Heejun Han has become the highest ranked Korean American ever to appear on the popular reality TV singing competition, American Idol. He finished ninth out of hundreds who tried out for the show.
Calling himeself "a cool Korean American who lives in New York with a swag", the 23-year-old entered the annual contest to promote a non-profit organization.
Not coming from a musical family, Han taught himself how to sing while in his bathroom and he also learned to play the piano on his own. He said, “my parents don’t know anything about music,” and rarely played music at home. But he started listening to music when he came to America at age 10 and fell in love with rhythm and blues, saying, “it requires honesty and soul.”
While appearing on the program, Han showed a self deprecating sense of humor the audience seemed to love. However, some of the judges did not take him seriously because of it.
But Han doesn't seem to have any regrets. “If I can make one person laugh, then my job is done," he said.
Snce Han appeared on American Idol, people have stopped him on the streets, wanting his autograph. The Mets, an American baseball team in New York, asked him to throw the first pitch at their opening game.
Despite his success, Han is very humble and wants to remain that way. He said, “good things come to those who do good, and provide unselfishly for others.” He says his Christian faith keeps him grounded and that he prays before each concert.
Han said he entered the American Idol contest not to become a star but to promote Milal Mission, a non-profit organization in Korea that helps disabled youth. Han suffered from depression in his early years and went to the organization for help. He said that working with them turned his life around and that he wanted to give back to those who had given him so much.
“When I was in Korea, I pursued my dream [of making it as a singer] for two years but nothing happened, so I had depression. I always wanted to be on stage. I went there (Milal Mission) for my treatment. I fell in love with the kids who taught me how humble they are. They pulled me out of my misery and I wanted to give back.”
Han has created awareness and rasied donations for the organization, but he wants to do more. “I want to donate lots of money to the organization when I make it [big],” he said.
Han says he would love to appear in TV shows and movies, and make his own acoustic album and perhaps perform a duet with his idol Tony Bennett.