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Dini Duclos, City of Federal Way
Jean J. Suh, President, Radio Hankook
INSIDE JoongAng Daily
Jean S. Suh, now 62, has dedicated her life to broadcasting in Korean to fellow expatriates in the United States.Ms. Suh was the first to begin Korean language broadcasts there, in the mid-1960s. Forty years after leaving Korea with $30 in her pocket, escorting 33 orphans who were being placed in adopted U.S. homes by Holt Children's Services, Ms. Suh is now the president of Radio Hankook, an AM radio service that broadcasts to the Seattle and Tacoma areas in Washington state.She was in Seoul this month for a conference of Korean-language broadcasters from around the world. Ms. Suh began her career as a radio actress at the Korea Broadcasting System in 1959.Five years later, she called it quits because she did not like the atmosphere there.She said delicately, "At that time, there weren't as many programs, and we had to curry a producer's favor to get a part, and I just did not like the idea of doing that."At the time, radio actors stood by in a waiting room at the station.An employee periodically came into the room and wrote the names of some actors on a chalkboard.If the actor's name was not listed, back home she went.Ms. Suh said she felt miserable."That's when I decided to study in the United States and then return to Korea as a director," Ms. Suh said. After quitting KBS, Ms. Suh flew to Los Angeles and enrolled in Columbia College in Hollywood in 1964.But the life of a foreign student with little money on hand was difficult.Not only did she have to pay her living expenses, she had to earn money for tuition. "I asked a school official how I could manage to work as a foreign student," Ms. Suh said."Since it was illegal for a foreign student to work, he told me to get a housekeeping job." That job, she said, lasted only 15 days.It was so hard that she could not bear it anymore.But she met a kindhearted laundry owner who was willing to pay her in advance to help her pay her tuition.Her wages were a munificent 79 cents an hour. "None of the Americans wanted to work overtime on weekends, but I worked on Saturdays and Sundays to earn my tuition," Ms. Suh said."As a poor foreign student, I could not buy new clothes.I bought used clothes for 10 cents or 25 cents at the Salvation Army or the thrift shop and wore them after washing them."But the following year saw her first breakthrough.Ms. Suh started airing a 30-minute program every week of news, music and interviews on a radio station in Los Angeles.The next year, the program was extended to an hour a week, then to two hours daily in 1967. In 1970, she had a chance to strike out on her own.She and two partners started up an independent radio station using a subcarrier of another radio station in Los Angeles.That technique, now widely used to broadcast stereophonic sound, piggybacks a second radio signal on top of the main signal.Ms. Suh was the on-air talent, and her partners handled financial and technical matters. This venture, Korea Broadcasting of America, was the first independent Korean-language broadcasting station in the United States, Ms. Suh said, adding that a congratulatory message came to her from President Park Chung Hee in Seoul. "Old ladies chipped in a few dollars that they made from selling buckwheat jellies and kimchi," Ms. Suh said.Meanwhile, music from home was hard to come by; record companies in Korea were releasing only one recording per month.Her mother in Korea bought up the new releases and sent them to her.She had Korean newspapers delivered, but they were a week old by the time they arrived.She turned to listening to shortwave radio broadcasts from Korea and taking notes. Working alone, she said, she couldn't take even a day off for illness."At that time, most Korean records were compilation albums containing songs by different performers.If I was sick, I laid a blanket on the floor at the studio and broadcast a series of names of the performers whose tracks were on one side of the record.Then I lay down on the floor while the songs were playing until the needle reached the end," she recalled. But after two years, she said, she had no choice but to sell the station.The buyer was a son of Lee Hu-rak, then the head of Korean intelligence, and he paid her $80,000."If I'd only had $10,000 a month, I wouldn't have had to sell it," Ms. Suh said. The new owner, however, had a tough time, and before long shut the station down.She recalled the negotiations to sell the station to Mr. Lee. "The buyer's lawyer said to him, ¡®If you hire Jean Suh, the station will last.She is passionate about broadcasting and she cried a bucket of tears because she had to sell the station,'" Ms. Suh said. After the station was closed, Ms. Suh tried to repurchase the programming content, especially the records her mother had sent her.She visited the owner of the shuttered station and asked him to return what were once her cherished belongings.In 1996, with some financial help from her friends, Ms. Suh was able to acquire two former country music AM radio stations ¡ª KSUH 1450 AM and KWYZ 1230 AM, both located near Seattle ¡ª and launched Radio Hankook. "The opportunity couldn't have come at a better time.The stations were on the market and were incomparably cheaper than those in Los Angeles," Ms. Suh said."I was lucky."Most Korean broadcasters