Insooni Breaks Racial Barrier to Become Beloved Singer in South Korea

Insooni Breaks Racial Barrier to Become Beloved Singer in South Korea

When she took the stage to perform at Carnegie Hall in front of 107 Korean War veterans, the singer Kim Insoon was thinking of her father, an American soldier stationed in South Korea during the postwar decades whom she had never met or even seen.

“You are my fathers,” she told the soldiers in the audience before singing “Father,” one of her Korean-language hits.

“To me, the United States has always been my father’s country,” Ms. Kim said in a recent interview, recalling that 2010 performance. “It was also the first place where I wanted to show how successful I had become — without him and in spite of him.”

Ms. Kim, born in 1957, is better known as Insooni in South Korea, where she is a household name. For over four decades, she has won fans across generations with her passionate and powerful singing style and genre-crossing performances. Fathered by a Black American soldier, she also broke the racial barrier in a country deeply prejudiced against biracial people, especially those born to Korean women and African-American G.I.s.

Her enduring and pioneering presence in South Korea’s pop scene helped pave the way for future K-pop groups to globalize with multiethnic lineups.

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