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Tracing Our Footsteps through Radios
Written by Hanseung Cho | Published. 2020.12.01 14:35 | Count : 180
[Photo of the exhibition entrance at Seoul Urban Life Museum. Photo courtesy of the author]

When we become filled with nostalgia, we often look back on our past by leafing through our collection of old items that sit in our closet, covered in a coat of dust. Regardless of which type of memorabilia we cherish in our lives, we all have our selection of old and abandoned electronic devices. Arguably the most iconic electronic device is the radio. The box-shaped transmission machine is truly timeless. From the first one in 1894 to our sleek and modern ones, the radio has accompanied us throughout our history, and has developed to reflect our society in many ways.

This weekend, I made a visit to one of the exhibitions at the Seoul Urban Life Museum: “The Radio Our Family Listened to - 1978.” The exhibition was created by Song Inho and Park Hyunwook, and was on display from July 22 to November 15. In this exhibition, the history of Korea is traced along with the evolution of radios, in the perspective of a typical Korean family. The visitors are able to view both the development of Korea and the radio through the lens of different people, which makes the exhibit enjoyable to people of all ages.

[Photo of a physical timeline of radios in Korea. Photo courtesy of the author]

From one perspective, radios served as a source of entertainment for all to alleviate our stress, broadcasting a range of programs from sports to music. When the radio was first introduced to Korea in February of 1927, its main purpose was to spread information and make entertainment more accessible to the public. Since the broadcast of the 1948 London Olympics, the increased accessibility of the commercial radio allowed many sports events to be broadcasted. Despite television broadcasts recently taking over the radio industry, the nostalgia of sports radio broadcasts has made radios permanently hold a spot in our hearts. Also, music broadcasts allow us to trace back popular music trends in South Korea. In the early days of music broadcasts, broadcast stations such as KBS created programs that introduced traditional Korean tunes to rekindle patriotism after independence from Japanese Colonialism. However, as a result of globalization, Korean music radio stations have changed to reflect the preferences of the modern age. For example, pop music now dominates the channels in the hottest radio hours. People often do not highly regard entertainment as an aspect of culture, but from learning about the changing history and globalization of Korea, I was absolutely fascinated by how radios were able to be so reflective of Korea’s culture.

From another perspective, radios served as essential messengers for Korean citizens, delivering information at speeds newspapers could only fantasize of doing. During the end of the colonial period, radios were used to gain support for rallies against the Japanese. After Japanese Colonialism however, the media gained much more freedom in the press, which spurred the growth and development of radio stations. Like the quote below notes, I believe that radios are truly representative and are the memorabilia of Korea’s struggles and prosperity: it has followed us throughout our history because they were able to genuinely connect with us on a personal level with each individual in our society.

[Photo of a quote by the exhibition creators. Photo courtesy of the author]

Although television is now the best-selling electronic device for our homes, the fact that we still have not let radios become something of the past speaks volumes about their significance. Perhaps, radios are truly the representation of the old saying: old but gold. Despite staying the same, they have maintained their status against the soaring competition of color television and the internet. Or maybe, the nature of the radio to exist with us throughout history is what makes us cherish it the most. Personally, if any object represents the word “new-tro” for me, it is the radio.





Hanseung Cho
Junior (Grade 11)
Seoul Foreign School

Hanseung Cho  student_reporter@dherald.com

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