For home shoppers, she's got the gaudiest numbers

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For home shoppers, she's got the gaudiest numbers

The success of home shopping networks hinges largely on the people on screen who pitch the products. They need to project the optimal mix of enthusiasm and trustworthiness. So it's no surprise that when a good pitchwoman comes along, Korea's five major home shopping channels get in a minor bidding war for her services.

Yu Nan-hui, a lady with a gift of the gab, is being gabbed about all over town after leaving LG Home Shopping Network last October to join Woori Home Shopping. Yu, 36, doubled her annual salary in the process, to about 200 million won ($150,000).

"People are making such a big deal about my income, but I don't pay much attention to it," Yu said. "But if this helps improve the reputations of shopping show hosts ?elevating them from mere salesmen who are out for a quick buck to people who are there to help customers and facilitate the TV shopping experience - then I'm all for it."

Yu's ascent to the top of her profession was not without setbacks. When she first set out to get work in front of the camera, her goal was to become an anchorwoman for a prime time news program. "I applied for every newscaster spot available in Korea," she explained. "I even made up a Buddhist name for myself to try out for the Buddhist broadcast channel, even though I'm not a believer." She didn't get the job at the Buddhist channel, nor did any local or national networks tender offers.

When she hit 30, Yu was ready to admit that her dreams had hit a dead end. She got married, after having put that off for four years. Then in May 1995 she came upon a classified ad placed by the home shopping channel CJ 39 Shopping. "At that time I didn't even know what home shopping meant," she said. "But I applied anyway, and I got hired, at last."

Yu worked for CJ 39 Shopping for three years, then jumped to LG Home Shopping, where she worked until last October.

So how does she get viewers to pick up the phone and buy whatever product she's hawking? "Back in school I was so shy I used to tremble when I had to read out loud," she said. "But later I found that I loved talking into a mike. I don't think I'm a great speaker, so I just say what I know; I don't exaggerate or embellish, and I don't use technical terms. I just describe the goods as if I were chatting with my next door neighbor. Honesty sells."

But watch Yu on camera, and you'll wonder how she could have been shy. Her eyes beam as her voice ranges from soft and serene to eager and bubbly. She's a natural for the camera.

Yu recounted her most embarrassing moment at work: "Once I was selling pants, and the president of the clothing manufacturer was on stage beside me. Though I knew that we had more than 2,000 pairs in stock, I told viewers there were only 500. I was saying 'now or never' when the president cut in with 'But I brought 2,000; there are plenty left.' I felt my face go so red."

Suddenly she was exposed as a liar, and had to think fast. "I just calmly said that although there were 2,000 in stock, only 500 had passed the government's quality assurance process by then, so for the others it would take months before delivery could be made."

Yu got out of that jam, and insists she's careful not to get in any others: "I want to be the host viewers trust, so they buy because of my credibility, not just the company's."

by Sung Tae-kyung

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