“We shouldn’t be self-content with the success of Korea’s Squid Game”

By Shin In-ho & Kim Su-yeon | 기사입력 2022/03/30 [14:56]

“We shouldn’t be self-content with the success of Korea’s Squid Game”

By Shin In-ho & Kim Su-yeon | 입력 : 2022/03/30 [14:56]


Nemo Kim is a journalist based in Seoul who writes on the two Koreas for The Guardian and Billboard. She has also reported on the Korean Peninsula and related issues for BBC World TV, BBC World Service, Variety, and Nikkei Asian Review. Prior to this, she served as Seoul Business Correspondent at NHK World of Japan. She previously anchored a daily news program at KBS World and served as a news producer at KBS London Bureau. She received a BA in English Literature with Drama and an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of London. – Ed


Q: Could you give us a brief introduction of The Guardian?

A:  The Guardian is a 200-year-old newspaper which was first founded in Manchester. It has two sister papers, The Observer and The Guardian Weekly. It is owned by the Scott Trust which was created in 1936 with the aim of securing “the financial and editorial independence of the newspaper in perpetuity and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and liberal values of the newspaper free from commercial of political interference” although the trust was converted to a limited company in 2008 with a constitution to maintain the same values. The Guardian headquarters is in London although there are other headquarters around the world including one in Asia. This is so that stories from all the world can be covered no matter the time difference. The Guardian is not partisan, but it can be said to be progressive because we are highly interested in the vulnerable and weak and in issues from all over the world. 

Another interesting feature about The Guardian is its strength in covering the arts. The Guardian’s film reviews, I understand, are not only read by those interested in movies but also by film industry personnel, which goes to show how influential the film section is. Many Korean films have been reviewed by The Guardian film critics including works by Park Chan-wook, Hong Sang soo and, of course, Bong Joon-ho.

It is one of the few remaining leading newspapers without a subscription fee attached to it, so anyone with an access to the Internet is able to read The Guardian free of charge. 


Q: Please tell us your thoughts about Korean media. To what extent do you think “freedom of speech” is guaranteed in Korea?

A: I know that there are quite a few media operating the self-censorship system. But I think many media seem to decide their coverage depending on their political ties. Generally speaking, media companies with strong political ties are not respected. I think it is best when media companies don’t favor any political side. I sometimes see Korean reporters struggling due to unfavorable regimes, which I don’t think is very desirable. 


Q: How do you, as a foreign reporter, feel about Korea’s status? Tell us about the changes you feel surprising as a foreign reporter while working in Korea.

A: Korea’s international recognition has exploded than before. Recently, I was asked by the BBC to cover Korean topics such as the television show Squid Game or other Korean entertainment industry. In the past, I was also asked negative questions like whether I was adopted or abandoned in Korea. Sometimes, Korean people were criticized and called cruel because of their custom of eating dog meat. 

These days, however, we receive positive reviews thanks to popular K-culture and celebrities in many sectors. Now many foreign people know professional football player Son Heung-min, Parasite, Squid Game, and actress Yoon Yeo-Jeong. But I don’t think it is enough to just be recognized internationally. Obviously, Korea’s soft power has become stronger and the world acclaims it, but that is not enough. We should have a wider perspective. Actress Yoon won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress last year, but do we know, for example, who has won it before?

In addition, we still have many social problems like inequality between the rich and the poor. Honestly, what about the issues of minority groups’ human rights and the feminist fever in Korea? The word “molca,” coined first in Korea, became an English word. Korea is sometimes seen as a country where accidents caused by disregard for life, such as harassment of neighborhood cats are frequently happening. Those accidents can’t be attributed to simply cultural differences. Most people aren’t directly involved in these matters but they are also indifferent to them. We should actively voice out about social problems even if we are not directly or personally related to them.


Q: What do you think of Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine?

A: There seem to be a lot of global problems such as the COVID-19 pandemic and environmental issues, which we can’t solve easily. War is also one of them. Hundreds and thousands of people are dying now, which isn’t something that should be allowed to happen in any country or in any situation.

But, in fact, war is not only happening in Ukraine. Large and small wars and conflicts including civil wars are occurring all over the world. This news about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is perhaps seeing heavy media coverage maybe because they are large European countries.

Q: What advice can you give to young students who want to be journalists?

A: You shouldn’t rely too much on the materials released or covered by the press. I recommend you to continue to pursue and become a journalist if you feel it enjoyable to find the issues and cover them or write articles without using ready-made press releases. You should know that reporters are not well paid and that there are some unreasonable people abusing the power in the sector of journalism as in other sectors. 

Also, you should remember that a reporter isn’t a special person. You should avoid any arrogant or stiff-necked attitude like “You’d better be good to me because I’m an influential person who writes news articles.


Q: What do you think are values or perspectives young Koreans living in the era of globalization should have as global citizens?

A: I think we need to have a broader perspective. Even if some issue is not related to you, you should have interest in that. This is, I’m afraid, what our young generations should learn, in comparison to those of European or other advanced countries.  

In addition, we should know that our country won’t always get good attention from international society. We need to make efforts to correct any weird or abnormal phenomena occurring in our society these days.


Q: What would you like to say to our readers?

A: Readers and news consumers should increase their level of perception or perspective. As I said before, we should not stop at just gloating about Korea’s “successful Squid Game,” but we should think about it in a different way one more time. Ask yourself. “Squid Game was a great success. Then, what other foreign movies succeeded in addition to our movie?” 


76th Edition of The Monday Times (March 28, 2022)

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