in the United States, whether television or radio, do not own their own stations but rent time on existing stations, Ms. Suh said."Korean radio stations in Los Angeles, where there is a big Korean community, pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per year," she continued. Of the 26 U.S. radio stations airing Korean language programs, only three stations, including Ms. Suh's, are owned by Korean-Americans; one is partly owned by Koreans."Their advertising revenue comes from small Korean businesses like grocery stores.The money does not circulate within the Korean community; it all vanishes," she said of most of the stations. During the last eight years, she managed to turn around her own stations, which are now profitable.But it was never easy."For the first three years, major advertisers didn't give me any advertisements," Ms. Suh said.As the stations became more established and the listener base grew, corporate clients such as Asiana Airlines, Kia Motors and Hyundai Motor started blocking out steady advertising time. According to Ms. Suh, while radio stations in general have lost their luster because of competition with other media, radio stations for minorities are expanding in the United States."There are 800 laundry shops in the Seattle and Tacoma area run by Koreans, and a number of Korean restaurants," Ms. Suh said."They start every morning by turning on the radio." First-generation Korean immigrants listen to the program to obtain legal, immigration and education information, because many have difficulty understanding English-language programs, Ms. Suh said."Our goal is to help them achieve the American dream, for the second and third generations to make inroads in mainstream American society."Also, she said, young Korean-Americans use the station to learn the language."More and more young Koreans listen to Korean pop music, and become interested in learning Korean and Korean culture," Ms. Suh said.Ms. Suh comes to Korea every year to attend the World Korean-Language Broadcasters' Conference, sponsored by KBS.The most recent conference ended on Nov. 12.Ms. Suh has won several grand prizes for programs presented by Radio Hankook, including one from 2002 titled "100 Years of Korean Immigration: Another Challenge Ahead." As part of this year's broadcasting conference in Seoul, she traveled to Mount Geumgang in North Korea. "Visiting North Korea brought back childhood memories," she said.Her father was a district judge before the Korean War; she said communists in the South took him away and later executed him. "I went to look for my father at the Seodaemun prison.There I saw a pond full of bodies and the water turned black because of blood," Ms. Suh said.Because of that experience, she is strongly anti-communist, she said. Ms. Suh still produces a two-hour program every day on stations that reach as far as western Canada. "I have fan e-mail from all over the world, even from Korea, thanks to our Internet broadcasts," she said.
CNNfn IndustryWatch - Article
Jean Suh, owner and president of Radio Hankook, moved the station to a private home at 2011 S. 330th St. in May, after debts forced her out of the station's offices in a commercial area along South 336th Street.This whole my life, whole my life, said Suh, 59.The radio station is like my life..Though she moved the station last spring, Suh never obtained a home occupation permit -- a requirement for in-home businesses in the city.She has since applied for the permit, but some residents are protesting, saying the station do not belong in a neighborhood.I do not like the way they went about it.Suh has offered the city her own set of signatures -- more than 350 from friends and supporters throughout Puget Sound's Korean American community, as well as neighboring residents.She also has sent letters to neighbors inviting them to tour the station.The situation forces the city to strike a delicate balance between preservation of its land-use standards and sensitivity to Federal Way's large Korean American population.The Korean community represents an estimated 11 percent of Federal Way's nearly 77, 000 residents, and proportionately the largest Korean American enclave in the United States.Radio Hankook broadcasts a variety of Korean language programming, including music, news, talk shows and a two-hour show of household tips hosted by Suh.In the South Sound, listeners find the station's signal at 1450 AM ; it be at 1230 AM in the Everett area.Suh started the station in 1997, after spending much of her adult life in the radio industry.In 1965, she started the nation's first Korean-language station in Los Angeles.Radio remains her passion.Really, we be doing community service, Suh said.If I want to make money, I do not buy a radio station..Code enforcement officials slapped a violation notice on the station's door in June.Since then, the matter has worked its way through a procedural tangle at city hall.Suh must prove the station will not harm the character of the surrounding neighborhood, will not require outside storage, and will not endanger the health and safety of the neighborhood.The station does not use broadcast towers.Its signal transmits through phone lines to a satellite dish.Noise is negligible, and traffic in and out of the site is limited to occasional deliveries, Suh said.In documents filed with the city, Suh contends that her business meets city standards.