From diving in frigid waters with Jeju’s haenyeo to mustering up a huge dose of flexibility when dealing with last-minute cancellations for her live segment, Jo Ji Yeon’s off-air life seems anything but normal. What keeps this vibrant 26-year-old full of energy? “Meeting new people from various backgrounds on my show makes me feel alive,” she says.
Listeners can catch Jo in action every Monday at 10:15am on Arirang’s “Spotlight” until the end of March. She will be taking over the nightly airwaves from April with a new talk show featuring different aspects of Jeju life.
When did you know you wanted to be involved in radio? I’ve been listening to all different kinds of radio shows since I was young. I always said I wanted to be a DJ one day or on a radio show.
How does it feel now that you host your own show? I feel like I’ve achieved a dream I’ve been dreaming since I was young. Even though it is really hard to do, after I finish my show I feel a sense of achievement.
How long have you been hosting “Spotlight?” I’ve had this show since last March.
Can you tell me a little more about the show? “Spotlight” is a regular Monday segment. We invite very special people on Jeju to the studio and ask them about their life. The show’s main focus is on people, but sometimes if we can’t find the right person we feature a special place or festival.
Is there any particular show that stands out in your mind? Last year in the middle of March I did an interview with the haenyeo.
Did they come to the studio? No, they had to go to the sea to do their work at 7am, so I woke up early and met them at Haengwon, near Gimnyeong. When I got there, they were so glad I made it. I think they thought maybe I wasn’t really going to come. They invited me to dive with them, so I did. One of the haenyeo gave me abalone and it was really fresh. We ate it right after we caught it. I will never forget the taste of it.
So, you were really involved hands-on with this story? Yes, I had to work with them first before I could do the interview. It was so cold! I was freezing! After we finished all the work in the sea, we went to their home and then I interviewed them. Once we finished, they offered me lunch. I spent the whole day with these haenyeo, and in the end, I felt like they were my family. It was amazing!
Would you ever consider becoming a haenyeo? I can’t say I would like to be a haenyeo since it is a very hard job. But, if I could experience that life for about three months, I would love to do it.
Why do you think the haenyeo are important to Jeju? The haenyeo are a strong symbol of Jeju women. Sometimes when I burp in front of my friends they say, “Oh, you are not ladylike.” So, I tell them, “I’m not a lady; I’m a Jeju woman!” It really makes sense. A Jeju woman is a very strong and independent character, which I think is very related to the Jeju haenyeo.
What have you learned about yourself since hosting “Spotlight?” I’ve learned that life requires strong patience. It’s a very long process. There will be extremely high moments and extremely low moments, but we need to be patient and stand strong. I’ve learned this through meeting various people on the show.
What’s best about your job? I feel like I’m very special during my segment. It feels good when people around me listen to the show and call me.
What’s the hardest thing about your job? It’s really hard to find the right people to invite to our show. Even when we find the right people, they can always change their mind and cancel ... sometimes even a day before the show.
What do you do when people cancel at the last minute? I go to some sort of festival, or feature the next week’s person. I try to show my flexibility.
What do you want listeners to take away from your show? I would like them to know that Jeju is a precious place. Through this segment I have realized that there are so many people who love Jeju. But, people who are born in Jeju don’t have the same affection towards the island as people who come from another province or another country. Even though we see many signs saying, “World Natural Heritage, Jeju,” we never realize how famous, popular and precious it is.
What do you think could be improved in Jeju? People say that Jeju is a free inter-national city. It doesn’t make sense though. People need to learn more foreign languages. Jeju natives need to be brave enough to be close to foreigners, and foreigners need to be willing to be close to Jeju natives. We should all be friendlier with each other.
If you were Jeju governor what would be your first priority? I would try to hold many different events for the people of Jeju, tourists and foreigners. This would make a kind of human network in Jeju. It would be a big step towards making Jeju a free international city.
What’s your favorite music? I love all genres, but these days I listen to Korean Pop.
Who are some of your favorite K Pop groups? CN Blue and don’t forget 2PM!
Why do you like these bands? They are handsome. (laughs) I am just an ordinary girl who loves handsome guys on TV. That feeling makes sense, right?
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