Renowned Korean singer Choi Sung-bong, who rose to fame as the runner-up on Korea's Got Talent, tragically took his own life at 33, as confirmed by Seoul police on Wednesday. According to the South Korean wire service Yonhap, the news of his untimely demise broke when authorities discovered his lifeless body at his residence in the Yeoksam-dong area of southern Seoul at 9:41 a.m.
on Tuesday. Choi's journey to success was a remarkable one, fraught with challenges. Growing up in difficult circumstances, he was forced to abandon his music education due to financial constraints and worked as a day laborer to make ends meet.
However, in 2011, he encountered a life-changing opportunity when he secured a place on the popular television show Korea's Got Talent, aired on tvN. Captivating the judges with his operatic rendition of Ennio Morricone's "Nella Fantasia," Choi advanced to the finals, narrowly missing the top spot by 280 votes.
The YouTube video of his performance went viral, amassing over 21 million views, with notable K-pop stars like BoA and Jung-Hwa Um endorsing his talent on social media. Even international sensation Justin Bieber lauded Choi on his Facebook page, commending his remarkable story and wishing him luck.
At that time, global media outlets hailed Choi as Korea's answer to the Susan Boyle phenomenon. Subsequently, Choi secured a record deal with the esteemed Korean label Bong Bong Company and penned a best-selling memoir chronicling his journey from a disadvantaged background to internet stardom.
Betrayal and Notoriety: Choi's Deceptive Cancer Claim
However, Choi's career turned dark in 2021 when he admitted to deceiving fans by falsely claiming to have cancer to raise funds. This revelation brought him notoriety and cast a shadow over his once-promising trajectory.
According to Yonhap, Seoul police determined that Choi's tragic demise resulted from the circumstances surrounding his home and a note he uploaded to his YouTube channel earlier in the week. In the letter, Choi expressed profound remorse for his foolish actions and acknowledged returning all the donations he had received under pretenses.
The heartbreaking loss of Choi Sung-bong further highlights the alarming trend of mental health challenges artists face in South Korea's entertainment industry. The untimely deaths of young performers such as K-pop stars Sulli and Goo Hara, both ruled as suicides, as well as the sudden passing of K-drama actresses Jung Chae-full and Song Yoo-Jung, have sparked growing concerns about the emotional well-being of artists in the country.
In response, the South Korean government introduced a mental health support plan for local celebrities in October 2021. Unfortunately, the tragic pattern of high-profile deaths persists, with K-pop singer Haesoo, aged 29, reportedly taking his own life just earlier this month.
Choi Sung-bong's departure leaves a void in the music industry and serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of mental health support for artists in South Korea and beyond. The legacy of his talent and the impact of his captivating journey will forever remain in the hearts of those touched by his music and story.