How much trash do you produce per day? Did you know that the temperature of the Earth has risen yearly? Globally humans are taking advantage of Earth. While we reap the benefits, other creatures are losing their lives. Some animals are disappearing, though at a slower pace. SMT went to 'News Penguin' to learn more about these issues.
Before we begin, would you please introduce 'News Penguin' to our readers?
My name is Kim Gijeong, and I am a publisher of 'News Penguin'. The name of the publication itself is important. 'News Penguin' has two distinct meanings. It refers to endangered species, those either extinct or on the brink of extinction. It is the first and only new media platform centering on endangered species. Second, it refers to penguins. These animals represent the spirit of adventure as they run the risk of death each day out in the sea. 'News Penguin' is a first and foremost news media, but it breaks away from the traditional news genre. Reporters and staff produce and distribute fresh content including breaking news stories not tied to stereotypical media frameworks.
Please tell us a bit more about 'News Penguin' as a news media.
News Penguin is a professional news media platform focusing on issues of extinction and climate change. The role of News Penguin is to present world events so that globally people are aware of accelerated extinction and to promote calls to act among citizens. The biggest fator accelerating extinction is climate change, so we need to prevent further climate change. News Penguin distributes newsworthy stories on existing news distribution platforms (portal sites) as well as on social media sites. We hope to create a generation of "responsible" citizens who practice small changes to prevent further damage from climate change.
What got you interested in endangered species and climate change?
Honestly, it is not easy to learn about climate change and global warming. We need to sense its severity emotionally, which is not easy just from scientific data. Many know that apple production continues to move further and further north in the country, but we are unaware of the seriousness of rising sea levels. Many of Korea's coastal areas will be submerged in seawater in the coming decades due to global warming. Extinction is even more difficult to process. By examining dinosaur fossils, scientific findings reveal five clear mass extinctions that occurred throughout Earth’s history. However, many people believe it's an over-exaggeration to claim that if fossil fuels continue to burn and emit carbon, a sixth mass extinction will come in the next 100 years. News Penguin aims to provide proof and properly education people skeptical towards extinction and endangered species. Our starting point is not a list of figures, data, and symbols that are often just glanced upon, but the announcement and publication of current news stories on endangered species, especially animals that draw sympathy from people. It is hoped that after reading a detailed story that readers can relate to, people become concerned about endangered species and realize the seriousness of climate change.
What is your most memorable News Penguin article?
Though I recall all the articles I've been involved with, and I believe they have attracted the attention of readers, I suppose I could say the Sumatra tiger article. The tiger recently escaped from a zoo and had to be put down. It is an endangered tiger species. It escaped after heavy rains caused a landslide that damaged the zoo's breeding fence. In the end, it was shot and died. Also, regrettably, one zookeeper lost one’s life in the process. This case clearly symbolizes the relationship problem between members of planet Earth. Human desires never seem to fill, much like a bottomless pit.
Managing a news platform on global environmental issues is challenging. We wonder what, if any, difficult moments have you encountered operating News Penguin?
More than half of the articles in News Penguin are not covered by other domestic media. News Penguin reporters take great effort to secure newsworthy stories that will have an impact on readers. It's not about 'fun' but about being professional, so there is always the constant consideration of catching audiences' eyes. It is a challenge to find stories that satisfy both getting the attention of readers and providing the key message to readers. Even if we can do this, we need to secure supplemental materials that deliver sincerity and ensure faith in our articles to readers. In terms of management, the challenge is to raise sufficient financial support so that the company can operate reliably. No matter how good your intention is, a company cannot operate solely on passion and ethical value. Last, we have a very strict standard for our adverts, so we face more difficulties than other news media in terms of profitability.
How do you tackle difficult moments?
When it comes to fact-checking content sources, I let my confidence and passion lead the way to trust in all members of News Penguin including our journalists, so far, my trust has produced excellent results. Our constant effort to ensure accuracy and discover various items is the founding basis for News Penguin. In terms of finances, we have not yet had any major difficulties. However, as our staff grows and the company expands, we will need to generate more revenue, so we will surely need to secure more investments. However, we will not undermine our ethical values to obtain financing. I believe we will continue to survive because of our huge readership and the love they give us.
What has been the happiest and most rewarding moment at News Penguin so far?
