45 years later, man finds lost music and singing dream

August 11, 2014
Lee Ki-yoon says a photo of his daughter and a tape recorder are his treasures. (Kim Young-jae/The Korea Times)

Lee Ki-yoon says a photo of his daughter and a tape recorder are his treasures. (Kim Young-jae/The Korea Times)

In April 1971, Lee Ki-yoon released his first and only record in Korea.

Holding two songs and his dreams of making it as a singer, he debuted as “Yoo Sung” after being signed to a record company called Oasis in 1969.

But he found rejection — the music was deemed unfit for the tightly controlled era, as so many songs at the time were — and moved to the United States in 1979. The records, left behind in Korea, were lost to him.

Forty-five years later, all it took was one online music site to find what had been lost to the 65-year-old.

Finding the record has reignited his dream of singing, which had been pushed back as he took on the responsibilities of heading a household, he said.

In efforts to locate his music, Lee traveled to Korea in 1993 and again in 2000 to research the long-gone record company and song composer but was unable to recover anything.

Hope was diminishing when, earlier this year, he visited a video rental store for an episode of a Korean music program, “Gayo Stage,” and met a computer repair man inside.

The two bonded over a chat about their children — Lee’s daughter, Jessica Lee, became the first Korean American woman to receive a badge at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in April, while the repairman had two daughters of his own — when talk of Lee’s search for his missing music came up.

With the help of the repairman, Lee was reunited with his record at last via an online music site.

“My heart was beating at the time,” Lee said. “It was the same as finding a lost dream after 40 years, and I had tears in my eyes.”

Lee, a Norwalk resident, is currently a caregiver for an 88-year-old Korean War veteran.

“Although I couldn’t become a singer, my last dream is to stand on the same stage as Hyun Chul and Song Dae-kwan on ‘Gayo Stage,’” he said. “I’m living on 1 percent hope, because it’s better than not having any hope at all.”

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