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Korea's Got Talent star Choi Sung-bong dead at 33 – details

The star is one of many South Korean performers to have been found dead in their homes in the past year

Still from a YouTube video posted by late Korean singer Choi Sung-bong in 2020
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
21 June 2023
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South Korean music fans and beyond are mourning the sudden and tragic death of former Korea's Got Talent star Choi Sung-bong. 

The singer died aged 33 On Tuesday, June 20 from suicide, Seoul police confirmed Wednesday. He was found dead Tuesday morning at his Yeoksam-dong district residence in southern Seoul according to Yonhap, who was first to report the news.

His death marks a concerning growing tally of suicides in the Korean entertainment community, as several other young K-pop stars and actors have passed away in the same nature this year alone. 

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Across South Korea there is already a widespread concern about the mental health of young people working in its ever-popular entertainment industry, which has skyrocketed the fame of the likes of BTS, Blackpink, and countless K-drama stars, but is known for its highly competitive nature.

Choi became an internet sensation back in 2011, when he went viral on YouTube over his participation in Korea's Got Talent.

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His performance of Ennio Morricone's 'Nella Fantasia' particularly impressed both the judges and fans, and after moving forward to the finals, he culminated his time on the talent competition show at second place.

A YouTube video of the aforementioned performance, included above, today has over 21 million views. He became even more popular internationally after Justin Bieber, at the time a rising star himself, shared the viral performance on his Facebook page, and wrote: "This is awesome. Never say never, and good luck to this kid. Great story."

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Eventually the late singer landed a record deal with Korean label Bong Bong Company, and he even published a memoir in 2016 titled Singing is My Life: A Memoir of My Journey from Homelessness to Fame, where he wrote about his "rags to riches" journey, having had an underprivileged upbringing where he found himself dropping out of music school when he could no longer afford its tuition.

Still from a YouTube video posted by late Korean singer Choi Sung-bong in 2020© Choi Sung-bong YouTube
The late singer previously opened up about the highs and lows of fame on his YouTube channel

Despite his early, and instant, success, his association with fame took a dark turn ten years after he first went viral when in 2021, he claimed he was in the midst of a difficult battle with cancer, and launched a fundraising campaign in an effort to raise money for treatment, though it was later discovered to have been a hoax.

In a YouTube video shared on his official page in August of 2020, he opened up about his struggles with fame, telling fans: "Psychologically I could not have courage to do YouTube," though he thanked his fans for "giving me a reason to live."

In an effort to curb the pressing cyber-bullying issue and competitive pressure both public figures and private citizens in South Korea are facing, in October 2021, the South Korean government announced an initiative to improve the mental health support available to local celebrities. Nonetheless, high-profile, sudden deaths – some ruled suicides while some cause of deaths yet to be disclosed – among young South Koreans remain a concern. 

Earlier this month, 29-year-old K-pop singer Haesoo passed away from a reported suicide, and in April, K-drama actress Jung Chae-yull, aged 26, was also found dead in her Seoul home. In the past two years, actress Song Yoo-jung, 26, K-pop stars Sulli, 25, and Goo Hara, 28, have all been found dead in their homes, and the latter two were confirmed to be suicides.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to

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