The Yonsei Annalshad the opportunity to meet up with our own Yonsei alumni, Park Chan-min, one of the fewSBS announcers at the PyeongChang International Broadcasting Center (IBC). Following his live commentary, we popped into the SBS television station, where he welcomed us with a warm smile.
Annals: Why did you choose to become an announcer?
Park: Originally, my dream was not to be an announcer. But as a big fan of the Korean baseball team, Lotte Giants, I really wanted to try commentating baseball games. At that time, there weren’t any sports channels, so the only way to become a sportscaster was to work at the biggest television stations. That’s why I decided to give it a try. After a year of exchange in Maryland, I started searching for a job my last semester of college. Luckily, I got accepted to SBS on my first attempt.
Annals: How many times have you participated as a broadcaster in world sports events?
Park: My first event was the 2006 Qatar Asian Games. After that, I worked at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2010 South Africa FIFA World Cup, 2012 London Olympics, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics. These PyeongChang Winter Olympics are my 6th games.
Annals: Being part of the Olympics is a once in a lifetime experience! With these Olympics being held in South Korea, how do you feel?
Park: Even though I’ve attended several world sports events, it is still an honor to attend one hosted by my own country. However, I’m not as enthusiastic as I was before when I first attended the Olympics. My younger colleagues are likely more excited than I am.
Annals: How does Olympic broadcasting work?
Park: Most people think we go to the venues to commentate live; however, the majority of commentary occurs at the IBC television station. This is mainly because television broadcasters must buy each venue booth to commentate live in the stadium, which is extremely expensive. This year, SBS purchased booths for only three events: figure skating, short track and speed skating. Regardless of our desire to host all events, the cost is simply too high. Even during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I had to commentate for weightlifting gold medalist Jang Mi-ran from our studio because we couldn’t afford to buy booths for the venue. Besides, outdoor events, namely cross country or the biathlon, are very hard to spectate because the venues are too large. Although on site, casters and commentators must look at the screen to keep track of the game, so it virtually makes no difference.
Another big misunderstanding is that people assume we film the games by ourselves. However, all the filming is done by the Olympic Broadcasting System (OBS). There are a few camera directors from our company at the venue filming the games, mostly to get close-up shots. All broadcasting companies receive and air the main OBS footage with a couple of their own snaps. The commentary audio is the sole difference.
Annals: How do you prepare for Olympic broadcasts?
Park: With 20 years of experience, I’ve definitely gained some insight in preparing for the Olympics.
In terms of professional commentaries, there is a lot to get ready for. Data research, deep understanding of the sports, and sharp analysis is vital to being fully prepared when going live. The more prepared sportscasters are, the better experience viewers receive. Alpine skiing, for example, isn’t as famous in our country as speed skating or short track, so having excellent commentary can improve the viewers’ experience. In terms of preparation before the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, events like the “Road to PyeongChang” and World Cups allowed us sportscasters to familiarize ourselves with international athletes and other less popular sports. However, for the Olympics, pronouncing the foreign athletes’ full names in Korean is a completely different ballgame. Thus, the three main Korean broadcasting companies agreed to standardized spellings and pronunciations of certain names. The names on our script must correspond with the names shown on television. We also receive the start lists prior to the game. We practice and prepare hours before or even the night before the event to avoid making any mistakes.
The audience may not be aware of this, but certain situations dictate specific commentaries. Other than that, it’s all about being quick-witted. For example, broadcasting the Olympic channel in the studio, I try to include specific details of the venue and games so that our viewers at home can enjoy the games as if they’re in the them. For example, during the 5000m speed skating event, the Korean crowd did multiple waves for Lee Seung-hoon, corresponding to his skating speed at the event. This fact wasn’t necessarily a part of the game, but I wanted to share it with the viewers to give a more realistic and candid experience of the Olympics.
Annals: What is the biggest difference between working at the broadcasting station and working at the Olympics IBC?
Park: There isn’t a big difference with my work space because we have studios here in IBC. It’s just that the studios at IBC are much smaller, there is a fewer number of staff, and the office space is more compact. Other than that, the work environment is fairly identical.
Annals: You are currently giving commentaries for the alpine skiing and ski jumping competitions. Are there any other events you wish to cast?
Park: Everyone wants to commentate the most popular sports events, as do I. However, it does not matter that much to me because I am thankful for my job and willing to work hard on whichever sport I am assigned to.
Annals: How do you want to be remembered as?
Park: I am honored when someone notices me or asks for a selfie. Obviously, it is discouraging when people don’t recognize me as I am on television almost daily. People also ask me if I get jealous when my daughter is more popular than me. To be honest, I’m not, because she’s an actress and I’m an announcer. I wouldn’t call myself a celebrity.
Annals: What are the pros and cons of your occupation?
Park: Like other employees of a company, we announcers are employees of the broadcasting company. However, our office hours are much more flexible than those of most businessmen. We neither have fixed lunch hours nor any paperwork. Both men and women can succeed as announcers, but I personally think it’s more ideal for women. Many women quit their jobs after having children because of the time and emotional commitments. Yet, in our profession, announcers are free to go home after recording their respective segments. This is a great advantage for working women and empowers them. The only drawback of our job is that we’re prohibited from appearing on any other broadcasting channels. We are also forbidden to film for any private companies’ advertisements. The only ones we could do, if lucky enough, are public governmental commercials.
Annals: Any last words for students who dream of becoming announcers?
Park: Whenever students ask me questions about pursuing my career path, the first thing they worry about is the competition and the amount of work necessary to become an announcer. It’s true; becoming an announcer in Korea is one of the most difficult jobs to attain. But with the right preparation, perspective and passion, it is achievable. The most important piece of advice I would like to give is to be yourself. Don’t attend prep academies because everyone is doing so, or wear the same kind of clothes because it’s trendy. You need to have your own uniqueness to thrive in this field. A side note that most people do not know is that your college major does not matter that much when seeking to become an announcer. I majored in administration and got this job; any major can try it out. Other than the academics, I would say that strict self-discipline is required, because our job requires you to be on screen and Korean broadcasting systems stress the importance of physical appearance. Apart from that, go for it! Best of luck!