Korean song contest crosses cultures in Federal Way | Video

More than $10,000 in prize money is up for grabs this weekend at the first Korean Song Contest for Non-Koreans. The event, sponsored by Federal Way’s Radio Hankook (1230 AM and 1450 AM), is open to all non-Koreans in the state. Contestants must sing a Korean pop song in Korean.

The main event will run 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Knutzen Family Theatre.

A preliminary contest was held Jan. 7 at the Family Life Christian Center in Federal Way. A few dozen singers from the region, representing a range of ethnic backgrounds, gave it their best shots in front of the audience and judges.

Among the contestants was Matthew Benuska, a Lynnwood resident and Edmonds School District employee. Benuska is familiar with the Korean language and culture through volunteer work. Although he cannot speak the language fluently, he enjoys singing in Korean and works to understand the song lyrics.

At his audition, Benuska delivered an a cappella rendition of “Cafe Tale” by Lee Chong Seok. Most Korean songs are written for tenors, which presents a welcome challenge for Benuska’s bass vocal range.

The short syllables and structure of the Korean language also make it “easy to parrot,” said Benuska, 42. “It’s easy to rap in Korean.”

Sarah Thao of Seattle, who has experience singing in Korean, said the contest would mark the end of her Korean singing days.

“I don’t know what I’m singing,” said Thao, 20, referring to the lyrics of “Peace B” by Id.

Michelle Zheng, 14, was the first singer on the bill — and happened to be singing in front of a crowd for the first time. She performed Tae Yang’s “Wedding Dress.”

“It’s been my dream since I was little to be a singer,” said Michelle, a Seattle resident.

Learn more

The main contest runs 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 15 at Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road. The contest will be hosted in English and Korean. To learn more, contact Randi Hong at (253) 815-1212 or e-mail Also visit

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