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Life in Korea Created with a No-nonsense Spirit and Effort - Kim Yannie, broadcaster

Life in Korea Created with a No-nonsense Spirit and Effort

Kim Yannie, broadcaster

< Photo 1 > Kim Yannie ( on the left ) with her daughter


Kim Yannie is a broadcaster originally from Indonesia who has captured audiences with her witty comments and distinct pronunciation of the Korean language. She has been living in Korea for the last 20 years. We recently interviewed Kim to hear from her about life as an actress and influencer after having worked as an interpreter through her characteristic energetic (and consistent) efforts and her new role as a mother.


Q. The images you portray in broadcast programs look very cheerful and lively. You appear to have easily adapted to life in a foreign country due to your highly sociable personality. Were you born with these personal characteristics?

I have always had a bouncy personality. I enjoy and am happier working with others outside, more than being at home. My husband even tells me that I am a woman who wanders around 24 hours a day. (laughter) I also try to engage in active tasks with my children when I am home.


Q. You won many prizes and awards in the Korean speaking competitions in which you participated. You used this talent to work as an interpreter later on. Wasn’t it difficult to learn Korean?

It would be a lie to say it was not difficult at all. In particular, I had no one (Korean family) to support me, since I came to Korea to work rather than to “marry a Korean man.” Accordingly, I had to overcome many hurdles in learning skills at work, since I could not communicate in English or in Korean. Due to these major difficulties in communicating, I had to resort to body language, regardless of the situation, and managed to communicate by vaguely guessing what others were trying to convey on the basis of their facial expressions and intonation. It was as if I was in a quiz show all day, every day. However, as time passed, I eventually began to understand what others were saying to me little by little. After having endured this situation for about three or four months, I began being able to hold meaningful conversations with others. It is possible to start learning a new language if you let go of the ambition to be perfect from the beginning. Progress can be made after you get started.


Q. Can your family speak Indonesian to a certain extent? It seems it may be difficult (or unnecessary) for them to use Indonesian, given your fluency in the Korean language.

Since my husband makes frequent business trips to Indonesia, he is able to speak enough Indonesian for everyday purposes. It’s the same for my daughter. However, their command of Indonesian is not on par with my command of Korean. (laughter)


Q. You once commented that you experienced no difficulties due to cultural differences while living in Korea. Nonetheless, I am sure there are extensive areas of cultural differences between Indonesia and here. What is your secret in being able to assimilate such differences in your relationship?

I have one principle: to acknowledge and respect the cultures of the country I settle in as they are. I frequently meet many young people from Indonesia who come to Korea full of dreams and who experience hardships arising from an environment that is different from what they imagined. I always tell them that it is obvious that they will find the culture of Korea unfamiliar, since it is different from that of Indonesia. Although I have lived in Korea for the last 20 years, I still have conflicts with my husband due to differences in our value systems. However, I am able to reach a consensus with him since I now know that I can take a step closer and we can become closer if we respect each other’s ways of thinking.

< Photo 2 > Featured on an EBS radio broadcast, “EBS Beginner Indonesian”

Q. You have had a truly wide rang of occupations. I was informed that you even worked as an interpreter.

When I was living in Busan, I worked for the Human Resources Development Service of Korea for about seven years. During this time, I acted as a go-between for Indonesians who came to Korea to work and the companies to which they wished to belong. I assisted them as an interpreter when they became tied up due to issues of contact, if they wanted to transfer to another company, and whenever there were communication problems in the company. I also provided job training for Indonesian workers who had just arrived in Korea. I am, by nature, not the type of person who says only things that are favorable to the other person. I usually told the workers that, although they may find my current circumstances and status favorable, I experienced difficulties similar to theirs 20 years ago. There are no easy shortcuts in life anywhere in this world, and expecting some grandiose thing in a foreign country is the greed of wanting things for free. It is necessary to put forth effort to build up anything of worth in a calm and orderly manner, step-by-step, by investing time.


Q. I am sure there are many Indonesians you assisted. If you are given the opportunity, would you be willing to work again for the Human Resources Development Service of Korea as an interpreter?

I would like to dedicate fully to my career as an actress as of now. Having lived for 20 years as a migrant woman in Korea, I think there are limitations in the occupations we can pursue depending on our linguistic capabilities. Since it is not possible for Indonesians who have just arrived in Korea to speak Korean fluently, the majority begin to work at Indonesian shops and restaurants that do not require much use of the Korean language, with the majority of customers being Indonesians. Once they become more capable in Korean, they are equipped to work at call centers and the Human Resources Development Service of Korea. If they master the Korean language to the level of being able to hold conversations with any Korean person confidently and without fear, they can take up the challenges of more professional work. Since I am capable of trying other such ranges of work, I would like to leave the opportunity of such jobs to those who need it more than I do right now.


Q. So, you wish to concentrate on broadcasting in the future?

Yes, I do. There have been times when I was worried about it, asking myself questions like, “What am I going to do if I don't get proposals from broadcasting stations?” This was because I really wanted to work for television. But looking back, I realize it is possible to communicate with people not only through TV programs but also SNS. We now live in an era in which we are able to attempt anything, including setting up a one-person broadcasting studio. I am always very much willing to take up challenges, regardless of the outcomes. Just yesterday, I even auditioned for a  broadcasting program.


Q. I saw an interview in which you expressed your affection for Korea as a “country that enabled me to discover my talent.”

Many people at studios ask questions like, “Since when did you act?” and “Did you go to a private acting academy?” I began dabbling in broadcasting after my arrival in Korea, and I did so blindly. Obviously, I did not perform well due to the awkwardness of my first attempts at acting. However, as I closely observed and tried to mimic the acting of more experienced actors and actresses, I felt more comfortable, and my acting became more natural. I was able to try acting, which I had never done before, and discover my talent in it by deciding to pursue a career as an actress. Korea truly is a country to which I am grateful for allowing me to try new things. 


Q. It seems that your “try first” attitude led you to who you are today.

I had to manage my ambitions. I was pursuing broadcasting activities, but not for the purpose of becoming a huge star. As such, I put forth my utmost efforts whenever I had opportunities, and I resorted to other things if the timing was not right. Nonetheless, I never neglected making efforts to pursue the things that I wanted to do. This allowed me to build up my career with a more comfortable state of mind, and, gradually, more and more people began to acknowledge my abilities. 

< Photo 3 > Kim Yannie ( on the right ) with Nikolai Johnsen

Q. I am sure that there are many Indonesians who want to come to Korea. Do you have some words of advice?

Although it’s wonderful that Indonesians love learning the language and culture of Korea, they also need to have pride in Indonesia and in being Indonesian. It is not possible to do anything only on the basis of illusions and fantasies. There are difficulties wherever you live in the world, and you will be able to do well in any country if you take stock of and put effort into overcoming such realities.


Q. Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to ASEAN Culture House?

It would be great if ASEAN Culture House could introduce a more extensive range of information on Indonesia to more people. There are some people in Korea who cannot distinguish between India and Indonesia. (laughter) I would be delighted if the ACH could assist Koreans in being interested in Indonesia with reciprocal interest and love as Indonesians have for Korea.