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Paper finds Korean readers

Reverend adds self-publishing to leading his flock

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SANDY — Adjusting to English-speaking life in the United States has been a slow process for the Rev. Samuel Roh since he moved from Seoul, South Korea, 10 years ago.

Roh has found a small lifeline in a few Korean-language newspapers, valuable links to what's happening in the United States, Korea and in his own local community, all printed in a more familiar Hangul script.

These days, Roh is slinging a little ink of his own with his self-published paper, Koreana News of Utah. It's printed in Murray, but the real stress and sweat of assembling the paper's content go on right in Roh's own home in Sandy.

"Day and night he thinks about the newspaper," says his wife, Yong, to whom Roh often defers for translating. "He has to be perfect." She runs a clothing alterations business at South Towne Center in Sandy.

Samuel Roh sort of fell into the news business after moving around the country. He spent brief periods in Michigan and California before starting a Presbyterian church in Alaska, where he lived for five years. He eventually met his wife in Pennsylvania, where he lived for three years. Utah's landscape drew the couple west.

"I like the mountains," says Roh, a skiing addict who's not afraid to tackle the state's toughest runs. The smaller size of Salt Lake City also was appealing.

Roh's surroundings even influenced the naming of his new church, Evergreen Korean Church, located in Sandy. "In Utah it's ever green, you know?" Roh smiles. His congregation is small — about 20, so far.

And Roh's newspaper staff is small — six, including himself.

Koreana had two owners before Roh. The first started the paper in 1996 and then moved to New York. The second owner moved to California last November, when Roh took over.

About 1,000 copies of the 16-page paper are printed each month. The aim is to boost that number to 2,000 and to eventually print a 20-page paper every other week for the estimated 5,000 Koreans living along the Wasatch Front between Ogden and Provo.

Yong Roh describes most of the Utah Koreans she knows as hardworking people who rarely go anywhere or do many things outside their own local Korean community.

"They need things like this kind of paper," she says.

Koreana's followers, some as far away as San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, read — all in Korean — about world, national, regional and local news and events. In the May issue, there is an article about a garlic shortage in South Korea (it's believed that eating garlic has helped keep the SARS epidemic at bay there).

One of the paper's several columnists is a retired university professor. There are music, movie and book reviews and, of course, plenty of advertisements.

The May and June issues highlight the 100-year anniversary of Koreans first immigrating to the United States. A full-page feature this month also draws readers to the paper's Web site, www.utahkorean.com.

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com