Do you have to be Korean to sing Korean songs? Do you have to speak Korean to sing Korean songs? Do you have to speak Korean to judge those who sing Korean songs?
The answer is no.
I don’t speak the language, and yet, I was one of the several judges for the contest organized by the Radio Hankook in Federal Way. Both Koreans and non-Koreans made up the judging panel. The host told us that all the judges rated the contestants very similar to one another.
Oh yes, we all agreed on the number one performer. And he’s Mexican American. The point is you can recognize talent right away, even without speaking the language.
What I like about the contest is that the contestants were diverse, from Chinese, to Filipinos, to Vietnamese, to white, to Mexican American. Some singers have been to South Korea, and most have not.
They all have one thing in common: a love of Korean culture. Several said they learned the songs from Korean drama series on television.
Other than myself, the judges that night were Federal Way Mirror Publisher Rudi Alcott, Japan Pacific Publications President Andrew Taylor, One Philippines Publisher John R. Hilotin, Night Rhythm Music Production President Kim T. Nguyen, Sen. Paull Shin, Seattle-Washington State Korean American Association President Kenny Lee, Uni Bank President Chang-Ryul Lee, and H-Mart President Jae-Hyung Song. ♦