FEDERAL WAY, Wash. —
On the AM dial, sandwiched between news talk and oldies, you'll find a radio station based in a Federal Way office building that offers both happy music and a lifeline to the community.
This is Radio Hankook, a 20 year long passion project for owner Jean Suh.
“She has that soothing voice that really makes everybody smile,” says local attorney Sang Chae.
It’s a soothing voice in a language familiar to an estimated 200-thousand people with Korean heritage from Bellingham to Olympia.
24 hours a day her radio stations, 1450 AM in the South Sound and 1230 AM in the north, offer more than music. There's news, legal advice and Suh's own show, a mix of oldies, poetry and observations.
“Basically the main purpose of the shows is to educate people on how to live here,” says Chae. “We teach people how to conduct business in Washington, and basically how to be a better citizen.”
Every year Suh selects six struggling businesses and gives them free advertising. She isn't earning a fortune.
“We are very poor,” she laughs.
But when she walks into a local Korean restaurant, she's treated like royalty.
Jadie Son stopped by to say hello. She listens to Radio Hankook whenever she's in the car.
“I want to hear what Korean markets are putting on sale this week and those things are really helpful,” she says. “And I like knowing about other Korean businesses.”
Jason Han works in a restaurant where Radio Hankook plays all day in the kitchen.
“Having this kind of radio station really helps people who are new to this community,” he says.
And not just the community made up of people with Korean Americans. Now that K-Pop has become South Korea's greatest export, a new audience is tuning in both on the radio and on YouTube.
“Oh! They say this K Pop is good!” recalls Suh. “So I say we put the K Pop program on two hours a day. But in English. Then we will have a lot of listeners!”
Perhaps not enough listeners to make Jean Suh a wealthy woman, but you can't put a price tag on helping a community.
“This is her passion,” says Chae. “This is her way of giving back to the community.”