Lee Sun-mee (’70, Mass Communications), the founder of SpeechLab, is one of the second-generation announcers in Korea. Lee started a speech skill class in 1988 and opened SpeechLab in 2001 for future journalists, broadcasters, and announcers. For 20 years straight, she has been teaching speech techniques to students who want to be announcers.
During her 28-year career as an announcer, Lee hosted interview programs for 25 years. She also worked as the head of the announcer department and the head of the program directors in the Buddhism Broadcasting System (BBS). Currently, Lee is one of the board members of the Korean Association of Speech Communication.
Lee became an announcer through open recruitment without any formal training from academies. When she entered Ewha, departments that taught mass communications and journalism had a sudden rise in popularity at each university across the nation, resulting in a general trend for students to study journalism for pursuing a career as reporters.
When she went to apply for a job as a reporter in the Dong-A Broadcasting System (DBS), she met one of her elementary school classmates there working as a producer.
“He told me that DBS did not hire female reporters and producers since gender discrimination was prevalent at that time,” Lee said. “He made an impromptu suggestion that I apply for an announcer as it was the only available position for women.”
The friend asked one of his co-workers to check out Lee’s voice and the two of them encouraged her to apply for the position. Though she obtained the announcer position on her first try, this veteran announcer admits that she has also revealed clumsiness in job interviews.
“When asked a question about my most memorable experience in college during an open recruitment interview, I described my answer at full length, as if talking to my friends,” Lee explained. “If I had been trained better, I could have given a restrained speech more naturally and much better. However, I now think that the experience helped me teach students about understanding and applying appropriate speech skills for different situations.”
Lee devoted herself completely to her work, even on weekends and holidays. After leaving her career as announcer, Lee made a decision to teach and train people to have better speech skills, as well as to cultivate the younger generation of announcers.
“Not long ago, I met with Chung Un-chan, the former prime minister and former Seoul National University president, when he had to make an important speech on certain political issues. Because he had worked as a professor for such a long time, Chung used to give his speeches too softly, so I gave him some advice on speech skills such as uttering forcibly with low voice,” Lee said. “Since he is such an eminent man, giving counsel to him remains vivid in my memory.”
Although she had to go through many ups and downs both in establishing and in running SpeechLab, Lee still loves her work and does it for the enjoyment rather than considering it as a mean of earning money.
“What draws people toward the job of announcer seems to be the excitement of meeting new people and having to study up on many different fields,” Lee said with a smile. “This was the driving force that led me to work in broadcasting as an announcer and why I totally loved my job.”