DJ John Kim is a communist and a Karl Marx-loving socialist. He's also down to earth, extremely friendly, despite being unsurprisingly alienated by our modern pop culture.
Kim is sitting in a chair in the KUCI studios surrounded by CDs and vinyl from every genre and time period. “This is Radio Internationale, the greatest socialist-music show in the Western Hemisphere.” He pauses before adding, “And the only.”
Kim first came up with the line for his now-3-year-old show after a guest called the station to ridicule his beliefs. When a call comes into the KUCI hot line, a light flashes; Kim turns off the microphone from the archaic-looking mixing board and removes his actual, antique Soviet headphones and answers:”Hello, this is Radio Internationale.”
KUCI has two major rules: no mainstream music, and talk shows must examine topics mainstream radio won't touch. These guidelines have led to many wonderfully bizarre programs at the college station over the years, but Kim's radio show isn't just anti-mainstream; under most definitions, it's anti-American.
“It stemmed from my interest in history,” says Kim, wearing a green army jacket. “With the ideology must come some music.” World War II always fascinated him. “I was really into Germany and Russia. It got me thinking about the USSR. I wondered what their music sounded like.” In a new segment, Kim dissects traditional news stories, including that on an Obama speech on the economy, and predicts the fall of capitalism.
“Pop culture has gotten to the point that it's abstract. I don't even really know what's going on anymore,” Kim says. “It is by choice that I listen to North Korean music, but I feel like I don't have a choice.”
Unsurprisingly, one of Kim's favorite topics of conversations is politics. Between announcing and playing songs from a laptop–as opposed to the CDs or vinyl his colleagues use–Kim rebuts a few questions about his disillusionment with communism. “I know the DNRK [North Korea] isn't perfect, but America isn't either,” he says.
The situation between North and South Korea is something that really hits home for Kim, a political science major and South Korean citizen. “South Korea is an American colony,” he says. “Everything they do must be okayed by the U.S. South Korean culture is very anti-communist. Most people there are bourgeoisie or brainwashed working-class; they are trained from birth to hate North Korea. They associate anything communist with their own distorted view of North Korea.”
Kim emigrated to America when he was 4 years old. “My parents lived under several South Korean presidents, a lot of them fascist military leaderships,” he explains. “They admire–as do many South Koreans–Park Chung Hee,” referring to the South Korean despot.
The makeup of the show doesn't seem too eclectic to the unknowing listener. The songs mostly resemble military anthems that even Kim admits sound vaguely similar to the theme music for cartoon villains. “Recently, I've been listening and playing more North Korean music,” he says. “I used to play more Soviet and German music; I even played yodeling.”
His show used to include a segment called “Random Anthem.”
“I play an instrumental version of a country's national anthem and listeners would call in and guess to win a prize,” Kim says. “The prizes are usually Soviet medals or a poster or something.”
RADIO INTERNATIONALE airs on KUCI-FM 88.9, (949) 824-4582; www.kuci.org. Every Mon., noon-2 p.m.