I feel rewarded when readers exchange various opinions on a News Penguin article. When I see active comment postings and various opinions appearing, I am proud to be a part of News Penguin. For the Sumatra tiger article, which I introduced earlier, opinions varied from polar end to polar end including some controversial content. This shows News Penguin readers are true readers, in short, they are "superfans." I am proud to see others knocking on our door and wanting to work with us on endangered species, climate change, and environmental conservation. The more interest, the more we can develop new business ideas, alliances, and try new projects.
Recently, interest in environmental issues has been increasing due to COVID-19. In particular, masks and disposable waste products have emerged as major causes of environmental problems. What are your thoughts on this?
Waste is a powerful factor bringing about animal extinctions along with climate change. Are you familiar with the Great Pacific garbage patch? It's an island of trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The garbage island is 16 times the size of the Korean Peninsula and includes various waste products such as plastics that have lumped together. Trash from all over the world that has fallen into the seas has formed an island. It is causing fish to consume pieces of garbage, especially microplastics. These fish are then eaten by predators such as humans. Besides harming marine life, the trash is harming human life, too. Humans are harvesting the seeds they have sowed. Masks have also become a serious environmental problem, so governmental departments like the Ministry of Environment need to implement safer and cleaner collection and treatment systems that minimize environmental damage caused by masks. These problems are coming to light more and more often, and the saddest part is laziness to act. Governments should have addressed the problem of disposal long ago at the start and established proper measures, but it is frustrating to see them always two or three steps behind. Instead of relying on the goodwill of citizens, governments need to improve administrative systems that properly tackle by-products of the Untact era such as increased disposable products caused by COVID-19.
In addition to climate change, you have published a number of articles about endangered animals. What is the most serious issue with endangered animals that you would like readers to know?
'Kyobo Life Insurance' posted a large bulletin board on the Kyobo Building in Gwanghwamun late November of last year and can still be seen now. The picture on the advert is controversial. It is the image of a fisher who has caught a whale, which is an endangered species of whale, the humpback whale. Environmental groups staged one-person protests and raised concern repeatedly, so Kyobo modified the painting by making fishing lines and fishing needles dim. Kyobo replied to the accusations by saying, "The picture was not meant to promote the capture of whales. It was a symbolic expression." Kyobo also asked people to understand the artist’s freedom of expression. I think there needs to be concern for sensitivity when claiming freedom of expression against imagery of endangered species. Seeing an endangered species as a light fluffy topic does not do justice to the harshness and seriousness of the plight of endangered species. Endangered species are creatures that are dying out because of the actions and behaviors of humans. This is the idea I hope everyone remembers.
What future plans do you have for News Penguin?
My dream is for more and more readers to share the values, thoughts, and philosophy that we hold dear at News Penguin. At our foundation, we are a news media company. I will continue to advance my skills in this field to make News Penguin articles more visible to more readers on all news platforms. I hope to establish news partnerships with domestic portal sites such as Naver and Kakao. At the moment, we are currently in talks with these portal sites. I hope to seal the deal shortly. Apart from this, we are looking to expand into the global network. We will strengthen and expand our solidarity with civic groups and activists who are working to save endangered species and stop further climate change. Above all, we are pushing for solidarity with related organizations in Korea and actively seeking solidarity with global organizations. One of those organizations is Eco Literacy. We hope to build an infrastructure and system that provides proper "environmental education" to younger generations such as teenagers, not staying in the media.
Please leave a final message for Sookmyungians.
Please do not forget that climate change is something humanity brought on ourselves. Why carry a tumbler? I'm not being annoying or troublesome, but you need to form good habits and always carry a tumbler. This small effort when done in unison with millions of others can have a huge impact, changing stereotypes, and removing bad habits all around the world. Disposables only fuel climate change, even if used on occasion. Just as a reservoir can burst from a small crack, we must never forget or ignore the scientific data. Bad deeds are driving penguins from Antarctica and polar bears in the Arctic are becoming extinct. In the near future, humans will undeniably have the same fate. We must continue to make our voices heard in the political community. Politicians and other high-ranking government officials may not share our ideas about climate change, but they must listen. If we close our eyes to things that further accelerate climate change, we will face more "terrible" things next. Please voice your opinion on injustice as young adults. Moreover, you can't be called an intellectual.
-Master of Journalism and Mass Communication Hanyang University
-Bachelor of Journalism and Mass Communication Hanyang University
-KBS Reporter, Kookmin Ilbo Reporter
-Head of Kookmin Ilbo New Media Center
-CEO of Kuki Media, an affiliate of Kookmin Ilbo
-Chairperson of the Korea Online Newspaper Association
-CEO of Environmental TV
-CEO of News Penguin and Green Post Korea