Forget Marvin Gaye and the Temptations, two Los Angeles radio stations are carving out their niche on the dial with a different sort of Seoul sound.

The world's largest concentration of Koreans outside of South Korea an estimated 700,000 in greater Los Angeles is the target audience of Radio Korea KYPA-AM (1230) and Radio Seoul KFOX-AM (1650).

The stations provide an important cultural and informational touchstone for the region's Korean community.

"The Korean population here is, by and large, what we call a hermit population they generally prefer to live and do business within Koreatown, and even some people who have been in the country for 20 years speak only Korean," said David Choi, legal affairs manager for Radio Korea. "Even with tighter immigration laws now, everyone wants to come here, so the population is growing."

Both feature essentially the same format Korean news reports, interspersed with a variety of music, infomercials and talk shows but they are taking divergent strategic tacks. Radio Korea aspires to be a national radio powerhouse, while Radio Seoul is a tile in the mosaic of holdings of its parent, HK Media Inc., whose flagship is the L.A. newspaper Korea Times.

Radio Korea
Established in 1989, Radio Korea was the first station to target the L.A.-area Korean population, and the station is now trying to establish itself as local and national voice of the Korean community.

The station, which leases its signal from privately held radio group MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting Inc., partnered with Sirius satellite radio to launch Radio Korea USA the only Korean satellite radio channel on Aug. 15, to coincide with the anniversary of Korean independence.

MultiCultural, the nation's 18th-largest radio broadcaster, transmits in Spanish, Chinese, Korean and 19 other languages and has an exclusive, multi-year deal to create and launch the first Asian-language satellite channels on Sirius.

The deal took about two years to complete.

"We had to do quite a bit of acrobatics to get that going," Choi said. "Some of the people we dealt with when approaching satellite providers were very high-nosed about it, because they viewed the entire United States as their target audience, not smaller segments. I often found myself saying there are 2.5 million Korean Americans in the U.S. this is not an insignificant number of people."

Going national, Choi said, is key to cementing Radio Korea as the premiere Korean radio outlet.

Choi said that more than two-thirds of his station's advertisers were Korean businesses, including large corporations such as Samsung, Kia, Korean Air and Asiana. More recently, major U.S. advertisers including McDonalds, Bank of America and auto giants General Motors and Toyota have come aboard.


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.