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Members Of Korean-American Community Condemn Local Radio Hosts

Sarah Parvini |
January 17, 2012 | 1:05 p.m. PST

Senior Entertainment Editor

KFI co-hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou (Creative Commons)
KFI co-hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou (Creative Commons)

A small crowd of about 20 people gathered in Los Angeles’ Korean Resource Center (KRC) Tuesday morning, speaking out against what they called “inflammatory remarks” made against minorities by KFI AM 640’s John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou.

The press conference focused on what members of the Korean-American community called the “spread of false facts and hate speech” on the "John and Ken Show" and discussed what should be done to prevent it from recurring.

The "John and Ken Show" upset the Korean-American community during their Jan. 5 broadcast, when Kobylt discussed a lawsuit against his “Korean painter” and claimed that he sued him for not doing an adequate job.

When Shannon Farren, a news contributor to the show, asked why his ethnicity was relevant, Kobylt said, “…there’s a lot of, like, Korean painter scam guys” and “there’s certain cultures that become involved in certain lines of work.” 

Those at the meeting agreed that freedom of speech is paramount in our society, but they said the statements made on the "John and Ken Show" border on hate speech and are unacceptable. The show is hardly the "more stimulating talk radio" it markets itself as, participants said.

“If freedom of speech leads to a climate of hate and prejudice, if it leads to hateful behavior like hate crimes, then it’s as wrong as shouting 'Fire!' in an auditorium—that classic analogy that is used about freedom of speech,” said Miwa Lee, KRC's development director. 

This is not the first time Kobylt and Chiampou have been called out for such behavior. Last September, the co-hosts found themselves under fire for giving out the phone number of Jorge-Mario Cabrera, director of communications for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, during their popular 3 p.m. broadcast. 

Cabrera is a vocal supporter of the California Dream Act, and the radio hosts called upon their listeners to contact him to campaign against the then-proposed legislation. Cabrera received hateful voicemails at all hours of the day that said he should “choke on [his] own vomit,” amongst other things, the Los Angeles Times reported.  As a result, sponsors like GM, AT&T and Verizon pulled their ads from the controversial show.

Cabrera was present at Tuesday’s press conference and spoke out about his experience of receiving 517 degrading phone calls within a two-week period because of the radio show. He argued the co-hosts have overstayed their welcome in Los Angeles.  

“When someone like John and Ken have at least 2 million listeners listening every day to their trash, to their hate mongering, to their divisive rhetoric, then their freedom of speech must be questioned,” he said in a statement. “For 20 years, John and Ken have benefitted and have trafficked in hate.”

KFI did not return calls for comment, but the company issued a statement last October regarding other incendiary rhetoric. “The language used by some callers to Mr. Cabrera is unacceptable and wrong, and John and Ken regret that.  Furthermore, both KFI and John and Ken apologize to Mr. Cabrera for the ugly calls he received,” the station said. 

Attendees of Tuesday’s conference found Kobylt's "Korean painter" statement appalling, and are calling for Kobylt and Chiampou to issue a formal apology like the one above. They hope to ultimately get the show off the air, citing Lou Dobbs’ departure from CNN as precedent. 

“Korean-Americans serve a large part of Los Angeles. My wife is a doctor, I’m a lawyer; to lump us all together like that… I find it offensive,” said attorney Lloyd Lee, who serves on the board of governors for the Korean-American Bar Association. 

The KRC and similar organizations will hold a protest rally at noon this Thursday, Jan. 19, in front of the KFI building at 3400 W. Olive Ave.

Reach Senior Entertainment Editor Sarah Parvini here.

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