I am a blubberer. I tear up often enough to be embarrassing. Still, I think if you watch the video below, you’ll have to admit that this is pretty blub-worthy.
The movie is a clip from “Korea’s Got Talent.” There were some really bizarre acts before him. Some made it through and some got cut. There were plenty of acts that fit the normative mode of what, generally, qualifies as a “talent” in Korea – which, as in America where almost every new pop act relies heavily on Autotune, has less to do with actual talent and more to do with style.
On walks this homely looking kid. Now this is a little difficult to explain and probably isn’t going to come out right, but anyone looking at this kid in the video would see his face and quietly suspect that something was wrong with him. I can’t explain the particular features. I have some kids with odd faces who are perfectly accepted, but they don’t have this certain quality about them. The kids who give off this air are the outcasts. I’m a school teacher, and the other students will say, of a kid like this, “he/she is dirty” or “he/she is an idiot” with grave faces, as if they are warning me of a plague. They will refuse to work with them, refuse to sometimes even acknowledge their existence. I think the common quality these kids have is acquired. I think it is acquired through abuse and ostracism. It is a kind of total submissiveness that won’t allow them to speak to me, whether in their native language or in mine. They will never protest what other students choose to say about them. They will never try to join a group and may even protest if I try to get them to join one. My autistic students are more outgoing.
One-on-one, I have seen these kids learn English. I blindfolded one of them during a directions game, a girl who couldn’t even label the left and right arrows on her paper during class, and verbally told her where to go. After 2 corrections, she had them down, while her classmates gaped in shock. But while people are watching them, they freeze, they forget, they stammer, they look at their hands until you leave them alone, and if you press too hard, they burst into tears.
Choi Seong-bong may not be like that, I don’t know him. But to me, even on screen, he emanates that same aura at me.
I have a special place in my heart for people like these. When they are my students, I make sure to give them extra smiles and thumbs up whenever I look at them, even if they have never spoken a peep to me. If they get their written assignments done with a comparable level to the other students, I pull them aside and give them extra praise or a sticker – something special.
I hope they get to see this kid below, Choi Seong-bong, rise to the top of the Korea’s Got Talent competition and really make a splash, because their struggles may be different but they are so, so the same, and I want them to see him overcome.
[Mild content warning for mentions of child abandonment, child abuse, and child homelessness]