We encounter various events or accidents through reading a newspaper every day. Journalists' voices can be easily conveyed through their articles. However, not everyone's voices are the same size in our society. Some people's voices are loud, but others are very small and have difficulty reaching us. There is a journalist who listens to such small voices and amplifies them by delivering the reality they face. SMT met journalist Nam Hyungdo, who experiences marginalized lives and realizes shoe-leather journalism by doing "Chehulism," which means a compounding of experience and journalism.
Before our interview, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi, Sookmyung Times readers. I'm a journalist, Nam Hyungdo. First, I'm glad to tell you my story. I've been working as a journalist since the end of 2010. Currently, I am in charge of special articles in the digital news department of Money Today. Also, I am running a series, "Journalist Nam's Chehulism," which deals with my experience arousing empathy with different beings and attracting concern for their stories. Based on these stories, I published a book, "I Experienced It Once, Chehulism by the Journalist Nam."
In your Chehulism article, you have covered isolated lives such as "Childcare Experience by a Man," "A Day in the Life of a Postman and Firefighter," and so on. What was the specific reason and purpose for doing that at that time?
I've dealt with the disabled issue once, but hardly anyone has seen it. Although I already submitted the article, I had a lot of worries about how to ensure people could see it. This is because the power of articles comes from the attention of many people, and public opinion and changes are made based on this. Therefore, I decided to experience being in a wheelchair to get informed about the issue of the mobility rights of the disabled. I wrote about my experience of how bumpy the ground is and the reality that they can't enter most stores. I thought this format was helpful in covering the difficulties of excluded lives and began to serialize Chehulism.
While serializing Chehulism, you have faced many social problems by dealing with environmental, animal, disabled, women, and labor-related issues. Please explain what issues you were most concerned about and why.
There are so many important things that it is hard to choose one. This is because some people go through these difficulties every day in their lives. Especially, there are so many people whose plight needs attention but are still neglected. I hope people will try to look at the problems around them carefully. Since we live together, I think it is more important to know what the lives of the people around us are like and maintain a desire to change the world together.
In addition to social problems, you also write about experiences related to yourself, such as "Running for Two Weeks," "Praising Myself," and "Learning to Dance." What inspired you to choose those topics?
The topics related to me often come to my mind when I reflect on my own heart. Even if we are with people, we could feel lonely or depressed. I think someone else may be going through emotions I have felt. Therefore, I wrote articles about them, in the hope of providing comfort. One day, I thought, "Why am I working hard every single day?" and had an experience of doing nothing but relaxing, just for me. Perhaps the thought of wanting to comfort myself was the inspiration for this experience.
The Chehulism articles are based on your experience, so they are different from the usual format of articles. Please tell us what the most difficult part was and how you overcame it.
First, I plan and write the articles alone based on my experience, so I record everything. In this process, a lot of physical strength is required. Also, it takes a lot of time to recruit interviewees. Above all, I have difficulty in how to portray them through the articles. This is because the form of experience is always bound to have limitations, so there is a possibility of distortion. In other words, the process of complementing these limitations and capturing their difficulties is the most challenging for me. I'm continuously striving to overcome these difficulties.
With Chehulism gaining attention from many people, you achieved the top number of subscribers on NAVER's reporter website and currently have more than 60,000 subscribers. At that time, you were praised as a "genuine journalist working hard on the spot." What do you think is a "genuine journalist"?
I'm very grateful for this, but I'm a little bit embarrassed because I don't think my writing is worthy of such praise. I think a good journalist is someone who has a clear reason when writing and can change the world for the better. Also, a person who fully considers what influence it will have should become a journalist. There may be various perspectives on this, but it is an important capability to pay more attention to those areas which need more attention.
Last year, you reflected criticism of an article by rewriting an incident of death and sexual violence at Inha University, based on "Guidelines for Reporting Sexual Violence Crimes." As such, you actively listened to feedback on your articles. Please let us know why you try to communicate with your readers.
