[58 Anniversary] Korea Times Changed My Life
WASHINGTON ― The Korea Times has been an important part of my life, and will remain so throughout my life. It is not just a newspaper. It has been my companion, friend, teacher and a source of pride. It has been a window to the world outside Korea and a way to view Korea from a foreign perspective.
I first read The Korea Times when I was as a second lieutenant in the Korean army in 1963. I was an interpreting officer to liaison the Korean army and the U.S. army in Korea.
Reading The Korea Times, a four-page newspaper in English, helped me perform my job as an interpreter. It was my first job after college. Since then, The Korea Times has been with me. It helped to form my intellectual opinion and to communicate cross-culturally.
After my two years of military duty, I returned to Yonsei University graduate school, and lived in my old house in Gahoe-dong in Seoul. So on the way home from school, I stopped by The Korea Times at Joonghak-dong to see my college classmate, Kim Myung-ja who was a young reporter. I used to walk from the Jongro bus stop or the Gangwhamun stop to my house.
The Korea Times was the mid-point between the bus stop and my house. During my first visit, I met. Lee Kyu-hyun, editor-in-chief of The Korea Times. He became the most unforgettable man in my life.
Even though our meeting lasted no more than 30 minutes, I learned many things from him, especially his love of poetry. His words are still touching my heart. He passed away several years ago. I still admire him with affection.
Looking outside the window, Lee said, ``I also read poems in my youthful days. Now, poetry is out of my life. Life without poetry is meaningless.'' I was a young poet who published three poems in a time span of two years.
On my second visit to The Korea Times, I presented my poems to him to read on his coffee-break. He appreciated my gifts and asked me to translate the poems into English. I did, and he ``edited'' my translated poems, and printed them in the Korea Times. What an honor!
He lamented the fact that there was no publication for Korean literary works translated into English. The Korean literature was a ``frog in a pond.'' He encouraged me to translate my poems into English and published them in the English language media. He told me, ``Literature does not know national boundaries.''
Lee's words and advice awakened and enlightened me. This sparkled the beginning of my literary works for The Korea Times. I have published a couple of my poetry books in English, most recently Moon of New York. I dedicate Moon of New York to the late Lee Kyu-hyun.
After his days as editor-in-chief at The Korea Times, Lee became the minister of public information, chief of the presidential staff and ambassador to Canada. I met him regularly at the Rotary Club when I returned to Korea in 1996. He remembered our first meeting at The Korea Times. What a joy to meet him regularly in Seoul! It was my privilege.
He was the person who helped me see the world beyond Korea. He was the person who made me ``get out of the pond.'' After my master's degree in the field of public administration, I went to Indiana University for my doctorate work.
During my studies at Indiana University, I sent my articles and poems to The Korea Times. My parents happily read my articles in The Korea Times. They saw my intellectual growth through the Korea Times. I started my teaching career at the University of Wisconsin in 1972.
Wherever I went, I was thinking of the newspaper and contributed my articles. So The Korea Times has been my companion, and will always be. I owe a lot to the late. Lee and my old friend, Kim Myung-ja.
My life without The Korea Times is unthinkable. I am grateful to the newspaper. My op-ed pieces in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Indianapolis Star, the Virginian Pilot, and the Japan Times among others are simply extensions from my Korea Times contribution. My scholarly articles in academic journals are longer extensions from my Korea Times contribution.
Since my first encounter with The Korea Times, Korea has dramatically changed: its national image with a remarkable economic development and progress from a developing nation to an advanced economic power with people living an affluent life style.
However, not many Koreans read the newspaper. English is still distant from the Korean people. They are afraid of confronting English. Korean literature has not yet received a Nobel award. Korean diplomats' English is still ``Konglish.'' My graduate students and friends in Korea thought that The Korea Times was a foreign newspaper.
I hope The Korea Times becomes a newspaper all Korean people read everyday. When the newspaper becomes their friend, their lives will be ``cosmopolitan'' and world-class.
Korea will truly emerge as a world-class nation. More Korean products will be exported to foreign markets and more foreign tourists will visit Korea. Korean children can start learning English in their home country rather than traveling to the United States and other English speaking nations. International exposure of Korean literary works will be easier. Knowing and commanding one language, English, will offer many benefits to everybody.
Looking back on my life, I owe a lot to The Korea Times. I warmly congratulate it on its 58th anniversary.
Dr. Choi is a retired college professor with a long teaching career in the United States and Korea. He was an assistant for environmental quality in the US Office of the Secretary of Defense from 1981 to 1983. His poetry book, Moon of New York, has just been released in the United States. He has been subscribing to and contributing articles to The Korea Times since 1963.