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Radio Korea : As a voice of and an ear to the Korean-Amercian community, KBLA teaches its listeners to 'become more Americanized.' News is the station's primary attraction. : JIN HO LEE

June 27, 1993|GLORIA LAU | Jin Ho Lee is the deputy news manager of KBLA-AM 1580, also known as Radio Korea. He emigrated from South Korea in 1980. A resident of Downtown, Lee has a bachelor's degree in history from Cal Poly Pomona. He was interviewed by Gloria Lau. and

I like to be called a reporter. It's one of the most respected jobs in Korea and all the reporters are proud to be journalists. I am too.

We're trying to serve our listeners better--to teach them to become more Americanized. We encourage them to participate in political areas. We encourage our younger generation to be politically ambitious. We tell Korean-Americans to vote and we tell them how to vote and how to acquire citizenship to live in this country. Since Jay Kim of Diamond Bar got elected to Congress in 1992, more Korean people are aware of politics.

We emphasize the importance of the professional people. Go to college, work . . . become a police officer. We try and help Korean-Americans assimilate. That's why our reporters are all educated in the United States. They understand more about the American culture and about Los Angeles, about California.

There are people saying that because of Korean broadcasts and Korean newspapers, Koreans can't be more Americanized. There are people saying that Koreans should listen to major English channels or whatever. But a lot of recent immigrants can't speak or understand English at all. They don't understand what is going on in City Hall. But Radio Korea goes to the same place as NBC or CBS or KFWB. Our reporters go out there, cover it in English and air it in Korean.

Last month we had a talk show with KJLH-FM 102.3. That's a mainly African-American station. It was called "Bridging the Gap" and the purpose was to let both audiences participate together live. We asked them, "How do you feel about this? How should we overcome our differences and misunderstandings?" We all have to live here, so let's do something now so our younger generations can prosper. . . . The main themes were harmony and unity.

News attracts most of our listeners. Koreans are more concerned about news these days. You can tell because there are a lot of Korean news media in Los Angeles. There are about seven TV stations, two major newspapers and about four radio stations.

We get news from Korea. We have local news, national news, world news, plus sports and entertainment. Beginning this year, we started feeding the program to the Galaxy 2 satellite, so stations in Oregon, Washington and Texas that have the special radio equipment can use it for their listeners. And people with satellite dishes can also hear us from places like Canada, New York or Washington.

About a year ago, we did a survey of our listeners and 60% to 70% of the Korean people depend on Radio Korea. We are like an information center. Most of our listeners assume we know everything, that radio stations must know even a small store's phone number. We get a lot of calls asking for phone numbers. We find our Yellow Pages and give them the number.

Our listeners are mostly those 25 and older: businessmen, salaried men and working people. Retired people are very into radio. They live in senior-citizen apartments. They don't have much to do; during the day we usually play adult music.

During the night we focus on young people. Oldies were really popular in Korea so we've gotten a lot of requests for the oldies--like the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas.

We broadcast about two hours in English on the weekends. It's called "KBLA Hour." It's a talk show for the English-speaking younger generation. Eventually this radio station may change to an all-English station--in maybe 20 or 30 years. That's my feeling. Over time, the number of Korean-Americans who speak only Korean will drop.

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