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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, November 4, 2012

The Story of Radio Free Asia - Part 2: The Shadowy Radio of Free Asia

On a previous occasion, we presented the story of the first radio organization known as Radio Free Asia, which was on the air from shortwave transmitters at three different locations: RCA Bolinas in California, DZI in the Philippines, and KUJ on the island of Guam. This original Radio Free Asia was on the air for around 1-1/2 years during the early 1950s.

Originally, we made the statement that there have been a total of three different radio organizations on the air over the years under the same slogan, Radio Free Asia. However, if you accept a slight variation of the name, Radio of Free Asia, instead of just Radio Free Asia, then there were actually four radio organizations on the air under the same, or similar slogan.

In our program today, we take a look at the second version of Radio Free Asia, or more correctly, Radio of Free Asia, ROFA. This is what happened.

During the year 1964, a new charitable organization was registered in Washington, DC with the name, Korean Cultural & Freedom Foundation, KCFF. This organization was fostered by a relatively new religious organization based in Korea, and they established their cultural center in Washington, DC, at 1028 Connecticut Avenue.

This new cultural facility was associated with the United Nations, and General Dwight Eisenhower, retired president of the United States was an honorary president of KCFF. A medal was struck by the Franklin Mint in Pennsylvania honoring the occasion.

Former president Harry Truman was another honorary president of KCFF. Other notable supporters of KCFF in its earlier years were the famous crooner Bing Crosby, President Richard Nixon, and the presidential candidate Senator Bob Dole.

Soon after the formation of the Korean Cultural & Freedom Foundation, plans were laid for establishing a radio broadcasting facility for coverage into North Korea, China, and North Vietnam. A production studio was installed in the Foundation's center in Washington, DC, where programs were produced for broadcast into North Korea, and also for broadcast over a large number of local radio stations within the United States.

In addition, a radio production studio was also installed in Seoul, South Korea, and broadcasts into North Korea in the Korean language were inaugurated on August 15, 1966. This new programming, under the title Radio of Free Asia, was broadcast from a 500 kW mediumwave transmitter near Seoul, as well as over the shortwave transmitters that were on the air at the same time with a parallel relay.

Initially, the Korean Broadcasting System in South Korea, KBS, carried the programming free of charge, though subsequently, Radio of Free Asia made some payment to KBS for air time. Over a period of time, programming in two additional Asian languages, Chinese & Vietnamese, was incorporated into the programming from Radio of Free Asia.

It is stated, that the mediumwave and shortwave broadcasts over the transmitters of the Korean Broadcasting System in Seoul, South Korea were terminated in 1971, and that the broadcasts of Radio of Free Asia were then transferred to a radio station in Saigon in South Vietnam.

At the time when the broadcasts of Radio of Free Asia were launched over the facilities of KBS in South Korea in 1966, a newspaper report from Saigon offered the possibility that ROFA might find a suitable broadcasting site in South Vietnam. Five years later, ROFA did actually accept this opportunity, and they transferred their broadcasting activities from Seoul in South Korea to Saigon in South Vietnam.

As time went by, the parent organization, the Korean Cultural & Freedom Foundation, was losing credibility in the United States over apparent mis-representation in fund raising activities, and the alleged involvement of its personnel in other apparently murky misdemeanors. The paper trail of its activities seems to diminish accordingly, and very little can be discovered about the activities of Radio of Free Asia in Vietnam.

It is stated that they owned their own radio station with its own transmitter, and this seems to be in Vietnam, rather than in South Korea. There is no apparent evidence that they were involved with the powerful mediumwave station, the Voice of Freedom at Hue in central Vietnam, nor with any other listed station in South Vietnam at the time.

Due to investigations by a government committee in Washington, DC known as the Fraser Committee, Radio of Free Asia ceased its broadcasting activities in 1978, at which time, it is stated, they were on the air mediumwave and shortwave; but where? It would be suggested that this programming was on the air from an apparently unidentified, or perhaps clandestine station, located somewhere near Saigon in South Vietnam, though there seems to be no definite evidence in this matter. It is probable that they were unable to make a return to the air from KBS in South Korea due to the embarrassing political circumstances in which KFCC was embroiled.

So, what then is the legacy of this second and rather dubious Radio (of) Free Asia? The noted radio historian, Jerome Berg in suburban Boston, draws our attention to two cinderella stamps that were printed to advertise Radio of Free Asia, and also the bronze medallion that the Franklin Mint produced for the same purpose.

In addition, there are no known monitoring reports of this Radio (of) Free Asia, and there are no known QSL cards or letters. It would appear then, that whatever was on the air escaped the watchful attention of international radio monitors, probably due to the fact that programming was in East Asian languages.

However, a report published in the February 12, 1996 issue of the Review does note one major event that came out of the shadowy Radio of Free Asia; and that was, that Radio of Free Asia was a forerunner to the modern Radio Free Asia. You will find this information about this, the 3rd Radio Free Asia, in an earlier edition of our DX program Wavescan, NWS167 dated for Sunday May 6, earlier this year.