"I have always wanted to do interviews, ever since I can remember. I hope to continue to do so, dying with the power of the pencil in hand." One person was born to inform and introduce to society people from every corner of the nation solely on foot. He claims everyone has at least one strength and that everyone can shine in an interview. Today he writes interview articles about regular common everyday people rather than public figures. The Sookmyung Times (SMT) met up with Kim Myungsoo (KIM) to hear his story.
SMT After graduating from a college of agrochemical, what sent you down your path of career journalist? In particular, how did you become an interview reporter?
KIM I was never truly interested in my major; it did not match my aptitude, and I rarely even purchased required textbooks. However, my real problems started after graduation due to my poor academic grade point average. I failed every job application I made. Then, I came across a recruitment announcement from a newspaper for a journalist. After two attempts, I was selected to join the paper as a journalist; it was my first job. However, I faced numerous difficulties interviewing people and writing up the corresponding articles due to my introspective nature. Working in the editorial department, I spent more than 10 years as a journalist without actually writing up an article. After the economic recession of 1997, I was moved to the department of Interview. Since then, my mind to start writing up my own articles slowly came about. One day, I was ordered to do an interview. It was my first try so I was scared but I went out to do the interview with pen and sticky memo paper. I interviewed citizens for three hours and it was my very first interview. Representatives in the business department said my article was much better than theirs, some of whom had been working as journalists for 20 years. The crisis I faced turned into an opportunity. The interview that I did not want to do turned out to be a turning point in my life, opening endless opportunities.
SMT People Korea is a media source that operates as an Interview Newspaper, opening up people’s eyes to a brighter world. What's the founding motivation and philosophy behind People Korea?
KIM About the year 2000, I pondered my future. I was good at doing interviews and wanted to continue to do interviews, but I also wanted a new challenge rather than to stay at the newspaper, so I decided to create a newspaper based almost entirely of interviews. As editor-in-chief of the Kyunghyang Newspaper, I wrote numerous interview articles. People Korea pursued a brighter and more healthy society, so this new media came into existence in April 2000 and I have been posting articles ever since. For two years after its foundation, I worked side-by-side with Kyunghyang Newspaper, but then I quit my position as editorin- chief and devoted all my time to People Korea. From a harsh society, I took care to interview the average working class, who are the greatest force guiding our society. After stepping down from management of the People Korea, I started writing interview articles about various characters from all walks of life on the website www.inmulnews.com.
SMT What is the most important aspect of an interview? And what principles do you follow conducting an interview?
KIM Honesty is the strength of an article. Also, the reporter should present details in a manner that is both charming and competitive. Use of overly exaggerated and flowery words only satisfies the interviewees. An interview, while providing useful information to the reader must also be of interest. No matter how good a story is, if it is not interesting, it is difficult to draw the reader's sympathy. When conducting the interview, I have my own unchanging principles of selecting promising interviewees. I select and introduce people who can be a mentor for others. Interviews with reporters are sometimes lonely and difficult jobs. The task of interviewing people who could be role model for others requires a lot of effort and sweat to elicit sympathy. I never stop treading this difficult and exhausting path because I am convinced that my interview articles could be the power and mentor of others. Also, through this work, I receive emotional feedback from readers and interviewees.
SMT What was the most difficult interview you have ever conducted? Please tell us about it.
KIM The most difficult interview was with an anti-North Korean spy from Silmido’s 684 troop. I was interviewing platoon leader, Kim Bangil for the movie Silmido. My first request for an interview, when I first met him in 2000, was flat out rejected. I relentlessly explained the benefits of the interview and in the end convinced him to sit down with me. I told him, he needed to clarify the truth to all citizens of Korea and rectify distorted history during the Cold War era while Silmido 684 troops are still alive. Finally, I was granted an interview after my constant and persistent persuasion. I was cleared by national security and Kim Myungsoo was granted full responsibility for any articles written by me. At the time, his messages in my articles were explosive. I was able to use our talks to publish 40 consecutive interviews during 2001. My documentary series became the cornerstone for the Silmido movie which was seen by ten million people in just 2 years after the documentary series was released.
SMT You have been awarded a prize for the most ever interviews. In addition, you tend to interview a variety of people you deem worthy of introduction, be they celebrities or not. Through these kinds of interviews, what do you receive?
KIM Through the interviews, I learn about a variety of worlds. As previously stated, I am convinced that the main players in society are not the top 1% such as barons or celebrities or even people holding power, but the other 99% of society that lives without fame, fortune, or even power. For example, a popular TV drama has one main male character, but there are dozens of others who are needed to support that one person. If it weren’t for all those other people, that one person would never have received the spotlight. I am a person who wants to break with tradition and focuses on the regular people, not the elite in society. In competitive society, you must trample over othersA to get to the top. This behaviour in society—recognizing only special individuals—must stop. I want to represent the people who work silently without special recognition. They are the true heroes and mentors of society. By interviewing these people, I gain a sense of pleasure and enjoyment, but also learn about the world we live in.
SMT You have conducted so many interviews over the years. Is there any advice you can offer university students?
KIM I have interviewed over 1,000 people, some successful in their chosen areas and some with the dream of success. Simply summarizing all that I have learned, I would like to say dream, be passionate, challenge and use your own competitiveness. Regardless of riches, honor, and authority, people who do what they like are happy. The unhappiest person in the world is the person who doesn't have a dream or goal. I hope you become someone who makes an effort to hold a dream tight and sets goals for the next 20 and even 30 years. If you do this, you will certainly find the job best suited to work and love your work. Students please challenge tasks with boundless passion. Reading about people of passion, isn’t your heart moved?
Kim Myungsoo (KIM)
• Worked as Editor at Seoul Newspaper, Segye-ilbo and Editor-in-Chief at Kyunghyang Newspaper
• Advisor for the Internet Interview Newspaper People Korea and Operating Inmulnews
• Won Grand Prize for the Most Interviews Hosted by Korea Records 2011
• Published 11 Books including A Person Who Makes Interviews Well