best seller. He said that he does not want to live his life shackled to his past and that he wrote the book in gratitude for the attention and love he has received, which has been a great comfort to him.
Choi has appeared on music shows, Documentary films and talk shows both Korea and overseas. He appeared with Justin Bieber on the Spanish TV programme El Hormiguero. CNN and ABC headlined the interview with him. Choi said that he wants to continue to overcome his experiences of the past 22 years. “It is a blessing that I can live my life without starving, being abused and freezing. I’ll keep taking on challenges and trying my best"
Korea's Got Talent season 1 [tvN 2011.06]
Choi is an honorary ambassador of ChildFund Korea, the organization which helped him to improve his own life. He said that he won’t just tell the children to ‘have hope and dream’, but he wants to help them practically by giving them a chance of a better life. He is currently assisting starving children, orphans and foster families and he is also an honorary ambassador of the Chang Dong Social Welfare Center.
“People who suffer have feelings that can’t explain in language. And I hope my performance give consolation and uplifting to them” He is doing performances and speeches for the neglected classes of people – multicultural families, single moms, Juvenile Hall, Hospice Centers etc.
He is sending money or goods to those who need, with talent donation activity.
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