Sung Lee: From Student to Superstar



Sung Lee sings "Melon" at the KPOP STAR competition.

Devon Regal, Staff Writer

Sophomore Sung Lee had the experience of a lifetime as a contestant in a Korean television singing competition. She decided to audition in the summer of last year, after hearing of someone she knew trying out. Lee used her three years of guitar-playing experience for the audition and began singing solely for the competition.

“I just did it for fun,” Lee said. “I didn’t really think I was going to be accepted until I got the email.”

Lee left last fall under the impression that she would be gone for a week, but ultimately advanced to the semifinals along with 17 other competitors. She was gone for nearly five months.

“I told my teachers I was going on a family trip for a week,” Lee said. “Later, a lot of them were confused and emailed me, so I had a lot of explaining to do after I got back.”

The competition, similar to American Idol or The Voice in the United States, was broadcasted on Korean national television. Although the judges and omnipresent cameras intimidated Lee, she had to overcome her fear of performing quickly.

“I usually get very nervous when I’m in front of people and have to perform, so even before the competition, like when I had band solos or private auditions, I got nervous,” Lee said. “[The experience] helped me get over being scared of playing and singing in front of other people and helped me perform better.”

The competition allowed her to not only conquer her stage fright but gain insight into the entertainment industry through others in the competition with whom she became friends.

“I met many professional musicians and learned a lot from them,” Lee said. “It was a great experience for me.”

Lee gained a certain degree of independence from the experience, as she traveled alone from the United States to Korea to compete.

“It was kind of like being in college, because I had to take care of myself,” Lee said.

As an American, Lee faced a different set of difficulties compared to the other competitors. Interviews proved to be hardest for her during her time in Korea, given her limited knowledge of the Korean language.

“The interviews were my least favorite part, because I was so bad at them,” Lee said. “For the first couple interviews, they tried to explain everything to me in English and get translators, but they got tired of it. At one point, they just gave me a script and said, ‘Okay, so this is what you’re going to say in Korean.’”

While missing five months of school may seem like an insurmountable obstacle to some, it proved no significant challenge for Lee, who was already ahead in school.

“I had enough credits to move on to junior year, even if I would have missed this entire year,” Lee said. “I just had to re-enroll in school and I’ll have to take English online over the summer.”

Lee only had one thing to add about her experience since her return from Korea:

“No, I’m not just going to start singing for you in the hallways.”