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Choi Sung-bong, ‘Korea’s Got Talent’ singer and cancer scam celebrity, dies at 33

Choi was runner-up on the show in 2011 after performing Ennio Morricone’s “Nella Fantasia,” parlaying his near-miss into a record deal with Bong Bong Company.
Choi sings during a final round of "Korea's Got Talent" in Seoul
Choi Sung-bong sings during a final round of "Korea's Got Talent" in 2011. Jo Yong-Hak / Reuters / Redux
/ Source: Variety

Choi Sung-bong, a male singer who was the runner-up in the 2011 edition of “Korea’s Got Talent” talent show, died on Tuesday. He was 33.

Choi was found dead by police at his home in the Yeoksam district in southern Seoul at 9:41 a.m. Tuesday, according to police and fire authorities on Wednesday. According to the Yonhap news agency, authorities in Seoul report that Choi appeared to have died by suicide.

Their conclusion was drawn from a combination of the circumstances at his home and a note that he posted to YouTube implying death by suicide.

“I sincerely apologize to all who suffered from my foolish mistake,” the note said.

Choi only narrowly missed out on first place in the tvN-broadcast “Korea’s Got Talent” after performing an operatic version of Ennio Morricone’s “Nella Fantasia” and parlayed his near-miss into a record deal with Bong Bong Company. He released three albums, a handful of singles and also published a memoir about his rise from a poor background.

In 2021, Choi received public support and large sums of money after claiming that he was fighting multiple forms of cancer. However, his claims were revealed as fraudulent.

While he fell out of the public eye thereafter, he also promised to repay the sums he received. His YouTube note said that all donations had been returned to those who asked.

“From 2011 to the present, I have been receiving attention and love from so many people. I sincerely thank you and express my gratitude […] Looking back, since I was young, I tried my best to enjoy a normal life, like every day for 10 years, but in the end, I’m sorry,” his YouTube note said.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources.