On July 5, Singaporean David Yong debuted in the K-Pop scene with his hip-hop track “In My Pocket,” featuring Korean rapper Kid Milli. Yong may not be the first non-Korean singer to pursue a career in the K-Pop industry, but he is the only thirty-four-year-old CEO who runs more than fifteen businesses ranging from timber to finance to do so.
Born into a family that owned a timber trading company, Yong started his career as a trainee lawyer until he joined the family business in 2014. He is currently the CEO of Singapore-based Evergreen Group Holdings, a multi-diversified range of companies, including Lifestyle, F&B, Automotive, and Real Estate.
Yong said it was his longtime dream to bridge K-Pop and Southeast Asia by promoting the export of Korean content and bringing some Southeast Asian talents to the Korean music scene. He became a K-Pop performer himself to further understand the industry and use his experience to expand his K-Pop business. He labeled himself as an “influencer CEO.”
I think being an influencer CEO is like being a top leader who inspires the next generation. This allows me to share my experience with young people in Southeast Asia and [show] how we should not confine ourselves to only one boundary. We should open our minds to trying different things without limiting ourselves to just one role. Today, a doctor is not just a doctor; a lawyer is not just a lawyer. Things have evolved in this way, and we should all become multi-players.
— David Yong
But Yong admitted that he faced some obstacles in pursuing his K-Pop dream. His biggest hurdle was the language barrier.
Most producers and artists only communicated in Korean. When I first came here, it wasn’t easy to learn Korean fast enough to communicate efficiently and properly with my producers. So I had to cram everything in a short period of time ― maybe about two to four months. It was quite intense to train and learn the language and culture of Korea at the same time.
— David Yong
Yong is represented in Korea by RBW, the record label behind the popular girl group MAMAMOO. His firm Evergreen also signed a memorandum of understanding with RBW earlier in the year for possible partnerships targeting the Southeast Asian market. When they were discussing different business projects, RBW thought Yong could become an influencer CEO instead of just handling business. This paved the way for Yong to showcase his own music through a contract with RBW.
Yong’s “In My Pocket” music video has already garnered more than ten million views on YouTube as of this writing. He acknowledged that rapper Kid Millie and Jeon Ji Yoon, a former member of the disbanded girl group 4MINUTE helped him a lot with the MV.
Yong currently has a lot of projects in the pipeline. He plans to hold a pop music festival concert in Southeast Asia and open a pop-up for K-Pop training in Singapore. He also looks forward to doing more collaborations with established K-Pop artists and releasing music in 2023.