S.Korea singer wins fans worldwide after talent show

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The Independent Culture

A young South Korean construction worker has become an international singing star after more than 10 million YouTube users watched his powerful performance on a local TV talent show.

Nobody expected such a deep and strong baritone voice from a nervous 21-year-old Choi Sung-Bong when he first appeared dressed in jeans and trainers on "Korea's Got Talent" in early June.

After telling the audience that he doesn't sing well, Choi performed a sensational "Nella Fantasia" that reduced the audience and the judges to tears.

Choi's success - compared by some to Britain's Susan Boyle - is all the more remarkable given his tough early life.

"I was left in an orphanage when I was three...I ran away when I was five due to abuse," he said in comments during a total of three TV appearances.

Choi said he supported himself selling chewing gum or energy drinks in the street and slept on stairways or in public bathrooms for about 10 years.

After skipping elementary and middle school, he entered an arts high school at the age of 16 and graduated in 2009.

Choi had to work during his high school years given his lack of financial support, said a spokeswoman for CJ E&M, the channel that airs the talent show.

The singing sensation said his desire to perform was kindled when he watched a night club vocalist. "I was fascinated by the singer who sang on stage so sincerely."

After the video clip telling his story and featuring his performance was aired, a Facebook fan page was set up and YouTube's video page was flooded with encouragement.

"Music itself is the reason for me to live...I'm thankful that now I have the reason," Choi said. He will learn after the competition's finals on August 20 whether his dream has come true.

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