Sue Kim Bonifazio is one third of The Kim Sisters, a trio of Korean musicians who went from performing songs for GIs in the Korean War to appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show a record 22 times. You might even say they were the first “K-Pop” group to break into the US! (Intro: Beneath The Surface)
Sook-ja “Sue” Kim is a Korean-born U.S. singer. She started singing with her sister, Ai-ja, and cousin, Mia, in a group called The Kim Sisters at the age of 10 and played 13 instruments, including the bagpipes. In 1950, the Korean War broke out and Sue Kim’s father, Kim Hae-song, who was a famous Korean symphony orchestra conductor, was captured by the North Korean army and later assassinated. Her mother, Lee Nan-young, was left with no home, no food and no money for her and her seven children. Lee was a famous Korean singer who rose to stardom with the song “Mokpo Tears.” In 1953, Lee asked the children to perform with her in South Korea’s military clubs to support their family. The GIs who returned to the States spread the word about the talented trio and in 1958, Tom Ball (who later became The Kim Sisters’ manager) heard about the sisters from one of the returning GIs and went to Korea to recruit them for an Asian act he was producing. In 1959, Ed Sullivan was broadcasting his variety show live from the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas. There, he met the Kim Sisters and asked them to appear on his show. They were such a big hit that they invited their mother and the Kim Brothers to sing on his show in New York. Afterwards, Sullivan offered them an exclusive contract to make 22 appearances on his show. The Kim Sisters made their home in Las Vegas, which led them to a 15-year engagement at the Stardust hotel where they performed with their brothers. Sue Kim still resides in Las Vegas with her husband of 45 years, their children, and five grandchildren. On March 27, 2014, Sue Kim became the first Korean American to be inducted into the Nevada Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame. Sue Kim was the president of the Korean American Women’s Association (a non-profit organization), and was given the Asian Community Achievement Award from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce for her work.