IN A small town in Burma (Myanmar), people are very familiar with Korean culture. How do they know about Korea when they have never been to Korea? The answer is Arirang TV. Arirang TV opened its broadcasting system in 1995 and has been trying its best to introduce Korea to the world. Currently, more than 30 million people watch Arirang TV to get to know what it is like in Korea. And, here is a person who has the same goal with Arirang TV. Sohn Jie-ae (CEO, Arirang TV) loves Korea and desires to share the Korean culture to as many people as possible. The Yonsei Annals met Sohn to deliver some inspiration and passion to fellow Yonseians.
Annals : Can you introduce Arirang international TV to students in Yonsei University?
Sohn: Arirang international TV is a public service agency which introduces Korea to the world. The main role of Arirang TV is to introduce Korean celebrities and let people in the world know about Korea. We are also aiming to improve Korea’s international image through our various programs, so all programs of Arirang TV are broadcasted in English. Arirang TV is broadcasted in 188 countries around the world, and about 15 million families watch and listen to Arirang TV’s various programs. Some main programs of our channel are Korea Today conveys Korea’s latest news, and After School Club broadcasts live music shows for K-pop fans.
Annals : We’ve heard that you’ve had a diverse career paths. What kind of jobs did you have before you became CEO of Arirang TV in 2011?
Sohn: After I finished graduate school at Yonsei, I worked as an English reporter for about ten years - eight years for Business Korea and two years for The New York Times . In 1995, I was a correspondent and branch manager for CNN Seoul for 15 years. In 2010, I worked as a spokesperson for the 2010 G20 Seoul summit. After that, I became the secretary for international publicity in the Blue House. And for now, I am CEO of Arirang international TV . I have switched to various jobs over the past 30 years, but I think I have gained the most out of each experience.
Annals : In your college years, what was your dream and what did you do to realize your dream?
Sohn: Actually, I did not dream of a becoming CEO in my college years. Since I worked in the English monthly in Ewha Women’s University called Ewha Voice, I dreamed of becoming a reporter at a global English newspaper. To become fluent in English, I joined seven student clubs where I could practice my English. Also, I worked as a translator and interpreter as a part time job. Doing all these things as a student, I tried to find a job that fits me the best. Overall, I spent my college life exploring my aptitude and searching for what I really like. In the end, I decided to get a job that introduces Korea to the world.
Annals : You must have been very busy during your college years. What were the ups and downs of having a busy schedule? Did it help develop your career?
Sohn: The biggest disadvantage was the lack of time to study. Despite the disadvantage, however, being busy always challenged me to try my best – which was very helpful for my career. As a reporter of Ewha Voice , I met many friends and had precious opportunities to interview various famous people as a student. Most of all, through those activities I could easily learn English. I think the experiences and studies related to English during my college years, and even those that were not related, gave me a number of opportunities to develop myself. I admit that I was always busy, but I am sure that those experiences were precious for my career path.
Annals : You spent a long time as a reporter. When was the most rewarding moment, and what do you think the most important duty of a reporter is?
Sohn: It is quite difficult to pick a single moment because when I work, every moment is exciting and rewarding. However, I felt a big sense of accomplishment when working as a reporter for CNN. At that time, not many people were interested in issues on North Korea, and it was not easy to cover those stories. So, when I reported on issues such as human rights abuses, North Korean defectors, or separated families, it was very rewarding to raise the awareness in South Korea. Therefore, I think that one of the most important duties of a reporter is to contribute to the society in a meaningful way. Reporters should always search for what is newsworthy and how to effectively convey that news. Annals : You are now managing very important tasks for Arirang TV. What is your vision for Arirang TV, and what is the final goal of your life? Sohn: My final and biggest goal is to let as many people as possible know about Korea. This is one of the most important reasons to why I became the CEO of Arirang TV. Even after I finish my term as CEO of Arirang TV, I will continue to represent and introduce Korea to the world. I personally hope that more Koreans become engaged in jobs managing global tasks in various fields, so that Korea could take a more prominent role in the world. Also, I want to promote active communication between Korea and the world, so that more people will love Korea. In this sense, Arirang TV has tremendous responsibilities. As for now, Arirang TV is the only channel in Korea that broadcasts Korean news about food, culture, history, politics and economy to the world. Therefore, I will manage Arirang TV to cover various contents that describe Korea in a beautiful but precise way. By understanding Korea accurately, people will realize the true value of Korea and love Korea.
Annals : Finally, can you give a message to university students in Korea?
Sohn: I’ve heard that the life of today’s university student is not easy. Students need to prepare more to get a job. I agree that it is pretty tough to become an important member of society and that getting a diploma from a prestigious university does not necessarily guarantee a good job. However, ambitious students should be willing to embrace these difficulties and hardships. You should have confidence about your future and believe in yourself if you are aiming high.
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Sohn seems to have achieved as a truly global person. However, as seen throughout her interview, we should not forget that her globalized life is based on her strong love toward Korea. Also, it is important to remember that her courage to pursue various dreams also proves why she is one of the most popular role models of many university students. Yonseians, take Sohn’s advice: aim high, and dream big.