“Sam, I Am (the Next Big Thing)”

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For a country to rise from the ashes of war fifty-odd years on, get sucked into the IMF whirlpool mess in the 90s, on constant vigilance with its Northern neighbor, and sustaining a population size half of Japan, South Korea has definitely stamped its presence on the global stage.

In the last five years especially, the world witnessed how immersing the Hallyu (Korean Wave) effect was across all continents, save The Arctic and Antarctica. One of the biggest Hallyu contributors has undoubtedly been Korean Pop or KPop.

In the beginning I questioned the liberal use of cosmetics on male idol groups (what was the need?), and the sugary-sweet persona of some female idol groups that could give me toothaches… Erhmerhgerd!

Then, I met Big Bang 😀

However, this post is not about any of those glitz and blinged out groups that perform to sell-out concerts worldwide.

This is about an unassuming 16 year-old Korean-American by the name of Sam Kim from Seattle.


Along with thousands who auditioned for Season 3 of KPop Star (variety, talent-search show by SBS) in the U.S., Sam won a ticket for the continuing battle audition rounds that took place in Seoul. Viewers in South Korea and the rest of the International Netizens saw how much deeper the talent pool was this time around… and it would not be an easy walk in the park for the three big names in Korean Music Industry who make up the Judging Panel: Park Jin Young (JYP), Yoo Hee Yeol (Antenna Music) and Yang Hyun Suk (YG)

As weeks went by, we witnessed the growth of a few that stood out, and Sam Kim showed immense potential as someone who could inject Soul & Groovy freshness into the well-manufactured industry of KPop.

He embodied Raw Talent.

Just before the competition went “Live” where viewers could vote for their favorites, the remaining contenders had to fight for the Top 10 spots.

If you think American Idol or The Voice or The X Factor or whatever-else-singing-competition-shows were challenging, you have not seen the knock-out rounds in KPop Star.

I am still agog at the immense talent that country has.

Yoo Hee Yeol casted Sam Kim into his agency, Antenna Music, and proceeded to prepare Sam the best he could to win that coveted Top10 spot by engaging much-respected musician peers such as the divine ALi (vocals) and the eminent Ham Chun Ho (finger-style guitarist).

In the clip below, Ham Chun Ho mentioned to Sam that he would lend his guitar if Sam manages to go all the way to the final 🙂

This is 16 year old Sam Kim of Seattle fighting for his spot:

This was his version of I’m In Love by Ra.D, an R&B singer-songwriter and a producer, who also participates and creates a lot of collaborations with many Indie and Mainstream artists.

It was not an easy journey for Sam either as he had to overcome the crippling feeling of being booted out on the first “Live” show of KPop Star.

Just like South Korea was re-born after much devastation, Sam fought back strongly and earned every step of his way into the Finals. Ok, his incredible fan base helped buoyed him as well 🙂

As promised by Ham Chun Ho, his favorite guitar was loaned to Sam for his final performance in the competition. Before Sam strummed the first note, he gave a shout out to his Seonseanganim (ie teacher, .. Awww).

It’s time to bring back some old school R&B and groove into the Korean Music Industry.

Yoo Hee Yeol-sshi, I trust him in your capable hands 🙂


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