SMU student is 'K-star whisperer'

SMU student is 'K-star whisperer'
Ms Min with K-pop boy band B.A.P when they were in Singapore last week.

The first one she worked with was singer and Running Man star Kim Jong Kook.

Last week, soft-spoken Korean student Jessica Min made headlines after she was called the "Korean star whisperer" in an interview she did with a local newspaper.

The 23-year-old, who is studying economics and finance at the Singapore Management University (SMU), has been the go-to translator - a job she does part-time - for Korean stars here for the past year.

She was offered her first stage translation job - for Kim - in February last year when the agency which had hired her previously to be K-pop boy band SHINee's coordinator for one of their giveaway booths called her up for it.

Since then, she has worked with the likes of Kim Soo Hyun, Hyun Bin, CN Blue, FT Island, Super Junior, Girls' Generation and the cast of popular Korean variety show Running Man, such as Lee Kwang Soo and Gary.

Ms Min, who most recently translated for K-pop boy band B.A.P at their press conference and fan meet here on Friday, told The New Paper: "I'm very grateful that Kim Jong Kook was the first celebrity I worked with because he showed me a different side to celebrities, which is that they are just ordinary people doing their jobs. He was very down to earth.

"I could tell that he's very grateful for the successful career he's had. Fame has not gone to his head at all.

"My perspective on celebrities changed then, so I'll always be thankful that this started out with him."

Her job has its difficulties as well, especially when there is pressure to think on one's feet.

At Kim Jong Kook's fan meeting at the Kallang Theatre, she recalled how the fans were screaming so loudly that she could not hear he said on stage.

Ms Min, who had to translate for him backstage, had no choice but to improvise.

She said: "I just said what I thought he was saying because I couldn't ask him, 'What did you say?'

"I had to make a decision at that point and I remember I translated his words as 'Thank you for coming tonight, I had a wonderful time, thank you so much for the warm welcome and I'll definitely come back with my Running Man co-hosts.'

"I still don't know what he actually said, but he told me after that that he was cool with it and everything was fine. He was really nice and understanding."

The toughest thing about doing translations is that she would sometimes blank out in the middle of a translation, especially when what the artist says is very long.

Apart from the stage translator, she said that a group of five translators, who include Korean-speaking Singaporeans, will also be working at each event to support the production team.

Ms Min said many people assume that her job comes with plenty of perks when, in reality, there is nothing she can do for her friends if they want to rub shoulders with K-pop stars.

She will also tell fans that she cannot help them when they ask her for information, like the stars' flight details.

Born in the South Korean city of Daejeon, she lived there till she and her family moved to Kuala Lumpur when she was 10, when her father was posted there for work.

They lived in Malaysia for nine years before going back to South Korea.

Three years ago, she came to Singapore and has been studying at SMU, where she is also a student ambassador for its Ambassadorial Corps. This post requires her to engage external stakeholders, such as ministers, when they visit.

Said Ms Min, who used to be the president of SMU's Korean Culture Club: "In March, my school sent me to Korea to represent them at a conference, to showcase the student life that we're very proud of here in Singapore.

"I was very proud to share my story there. Living alone abroad has its difficult moments. I'm thankful that Singapore is a safe country with many opportunities."

She added: "A fan came up to me after the Kim Soo Hyun fan meeting and said that she has been to a few of his fan meetings around Asia and I did a very good job and she thanked me for it.

"That was very sweet of her."

This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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