AFKN News and Weather in Korea (1995-96)
©2004 Tim Vasquez

      I was in the Air Force from 1989 to 1998, serving as a meteorologist. During late 1995 and early 1996 I did weathercasts at AFKN (Armed Forces Korea Network, now AFN Korea) in Seoul. This was in addition to my regular forecasting duties at the central Korean forecast center (known as the TFU). Most of the AFKN newscasts were taped at 4 pm to be shown at 6 pm nationwide on eight TV channels. Generally we went through the motions as if it were a live show, but if one of us messed up we would do a hot edit and continue from the last camera take.
      I have to say the show was a lot of fun. I knew my stuff, had great verbal communication, and was probably one of the best forecasters on the Korean peninsula. But I also battled to maintain a loose, fun camera presence. That was hard, as it's not in my personality. There were some days where I needed a couple of reshoots to get through the weathercast.
      All in all, the show gave me unprecedented public speaking experience and a lot of recognition. I still recall people introducing themselves and waving hello even as I stepped off the plane in Los Angeles.


Received via E-mail:

"Kudos Tim.  This site ROKs.  Takes me right back. I was part of the young bucks who took over the newscast just as CNN was getting a foothold...we created the "AFKN Korea Newsline" and thought we could do no wrong.  Pope to Korea, check.  Reagan to Korea, check. Student riots, check. Seoul wins right to host 86 Asian Games and 88 Summer Olympics, check.  If any of my fellow ne'er-do-wells are visiting this page, I'd love to hear from you.  Mark Vega afkn_82-85@yahoo.com.

The weathercasts started about 10 minutes into the program with news anchor Larry Gillick (left). With his sly handoffs usually coming out of left field and my sense of humor being a mark slow, he kept me on my toes.
Myself, opening the weathercast. Our studio was located on Yongsan Garrison, right in the heart of Seoul, Korea.
Forecast temperatures and weather for Korea.
Since we were broadcast out to the entire peninsula at eight television sites, all the Army and Air Force guys had to know what was going on in their corner of the woods.
Satellite images of course were the staple of our newscast. We had a 3/4" U-Matic deck at the weather station, and just recorded the image to tape. This was given to the control room when I got there.
In early 1996 our NEXRAD WSR-88D radar network came up, and I was excited about using these tools on the air. What better way to see the rain!
Our radar images were obtained from this machine, which had a bad interface and ran under Linux. I had to convert the files from TIFF format, using PaintShop Pro under Windows 95, then rewrite it as a Targa file to be compatible with AFKN's graphics box. The most annoying thing was the poor basemaps which were almost invisible on-the-air. A couple of times I had to paint the Korean outline over the image in PaintShop Pro.
Scott McCormick worked alternate weeks doing weather -- he was also a forecaster at 607 WS like myself.
Jerry Granahan was our stand-in during 1995. Before I got there he alternated weathercasts with someone else -- anyone know who it was?
Larry Gillick, the news anchor I worked with. I had no idea what he was doing in the Army -- he truly belonged at a Top-50 market TV station. I saw that he has a website on the Internet. An interesting essay about him from 1998 appears here.
Debbie Flowers occasionally filled in when Larry was gone. I always had the distinct impression that she didn't like camera work and was itching to leave the studio. I have no idea what happened to her.
Charlie Gill was our news producer and was present for all of the shows. He was a enthusiastic, go-get-'em civilian with a rough voice from Virginia. He always got things fixed when the energy in the studio wasn't right or one of us was having a bad day. I saw recently while scouring the web that as of 2004 he moved up to an AFRTS position in Germany.
Larry Gillick (left) and myself (right) doing our one and only live broadcast from the field in April 1996. This was atop the 800-foot hill in the middle of Seoul that housed an AFKN transmitter facility. We had hoped to get some great shots of the city below us, but ended up mired in drizzle and fog! Larry encouraged me to use the umbrella, which I think was his subtle way of poking fun at the Army's policy of not using them.
This was what it looked like as we did the live shot. It was atop the AFKN broadcast hill less than a mile from Mount Namsan and Seoul Tower (left). A microwave link (right) connects our video feed to the control room about two miles away.
The AFKN studio, July 1996. The green Ultimatte used for the weathercast is in the background. A Korean Army guy named Han-Gook usually worked the cameras. His English was surprisingly good, and he said he learned it all by watching AFKN as a kid. Debbie Flowers is putting on makeup before the show. The computer behind her is the teleprompter. The positioning of this box and the fact that it had to run on autopilot was often a source of annoyance for the anchor, especially when something had to be reshot.
Another perspective of the studio. The control room is in the background to the left.
The AFKN News control room, a beehive of activity.
Getting ready to do our taping. The guy in the foreground was a control room director; I forgot his name but enjoyed working with him. He was very protective of the studio lights and would always try to get the room as cold as possible. He also hated the UV from the lights and occasionally wore Ray-Bans during taping.
Doing the weathercast. As one can see, I wore the service dress uniform shirt and coat, which I wore atop my everyday BDU (camoflage) uniform. On days where we did a live newscast, I wore the entire uniform "just in case".
The AFKN network logo, 1996. The graphics were vintage 1980s.
The AFKN News logo, 1996. AFKN is the Korean branch of the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS).


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