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Sending Korea Into the World
An interview with Pulitzer Prize winner Choe Sang-hun at OhmyNews English News Camp
Kim Dae-rae (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2008-01-27 12:33 (KST)   
The following is an edited article from the first OhmyNews English News Camp, held at our Ganghwa Island school, Jan. 12-13. Twenty-one students, aged 13-18 took part in learning the ABCs of news writing, and interviewing IHT reporter Choe Sang-hun. More articles will be published on OhmyNews International after our second camp in February.  <Editor's Note>
Former Seoul-based AP correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Choe Sang-hun shared his unusual experience as a reporter with young future journalists this past Saturday. Choe spoke to students gathered at the OhmyNews citizen journalism school in Ganghwado.

Although both Choe and the students were native Koreans, the whole session was held in English, as all the students were there to improve their English. For about an hour and a half, Choe introduced useful English news writing tips and illustrated some of the twists and turns that his journalism career has taken him in so far.

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Choe's job has differed from the majority of reporters in two ways: he was a Seoul correspondent, and it was for a worldwide news wire company, the Associated Press. He worked for the AP for 11 years from 1994 to 2005. Before that, he had been a reporter for the Korea Herald. He now works as the International Herald Tribune Seoul correspondent. As a veteran reporter having experience in various kinds of reporting, he elaborated in detail on how each job has been fundamentally different.

"The entire Korean peninsula is your beat," he said enthusiastically, describing his job as a correspondent with AP. "You can write anything!"

From Choe's talk, being a correspondent sounds fascinating. There is no chance of becoming bored or having to worry about what to write. You need not squeeze your brain to earn a story. You have the whole of Korea to write about. Unexpectedly, however, he commented that this could in fact be a double-edged sword.

Although it is true that you are writing about a wide range of subjects, from Park Ji-seong to Lee Myung-bak, you are not allowed a deeper understanding of a specific topic. Compared to an ordinary reporter whose beat is limited to a certain area - education or the economy, for example - a correspondent is required to cover much larger areas.

"You are jumping around so many different topics," he explained.

As the years pass by, an ordinary reporter comes to have expertise in his field, while a correspondent tends to remain a generalist. This was a previously unknown fact for the citizen journalism school students about the life of a correspondent.

Discussing his work with the AP, Choe also confessed to the depression that arose from nerve-racking competition at the global level with so many outstanding reporters. The nature of a news wire company demands its reporters to be highly time-sensitive. You need to write many stories a day, push things out quickly, and keep articles down to a shorter length.

Time outside of work is almost non-existent for a news wire reporter. In contrast, reporters for domestic newspapers are granted longer amounts of preparation time for each article.

"It's very stressful, but again it's very challenging," Choe said of his job working for the wire.

Choe frequently invoked the word 'challenge'. Challenge is the central job of a reporter and he seems definitely to have enjoyed always having to face and overcome new challenges.

Choe has proven himself to be a desirable role-model for young students looking forward to professions related to journalism. Through his inspiration, this short session at OhmySchool successfully offered young students an opportunity to broaden their view of future.
Kim Dae-rae is a high school girl from Daejeon.
©2008 OhmyNews

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