"A student just graduating from high school asked me how to become a foreign correspondent. She was aggressive and quite daring." Being determined, she approached the professor without hesitation and in a positive manner. She had long dreamt of becoming a foreign correspondent and strived to cultivate to the flower of her dreams. The Sookmyung Times met Kwon Saeeun, Asian producer at Sky News, a professional in love with her job who continues to develop.
Sky News is the TV station affiliated with UK BSkyB, so what made you go to China?
I applied for a student exchange program at Communication University of China. Honestly, my language skills were not the best, but I was able to persuade the Chinese professors by being proactive, showing my will to learn and that I was a good fit for the school, having majored in communication science. I worked as a short-term freelancer to cover Kim Jungil’s funeral at Sky News. I worked 22 hours a day, but felt alive. I felt I was in the middle of a changing world, and it felt good because I knew I had done a good job. Since I had worked hard, people saw potential in me and tried to help.
While at Sookmyung Women's University, how did your dream of working at a foreign broadcasting station emerge?
I was focused and determined, so I tried hard and did my best in everything. I utilized my time at university well. I learnt the basics of journalism and was not scared around world leaders. I had always dreamt of working in media, so I naturally applied to the department of communications science. Since I knew early on what I wanted in life, I took courses that would help me from different majors. English literature and Chinese literature were all taught in languages foreign to me and by foreign professors, which helped me as a foreign correspondent. Political science courses also bettered my understanding of the basics of world issues. In terms of part-time work, I got jobs related to international events, so I was able to meet a Nobel peace prizewinner, the head of a major Chinese media forum, anchor Yanglan, Alvin Toffler, head of a major petroleum company, and so on. These people mentored me towards my dream by giving advice since I was a student. This enabled me to avoid the “hard way” on my road to where I am today.
You went to China on a student exchange while at university. Why did you choose to go to China?
I attended a foreign language high school where I majored in Chinese, so I already had some basic Chinese skills behind me. One day, during my first year at university, while in my journalism, a Chinese University professor, who was the female head of the best media university in China, came to give a special lecture. I felt China was the country in which I could develop and where my future laid. Nevertheless, I had not planned to stay that long in China. At first, I believed I’d only be there a year and a half, enough to master the Chinese language. Turns out, I needed to stay much longer. In addition, with a fairly solid command of English, I knew that studying in the U.S. would always be a possibility even later down the road. Meanwhile, in China, I started getting job offers. Despite not being offered a salary, I was able to gain valuable work experience in different platforms of media. These experiences were something I could not get in Seoul, so I extended my stay year after year.
You try to upload posts continuously through social media such as Twitter and so on. Why do you “communicate” with others instead of just providing a one-way transfer of knowledge?
I see journalism as a mirror that shows different walks of life to let voices be heard. I hope the world changes due to my work by alerting people to various important issues and making them aware. I hope people then make changes that make difference to the world. By communicating with my viewers and sharing opinions, I uncover better ideas and bring about greater awareness. Sadly, there are side effects. Sometimes, people are cruel and harsh. Still, I try to include all communications in order to learn and sympathize with all people. When you let people tell their stories, they explain things more like where it’s happening exactly and more details. News is still all about the human interest aspect. At the end of the day, you are just informing others about the lives of people from different walks of life so that they are not judged negatively.
As a producer and foreign correspondent, you likely need to be very determined. How did you develop your character and what is it like to be a reporter?
I think as a journalist you need to be a people person. I started dreaming that one day I would become the bridge that connects different cultures and different societies. In order to bridge other cultures, you need to understand cultures and their connection to languages and behavior. No one can know everything, but by showing an interest and genuinely empathizing with others out of the love of wanting to know what is going on without prejudice, is something shared by all. Personally, I have strong opinions on different things. For instance, I strongly believe doors of opportunity don’t open on their own. I searched hard and worked hard to catch my dream. I never cared about others opinions of me. I pushed hard to get where I am today. To do well in journalism, you need to be aggressive and hunt down your own news story and get that story out there.
Finally, what does Sookmyung mean to you?
Sookmyung was the platform from where I sprouted. It allowed me to find my way in life. I tested the waters to get to where I am. I took advantage of a lot of opportunities that were right for me: to develop my language skills, sent me on different projects overseas, enabled me to organize many events, and helped me to become a TV news producer. No one told me what to do, but the school did give me the tools to succeed and experience things I would have never had the opportunity otherwise. It was fun, exciting, exotic, thrilling, and exhausting but I knew I was on the way to something different, and it seemed like I was getting closer and closer to my dreams. My professor once thought I was a student who was unstoppable, so for me Sookmyung provided me a great chance to develop. I hope to give back to the university, so I always donate money for scholarships that could help students in need. Also, when I’m in Korea, I enjoy visiting all my university professors and seeing how Korea is changing.
■ Graduated from the School of Communication & Media '10
■ Aisan Producer at Sky News