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Kim Bum-soo turns the page

Hit survival program catapults singer to soaring stardom


Kim Bum-soo was known as the “singer behind the curtain” before getting his new nickname “Visual Kim” in the hit TV program, “Survival: I’m a Singer.”

The elimination contest is similar to “Britain’s Got Talent,” which brought Susan Boyle fame. However, one of the differences is that “I’m a Singer” is a competition for professional vocalists.

Amid the international K-pop craze, the veteran entertainers are returning to the stage through the show.

Kim, who made his debut in 1999 without revealing his face, this time appeared in every episode of the program wearing unconventional outfits. 
Kim Bum-soo (Yonhap News)
Kim Bum-soo (Yonhap News)

The 32-year-old singer stands apart from other iconic stars who are barely in their 20s. But his stories and inspiration shared through the Sunday evening program are touching all generations.

“It was a challenge to overcome myself, and it became a huge turning-point for me,” he told local media. “When I see fans in school uniforms, I feel like, I never imagined this could ever happen.”

He told how he lost confidence in his appearance after becoming a singer. “An office worker will be promoted even if he does not look so good. But I had to become cowered in this era when one is judged by looks.”

Performing on a TV program was a challenge for him.

Kim described his emotional stress from the show to that of refugees in concentration camps. He was more afraid of fighting himself while keeping his dignity as musician than the pressure of competing against other skilled singers.

This was also because Kim had few experiences on stage compared to other veteran icons.

“I was always determined to show what I want to do, even when producers asked me if it is too carried out,” he said. But “I’m a Singer” provided chances for him to express himself. “This would not have worked elsewhere,” he added.

He also recalled the late Andre Kim, a giant of the Korean fashion industry. When singing the song “Neup (which means swamp in Korean),” he tried on an outfit designed by the world famous designer.

“Although Andrea Kim never made clothes just for me, he was always there on the front row of my concert,” he said. “He would have been so happy.”

As the program gathered national interest, it even featured on the 9 p.m. news on major broadcasting stations.

Kim is one of few singers chosen by seniors for having real talent.

“Until today, I only sang with technique. I think seniors believed in my potential to become a singer who can move audiences.”

Inspired by Lim Jae-bum, another competitor from the program, Kim said “I want to reflect happiness, anger, sadness, and enjoyment of my life in songs.

“This is to be a singer who can touch audiences’ deep inside within,” he added.

Kim is to take a national tour concert between August and November, finishing this year with a December year-end performance. He also released his latest album “SOLISTA: Part 2” recently.

“Not only will I just be myself, but I will also strive to be dynamic and colorful on stage.”

By Kang Yoon-seung (koreacolin@gmail.com)
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