Mary Viena Tolentino Park, 27, a native of Bulacan, recently made history in South Korea when she became the first foreigner to win the “daesang,” or grand prize, in the 2011 KBS 1TV National Singing Contest finals.
The singing contest which was broadcast on popular Korean TV station KBS and emceed by veteran Korean actor and TV presenter Song Hae and announcer Park Un Yong, has been held for the last 50 years and is considered as Korea’s longest running TV program.
Viena was among the twenty finalists that qualified from among the 140 weekly winners of the contest in the past year. In the final round, she sang the Korean song “Azalea” which won her applause and cheers from the audience. For her championship feat, she won 5 million won (P191,000).
Viena first came to South Korea in 2009 to work and in September 2010, she met Park Jong Woong, a manager at a clinic in Chuncheon who was destined to be her husband.
Viena said she learned how to speak Korean by reading Korean language books, watching Korean dramas and movies and enrolling in a basic Korean language class.
She first joined a Korean singing contest in June last year at the Shinsegae shopping mall in Incheon and finished in second place and 500,000 won (P19,000).
This started her string of achievements that led to her being was awarded a document by the Korean Singers Association to signify that she is now a certified singer in South Korea.
As for their plans for a family, Viena said they are planning to have a baby but she will first enroll in a nursing assistant course in March.