Minisuru promotes hanryu on airOne of the more popular celebrities on FM radio in Japan is Minisuru, a female presenter who is so fluent in English that she is often mistaken for a westerner.
“When I first had a meeting with some of my listeners they commented, ‘well, you aren’t a blond.’ Then when I said I was Korean, they just nodded,” she said.
The name Minsiru is the Japanese pronunciation of her given Korean name, Jeong Min-sil. Ms. Jeong, 35, is a third-generation ethnic Korean-Japanese whose grandparents came from North Korea. She debuted on air in 1992 and decided then that she would not use a Japanese “stage” name but rather would stick with her given name. At that time, this was a gutsy thing to do in the entertainment business in Japan, where prejudice against ethnic Koreans was rife.
“I wasn’t concerned that much. I had always asked myself why I should live with a name other than my own since I was in school. Fortunately, people in the station liked it for being exotic,” Ms. Jeong said.
Ms. Jeong does a five-hour live radio show on J-Wave every Friday, and has been doing so for six years. A five-hour live radio show is not easy even for a veteran like Ms. Jeong, but being quite familiar with music, popular culture, lifestyle and trends in Japan helps her fill in the slot.
The recent Korean wave, or hanryu, has given a new opportunity to Ms. Jeong, who also speaks Korean as well as Japanese and English. As such, she is seen as the go-to person to provide information on Korean pop culture. Ms. Jeong has hosted numerous events including a film festival and regularly translates for “Hantame,” a Korean pop culture program on Fuji Television.
One of her favorite programs is “Asian New Standard” aired on Love FM in Fukuoka. The program introduces the latest trends from Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia and recent hit songs from these countries.
Ms. Jeong has full responsibility for onsite reporting for J-Wave ― last year, she visited Korea four times and introduced Korea’s club culture, and online game and film industries to her audience. She is also responsible for live interviews with Korean celebrities.
“After traveling to many countries, I realized that the Korean wave was not only a phenomenon in Japan but also in Asia. Korea’s dynamic culture is more competitive than those of other countries,” she said.
Her Korean fluency comes from studying at schools supported by Chosen Soren (the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan), which sympathizes with North Korea. Ms. Jeong recently changed her nationality to South Korean from North Korean. She said that it was more convenient for reporting overseas.
“North or South is not important,” Ms. Jeong said. “There are more and more opportunities for Koreans in Japan and it is meaningless to fuss about their origin. After all, they are one people.”
by Yeh Young-june