As the president of the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club and bureau chief of the Voice of America I feel compelled to correct the record in view of publication of The Korea Times columnist Donald Kirk's comments June 29 on page eight (Diving into pool system).
Mr. Kirk's comments were inaccurate and disingenuous, especially considering he sat on the SFCC Board of Directors for many years and was part of the rotational pen pool mechanism. Why he and your newspaper felt compelled to devote an entire column to an internal Club matter arcane to the general public is baffling.
My understanding from SFCC colleagues is that several years ago, because Mr. Kirk could not or would not comply with the obligations of being a pool reporter (including the cardinal sin of going on air for his client before writing the mandated pool report), it was mutually agreed that he would no longer be part of the rotational system. However, as is the case with all other SFCC correspondent members, Mr. Kirk is still eligible for other available seats in the pool and has, in fact, taken advantage of these opportunities and continues to apply for these additional pool positions.
For the rotational pool for the USS George Washington June 24 visit, the next SFCC organization up for rotation in assignment for the pen pool was the Voice of America. It was as simple as that and for Mr. Kirk to imply ― as he did in e-mails to me ― that VOA received preferential treatment because of "State Department" connections is totally erroneous and insulting.
For the USS GW, after the other standing pool opportunities (i.e. Japanese pen pool/TV pools/still photography pool) were accepted or declined in accordance with transparent and long-standing pool procedures the SFCC Secretariat conducted a lottery among all other applicants including those outside of the rotational pool who had applied. CBS Radio (for whom Mr. Kirk is a stringer in Korea) was included in the two lotteries. Unfortunately the luck of the draw did not go to Mr. Kirk's satisfaction and he then launched his campaign against the system.
Any accredited foreign news organization is welcome to be considered for the SFCC standing pools (and, in fact, more than 40 news organizations are currently represented in our various pool categories). But participation involves the ability to take turns in the rotations on a regular basis including covering the type of "Liliput" or "Ruritania" events Mr. Kirk says he refuses to attend as a member of the rotational Western pen pool.
AFP, AP, Bloomberg, Reuters and VOA are the standing members of the Western pen pool. They take their turns and cover events for the pool that they may have little interest in and such coverage can stretch manpower commitments. That has been the structure for some years and Mr. Kirk is well aware of this.
In his e-mails and personal complaints to me last week, Mr. Kirk repeatedly and selfishly demanded that the pool system somehow be disregarded and others step aside so that he could "get to see the ship in action." Mr. Kirk thus demands he be given personal instant preferential treatment as one "who has been covering war and peace in Asia since 1965."
Steve Herman is president of the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club.