FOUNTAIN VALLEY – A Westminster man who has been entertaining listeners in the Vietnamese community and inspiring social movements for more than two decades died from heart disease Friday morning at age 55 at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital.
Nguyen Ngoc Hung Dung, better known as Viet Dzung, was known as a radio and television host by many, but more importantly as an activist and freedom fighter for the Vietnamese community, his friends said.
Dzung, right, and his long-time radio co-host Minh Phuong Do had one of
the most popular radio shows in the Vietnemese community in Orange County. Dzung died Friday from heart disease.
ANA VENEGAS, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
“He was beloved by many, many people and it’s a devastating loss for our community and for human rights efforts in Vietnam,” said Tyler Diep, a former Westminster city councilman and longtime friend of Dung.
Most recently, Dung hosted a morning show on Radio Bolsa, a popular
Vietnamese radio program listened to in Little Saigon and other communities worldwide. He had also hosted television segments for Asia Entertainment and was once a DJ for Little Saigon radio.
Dung started his entertainment
career as a singer in Vietnam before leaving for the United States as a
boat refugee in 1975. He continued his country singing career and began
songwriting while studying biology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“He’s a very popular Vietnamese composer, the Vietnamese community loves him,” said Westminster Mayor Tri Ta.
One of his most popular songs,
translated “It’s a gift I sent to my motherland,” is regarded as the unofficial anthem for the Vietnamese boat people, or refugees, said Orange County First District Supervisor Janet Nguyen.
“He’s had a lot of personal challenges and his songs and music are so empowering,” Nguyen said. “He’s also so kind and for someone with that many fans, he’s so humble and down to earth. (His passing) is very,
He was singing on several radio channels before Little Saigon Radio recruited him for a morning show in 1993. He left that show in 1996 to switch over to Radio Bolsa.
Besides the funny antics he transmitted over airwaves every morning, Dung had a stronger, deep-rooted purpose in politics and human rights.
“He’s a very logical and thoughtful human being,” Nguyen said. “You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.”
Dung worked to encourage the Vietnamese American community to become involved in their community and be engaged in local politics.
“He understood that for an immigrant community to mature, we not only have to be good at creating jobs, but also to get involved in politics,” Diep said.
Dung helped organize a “Rock the Vote” event in 1999 to encourage Vietnamese Americans to register and vote, modeled after the MTV voting initiative.
“He helped encourage over 10,000 voters to register,” Diep said. “It’s because of this effort that
we’re seeing more Vietnamese Americans in politics,” Diep said.
Dung had many ailments throughout his life. He walked on crutches from having polio as a child and suffered from diabetes and heart disease for many years, but his sickness never stopped him from community outreach.
In 1994, Dung visited Southeast Asian prison camps and reported back to the listeners about the perilous journey.
“We just want to cheer people up and sing for them,” Dung said in a previous interview. “We just want to tell them the Vietnamese people in America still remember them and still support them. I also wanted to find out the truth about what's going on.”
Dung worked hard to groom the younger generation of Vietnamese Americans to also become activists and leaders in the community, Diep said.
“I'm shocked to hear of your sudden passing. You've done so much to educate the younger generation of
Vietnamese like myself about the plight of our country and the need to continue fighting for its freedom,” wrote Thai Hong from Australia on Dung’s Facebook page.
His friends say the Dung worked hard to inform the Vietnamese Americans nationwide about current events and get them involved in community action.
“YOU are the people's hero, and my hero. You will forever live in the heart of people who love you, love your songs, and love what you have done for Viet Nam and our people,” wrote Calvin Bui, from South Carolina, on Dung’s Facebook page Saturday morning.
Nguyen said she visited Radio Bolsa on Friday and everyone at the station was in tears over Dung’s passing.
“He was extremely influential and he’s going to be very missed,” Nguyen said.