Korean pop stars were impressed by Singaporean Akif Halqi’s soulful singing and slick dancing skills which won him the Best Vocal Award at the recent KBS K-pop World Festival.

Akif, 21, who won a trophy and 7 million won (S$8,300), says: “People were telling me that Monsta X said that my facial expression during the performance was good. Another person told me that Twice were cheering when my name was announced as the winner.”

The boy band Monsta X and girl group Twice were part of the star-studded line-up at the event held in Changwon.

Akif’s achievement was highlighted by Korean Ambassador to Singapore Lee Sangdeok at Korean National Day Reception on Tuesday night (Oct 3).

Later that night, Akif took to the stage at the Shangri-La Hotel ballroom to perform his winning piece, a rendition of “Eyes, Nose, Lips”, a ballad originally sung by Big Bang member Taeyang.

When the full-time national serviceman went back to his army duties after the K-pop festival, he was greeted by the sound of his own singing.

He says: “My colleagues played the YouTube video of my performance. All my sirs and enciks (superior officers) have been very supportive. Before I flew off, they asked me take care and wished me good luck in our WhatsApp chat group. When the news came out on The Straits Times, they posted the link to the news article, and joked that I am now a pop star.”

View this post on Instagram

Could not have done it without these two amazing boys. We became tight cuz of this trip and I can't help but to miss you both so much already hahaha. Yall two are like brothers to me now and I can't help myself from feeling proud whenever we perform together! I must say altho you two can be a pain in the ass sometimes I still wouldn't have traded yall for other people hehe I hope you two can forgive me for being nonsensical most of the time too hahaha. Thank you for agreeing to do this with me. Love you @mrkhaimarzuki dongsaeng and @arlryal hyung 😘 #KWF #KWF2017 #TeamSingapore We are invited to perform for Korean Embassy National Day Reception and for the high racking officials TOMORROW (3rd Oct) 7.50pm @ Shangrila Hotel. We will be going LIVE on instastory too! See yall 🙂

A post shared by Akif Halqi (@mynameisakif) on

When he completes his NS stint in 2019, he hopes to break into the South Korean music industry.

He says: “I’m not sure how true it is, but I was told that a Korean talent agency was interested in me after watching the performance. But my translator told them that I am currently serving national service and they were like ‘Oh, OK. I will still be trying my best to try out with different agencies, but as for now, I have to serve the country first.

Image: Akif Halqi’s Instagram
Text: Gwendolyn Ng / The Straits Times / October 2017

For similar stories, visit straitstimes.com.

For more entertainment stories, read The Most Enviable Friendships Among Korean Celebrities and Who Are Your Wanna One Roommates?