Sat, 04 Jun 1994

Radio Korea, a listening alternative for Indonesians

By I. Christianto

SEOUL (JP): Through the inventions of those such as Sammuel F.B. Morse and Guglielmo Marconi, people throughout the world are able to enjoy point-to-point communication via radio broadcasting.

The Voice of Korea, also known as Radio Korea, is an international radio broadcast transmitted from Yoido-Dong Youngdungpo-Ku, Seoul.

Radio Korea, a member of the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) division, was founded on Aug. 15, 1973. It broadcasts in 12 languages -- English, Indonesian, Mandarin, Korean, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, French and Spanish.

Radio Korea started its Indonesian service on June 2, 1975. Kim Young Soo, the radio's international service producer for the Indonesian section, said there are 1,570 listeners from various provinces in Indonesia, based on letters they receive.

"We receive some 300 to 500 letters from Indonesia each month," Kim said, adding that the radio receives some 12,000 letters or reception reports from individuals in over 120 countries each month.

He said 100 Malaysians and three people from Brunei Darussalam also tune in to the Indonesian service.

"Last year I also received letters from Saudi Arabia and Japan, saying that the KBS Indonesian service was received in those countries," he said.

According to Kim, KBS, which airs international broadcasting services through a relay transmission system in Sackville, Canada, will increase its power transmission in the Southeast Asian area from 150 kilowatts to 250 kilowatts for better reception.

He said KBS also plans to install a relay station in Singapore next year to enhance services in Southeast Asian countries.

The international service is on the air daily on 22 frequencies, 20 on shortwave and two on medium-wave frequencies. The English and Japanese services are broadcast two hours daily, Mandarin one hour and the other services, including Indonesian, are only broadcast for 45 minutes.

According to Kim, the Indonesian service is the most popular program after the English and German services.

Kim, who has worked as a producer for the past six years, said most of the fans of the Indonesian service are interested in monitoring Korean announcers speaking Bahasa Indonesia.

"I think we have special characteristics when compared to other international broadcasting services with Indonesian announcers," he said, adding that only one Indonesian works as a consultant for the section.


Kim, who spent several years in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, and Jakarta said that Radio Korea has formed a good relationship with its fans across the Indonesian archipelago.

"One day I announced that I would visit Jakarta. To my surprise, when I arrived at Halim (Perdanakusuma) airport I saw a banner welcoming me. What an emotional relationship I had unintentionally established! Many listeners admitted they came to Jakarta just to see me arrive," he recalled.

Kim said radio listeners, composed primarily of individuals in the privacy of their own homes, differ considerably from an audience in a hall or theater. A sense of intimacy may occur between the first group and the announcer.

He also said that for better service, KBS has cooperated with the state-owned Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) since 1977. "One announcer from RRI is working here as a consultant for one or two years."

Chamdan Sahal, 44, is the 10th RRI announcer working at KBS. Noted master of ceremony Olan Sitompul also once served at Radio Korea.

The basic goal at Radio Korea is to accurately and promptly convey to overseas listeners information on the country's social, economic and cultural scenes, as well as to provide a view of the global developments affecting the nation.

The Indonesian service also provides opinion programs inviting listeners to send in their views on various topics, usually aired two months earlier.

"We announce the topic very early as it will take time for our listeners to prepare their opinions. We then contact selected individuals to deliver his or her opinion to be recorded," Chamdan said.

He said topics for the program are usually general issues such as, "how to bolster cooperation between Korea and your country" or "smoking among the youth."

Kim said that although there are no specific data about Indonesian service listeners, most of them are high school and university students and elderly people.

Noted communications expert Astrid S. Soesanto told The Jakarta Post that it would be interesting to research why people are fond of listening to international broadcasting services since, so far, there have not been valid studies on the topic.

Some references have said that international broadcasting, the transmission of programs by a country for audiences beyond its own borders, dates from the earliest days of broadcasting itself.

International transmissions, which utilize the shortwave band with 1,500 channels 10 kilohertz wide, play a very important part in broadcasting outside of many nations. Many governments use the method to keep in touch with their citizens abroad.

Astrid said that what people should know is that the basis of the broadcasting is pure propaganda.

"The situation and conditions are changing. The (Indonesian) government was very concerned with foreign broadcasting services from countries such as the (former) Soviet Union and at one time jammed the frequency. But now there are many overseas radio stations, from countries including Japan, Germany and the Netherlands, serving Indonesians," she said.

Astrid also said that international radio listeners want to know what is going on in foreign countries.

"Especially people who listen to Radio Korea. If it's true that most of the listeners are students, they must have strong desires to expand their perspectives," she said.

According to Astrid, who is also an assistant at the State Ministry of National Development Planning, listeners of overseas radio stations possibly want better news coverage than they get from the state-owned television and radio stations, TVRI and RRI.

She said people look for the best in information from international television stations such as CNN, but international broadcasting is the best alternative, especially for those living far away from big cities with inadequate infrastructures.

International broadcasting services which utilize shortwave transmissions are the easiest way for people in remote areas to get in touch with ongoing events.

Kim said that most of Radio Korea Indonesia listeners live in Sumatra and Kalimantan, as "our transmission is better received in areas with few high-rise buildings."

He also said that bad weather will affect radio reception of overseas' broadcasts.

Aside from international broadcasting, KBS which employs more than 7,000 employees, operates two television channels and seven radio channels.

"There are about 58 personnel working at the foreign services," Kim said, adding that the KBS news center usually provides information for all sections.

He said KBS employs multi-functional employees who act as reporters, producers and editors at the radio section. There are currently nine announcers working at KBS's Indonesian service.

Kim, who has worked at KBS for 12 years, said he studied Indonesian at Han-Kuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul.

"Actually there are many people who apply to work as announcers at the Indonesian service, but they fail the Bahasa Indonesia test."