The reason why I try to listen to feedback or comments is that it's important to communicate with the readers. To establish trust in an article, it's necessary to look into what readers want to read about. When trust is gained, they will look more closely at my writing and this attention makes changes. Regarding the Inha University incident, many articles with provocative or suggestive titles had been published contrary to the wishes of readers. I wanted to correct this and to inform them that there is a journalist with this concern through a correction report. Ultimately, I think responding to readers' opinions will increase the power of writing.
You published an essay based on Chehulism, I Experienced It Once, Chehulism by the Journalist Nam. Why did you reorganize it in book form, and what message do you want to convey to your readers?
I hope that my writing will be read by more people for a long time. In this respect, people don't usually read an article a day or two after it is published. However, books are a longer-lasting media, and many people can read books continuously in libraries or bookstores. Also, print media allows people to concentrate on reading for a long time. Thus, I was willing to accept the proposal to publish a book. I wish that this book is put in a place where people can often get their hands on it and it will be read constantly.
You have written about 19 novels by serializing on "So So Novel" (Novel for Socially marginalized but So precious people) on Naver's Premium Content. It included underprivileged people in society, such as victims of school violence, single mothers, and so on. Why did you produce this content?
Among the people I met while reporting, there were many people who were in greater difficulty than I thought. However, there was a limit to how much I could help them through my articles. So, I started serializing novels to more substantially help them. This created an opportunity for all the revenue generated from this paid content to be delivered to those who need it. Also, I wanted to discover what changes occur when I deliver my message in the form of a novel. Since these novels allow people to immerse themselves, I wanted to try various ways so that people could focus on the story more.
At that time, a profit of 14 million won from the novels was donated to welfare groups, such as the Korea Child Abuse Prevention Association, ChildFund Korea, Korean Parents' Network for People with Disabilities, and others. Please tell me about your experience of changing the world through donations.
I think this help is tiny. For example, if I had donated the profits to an organization that supports sanitary pads for teenagers from low-income families, this will only ease some worries until they reach adulthood. However, I think it's better to do something rather than nothing. In this way, I agree with the theory that uselessness, which means there is no way to solve the problem, is the biggest obstacle to changing the world. I didn't feel that rewarded through this, but I got a little comfort from the fact that I was able to add strength and there were people who shared my will.
You are giving lectures called "Major Class for Writing about your Experience" and "Let's write with our feet, Nam Hyungdo's experiencing writing." Please tell me the difference between "experiencing writing" and regular writing. Through this, please explain what we can get from it, too.
This writing helps to expand a kind of experience. Most people repeat a similar routine and are used to what they see all the time. This class deals with how to write down things that people can learn by sharing meaningful experiences that they have never done before. There is a difference from the traditional writing method because knowing and trying in person are different. This writing format makes the writing more specific and vivid, which helps the reader concentrate on it. I think it's important to keep a record of every day because I think our days are made up of experiences.
If you have any future goals and dreams as a journalist or writer, please let us know.
I want to make my writing more powerful to change the world. Accordingly, I would like to create new content for communities or build solidarity so that people can participate in changing something. Because the world doesn't change easily, many people should share opinions together steadily. Therefore, I have a plan to increase the scale of change this year and am thinking about what it will take to do that. I am also preparing a new book this year and I want to finish it well.
Lastly, please leave a final message for Sookmyungians who are trying to pay attention to marginalized voices.
In the future, you will have a lot of experience in society and have a lot of influence on it. I'm sure that you can expand your thinking if you think about what you are blessed with in the world once in a while. I hope you consider what you have been taking for granted in our lives. Some have food to eat, but not everyone does. Based on these thoughts, when thinking about the difference between them and you and what you can do to make their environment better, you will be able to take the world in a better direction.
- Serialized special articles, "Journalist Nam's Chehulism" (2018~)
- Published I Experienced It Once, Chehulism by the Journalist Nam (2020)
- Published premium contents So So Novel (Novel for Socially marginalized but So precious people) (2021)
- Serialized special articles, "A Charging Humanity Station" (2022~)