New Radio Station Offers Music with a Message

By Brian Covert
Staff Writer

Operators of a new radio station in Osaka have found the ideal tool to rock the mike with both music and a human rights message: They call it FM Sarang.

The name of the amateur station comes from the word “love'” in Korean — fitting call letters for an operation whose staff members are primarily ethnic Korean residents of Ikuno-ku, the largest Korean community in Japan.

“We decided we needed a community radio station just for us,” says Oh Kwang-hyun, director of FM Sarang (77.0-78.0 MHz) and a second-generation Korean resident of Japan.

The primary function of the station, says Oh, is to promote the human rights of Koreans born and raised in this country.

“The fingerprinting issue, for example, is a major human rights problem for Koreans but only a minor political one for most Japanese,” he said. The station will act as a community link to the
anti-fingerprinting movement and several other grassroots activities, he adds.

At the same time, Oh is confident that FM Sarang will be able to walk the line between community activism and quality entertainment. He and 25 other staffers intend to do this by exposing local listeners of all backgrounds here to various kinds of culture and music from both within and outside Japan.

“Introducing such music will become a good means for promoting better understanding between Japanese and Koreans, as well as among Korean themselves,” said Oh.

FM Sarang’s playlist is strong on music from Okinawans and Ainu people as well as Koreans. It also includes a broad choice of music from many other Asian countries, with a bit of popular western music thrown in as well.

Oh decries what he sees as the mainstream Japanese media’s excessive focus on Caucasian people and culture, and hopes to partially fill that void by offering listeners a wider range of music and information from around the world.

FM Sarang’s special programs also include features and reports on the local Ikuno-ku area, talk shows, and disc-jockey music shows hosted by the station’s nearly two dozen DJs.

Some of the music and reports broadcast over the station’s airwaves are specifically targeted to people like Korean factory workers and bar hostesses who might not otherwise have access to such information.

The station’s range at present is limited to one kilometer and can be picked up only in southwest Ikuno-ku with the purchase of a 200-yen antenna. By the end of the year, however, Oh hopes to reach at least 1,000 listeners throughout the entire ward area.

Despite the station’s small-scale operations, Oh is satisfied with the community’s reaction so far.

“Koreans living here in Ikuno have responded that the issues aired by this station are very encouraging. They feel as if they’re back in Korea. Japanese listeners, on the other hand, say they were aware that many Koreans exist here but never knew how such Korean people live and think — until now.”

The station’s small studio space in Ikuno’s Fuse district is provided by the Anglican Ikuno Community Center, an affiliate of the Anglican Church. Oh affirms that the radio station's programs are run separately from any religious institution.

But the station's growth is restricted, according to Oh, by Article 5 of the Radio Law of 1950 prohibiting “non-Japanese” citizens from independently owning and operating a commercial radio station in Japan.

“Our aim is to change the law, and as a result, hopefully get a commercial license. But it will take time,” Oh said.

Meanwhile, the station is seeking official sponsors, volunteers and community supporters throughout the Ikuno-ku area.

More information on FM Sarang can be obtained by calling the station at (06) 754-xxxx.