“NEVER TAKE life seriously, nobody gets out alive anyway.” This is a quote that conveys a message of adventure and challenge. Life is not to be taken seriously. Life is meant for us to try new challenges, meet new people, and gain new knowledge. After all, you won’t be leaving it alive anyway. Youths today do not seem to realize this fact, however. They are too scared of stepping out of their comfort zone. To the careful youths of today, Kim Jae-young (Documentary Producer, MBC) insists on going out and living their dreams. Kim has been a documentary producer in MBC since 2001. He is a Yonsei graduate, and has ventured into various aspects of our world through his documentary programs like Smart Consumer Reports, PD Diary, and not to mention arguably his most notable program, Tears of the Antarctic. The Yonsei Annals met him at a café near his workplace in the Ilsan MBC Dream Center Studio.
The Yonsei Annals: Tell us a little about your life as a student at Yonsei University.
Kim: I studied sociology at Yonsei for both my undergraduate and postgraduate course. As an undergraduate I did not devote much of my time to studying, not until I finished mandatory military service after my junior year. Instead, I spent more time to working for Yonsei Educational Broadcasting Station (YBS).
Annals: Why did you decide to become a documentary producer?
Kim: I always liked media, especially video media. And while I was in YBS, I discovered that I really enjoyed making my own videos. This led me to think that I would live a very fulfilling life if I continued to do it as my lifelong career. Although preparing for the press entrance exam was tedious and tough, I found it less so because of my determination. I enjoyed learning the skills required for becoming a documentary producer, and such was what I had to do for YBS anyway. I was extremely lucky. So in a nutshell, I became a documentary producer because I liked it. It is as clear and simple as that.
Annals: What do you think is the unique charm of a documentary producer?
Kim: I think the role of video producers is to share their image of the world through their work. But the way we do so differs from each other depending on the genre – drama, entertainment, or documentary. The unique charm of documentary producers is that we can do this through actual events or phenomena in society rather than imaginary worlds. We puzzle the pieces of the world together to create a message. This is really attractive. Also, the real beauty of being a documentary producer lies in uncovering the veiled truth. In many cases, the truth is unlike what people generally believe. We documentary producers try to get to the root of the issues and expose the real truth hidden behind a fabricated surface.
Annals: It must be difficult to reveal such hidden truths.
Kim: It is. The most difficult is when situational circumstances do not let me portray the true reality. It is not always so straightforward, you see. By revealing the truth, someone will get hurt or blamed. Because of this, we, sometimes, are unable to tell the entire story based on sole facts. We have a story to tell, but the situation deters us from telling it.
Annals: You have produced Smart Consumer Reports, PD Diary, and of course Tears of the Antarctic. You seem to have a wide area of interest, but students today seem to be focused only on their grades and future employment. Do you think something is wrong here? What do you think should be done?
Kim: This is a difficult question, but I think it is wrong to turn all the blame to the students. In a way, society has forced students to go into their own shells of individual worries of grades and job-searching. Older generations including my own heard that as long as we worked hard, we would reach our goals. But this belief was crippled in 1997 when the financial crisis broke out. Hardworking people lost their jobs. Diligent work was no longer a guaranteed formula for success. I think this has forced the younger generation to almost obsessively concentrate on grades and job-searching. In times like this, I think it is important for the community to collectively look for the solution.
Annals: Many people believe that your most famous piece is Tears of the Antarctic, so let us talk about that. What was the most memorable about the Antarctic?
Kim: The Antarctic is a mysterious place. When we look at the world atlas, we only see it as a longitudinal white piece of land at the bottom. We barely see it on the globe unless we turn it upside down. Yet, it is a massive piece of land that is bigger than the United States and Mexico combined. And this immense piece of land is mostly left untouched by humans. This sheer fact was just marvelously bewildering. I like to compare the Antarctic to outer space, because what we currently know about the Antarctic is literally just the tip of an iceberg. And that was precisely the most memorable to me: the mysteriousness of the Antarctic, the land of enigma and imagination, and the land of whales and penguins. And I think it should be left that way.
Annals: You spent about eight months filming in the Antarctic. What did the eight months of filming period mean to you?
Kim: Filming in the Antarctic gave me a chance to see the world through a whole new pair of glasses. Nowadays when people look at an empty land or river, many think of the profit they can get by manipulating these natural resources. Many people forgot to appreciate nature the way it is. But the Antarctic taught me the beauty of leaving the earth the way it is and what it means to truly live with nature.
Annals: Finally, would you like to leave a message to Yonsei students?
Kim: As you live on, you will learn that various thoughts and ideas exist. But the world where we can truly exchange such ideas has yet to come. I would like to encourage my fellow Yonseians to create the world where we can freely exchange our ideas and images. In order to do so, Yonseians need to understand that they are capable of influencing the world. In fact, in our society, graduating from Yonsei University implies that you are capable of bringing change and bearing responsibility. Change the world, dedicate yourself to a bigger purpose like our *sunbae* Yun Dong-ju. Also, go out there and do what you like. You can set aside worries about finding a career for a while. Challenge yourself, find out who you are and do what you want, because you are all living the time of your life that is never to return.
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Kim remained passionate throughout the interview. Perhaps passion is another message that he wordlessly tried to convey. It seems that passion for his interests was the driving force behind all he achieved. Now it is time for us to do the same. Like Kim’s words, we should step on the tip of our own world, leave the comfort zone, and go beyond our own Antarctica to find our passion.