When I was asked to be an editor for HuffPost Korea, I requested one week to consider. But before the end of that same day, I ended up writing an email accepting the offer. Why?
It must have been around the summer I was fifteen. I had a chance to follow my parents to live in California. Since it was my first time in a foreign country, I was amazed by everything and thrilled to make new friends. On the first day of school, the World History teacher introduced me to my classmates and asked them to locate Korea on the globe. Most of the students, however, didn't even know what continent the country was in. I realized how small my nation was and how weak its existence seemed to others. For an adolescent girl who took pride in being Korean, the experience was bitter as can be. Since then, I promised myself that I would communicate with all the citizens of the world on the international stage as a proud Korean. Well, finally the opportunity came!
Only a half century ago on the Korean peninsula, a tragic war lasted for three years in which countrymen pointed their guns at each other. My father, who was a ten-year-old kid at the time, fled from the war with his mother, four younger siblings, and all their possessions. All the hardships they went through while walking 250 miles on foot from Seoul to Busan are indescribable. In just 60 years since then, with hard work and strong will Koreans have achieved marvelous economic growth, which is referred to as "the miracle of Han River." The per capita national income is well over $20,000; the illiteracy rate is lower than 2%; and the college acceptance rate is above 70%. The UN Secretary General and the president of the World Bank are Koreans, and Korean corporations have developed some of the most desirable brands. Leading up to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Korea has successfully held the 1988 Seoul Olympics and 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup, and many across the globe are enthralled by Korean TV dramas. World-renowned Michelin-starred restaurants serve the Korean traditional food "kimchi." The Korea that most people previously couldn't even find on a map has become a country that embodies fashion and trends. The Psy fever that rolled in last year raised the popularity of Korean culture to its peak. Madonna, President Obama, and even Noam Chomsky have shouted "Oppan Gangnam style," and foreign tourists who are curious about "Gangnam" are swarming over to Seoul. I doubt if there has been any other country to realize this much eye-opening growth in such a short time in human history.
On the other hand, within Korean society important tasks, hidden behind the success visible on surface, still need to be completed. The efforts to overcome poverty have led to excessive fervor for education, and Koreans' passion for success is almost bordering on obsession. Korea has been given dishonorable distinctions, such as having the world's longest work hours, the fewest paid vacation days, the highest youth suicide rate among OECD countries, and so on, which is unimaginable for the people who used to love the arts and enjoy life in the old days. Is this not the same country that used to take pleasure and time in serving and doting on even passing guests?! Due to the obsession with speedy economic growth, however, many people are not tending to the happiness of their soul. At a time like this, the announcement that The Huffington Post, acclaimed as the most successful online outlet for news and social media, is landing in Korea is especially pleasant. The "Third Metric" that founder Arianna Huffington continually stresses, happiness beyond success and money, is what Koreans desperately need now.
Fortunately there are recent efforts within Korea to recognize these problems and find solutions: The five-day work week has been imposed; a political party has claimed the protection of the environment as their top priority; and the nation that used to rank the lowest on the women's rights index every year has produced the first female president in East Asia. People have embraced open discourse on social issues and started taking interest in the weak, including socially alienated minorities such as women, the disabled, the working class, and so on. The ruling and opposition parties have both raised their voice and agreed that it's time to improve outdated and insufficient welfare policies.
Now is the time for news sources that convey the small yet precious happiness found in life instead of exacerbating the tension and excessive competition in our daily lives. Instead of rushed and groundless information, we need "our own collective voice" conveyed in effective ways, sorted out by fine editors who believe in "good will," "sharing," and "the power of individual happiness to influence in society," which is exactly what HuffPost Korea aims to be. Because of this goal, we sleep-deprived editors say our heart is full with new hope for a bright future while preparing to launch.
HuffPost Korea will, above all, change the tone of existing news and suggest measures to recognize problems and improve them cheerfully and intelligently. Breaking social prejudice and dissolving journalistic hierarchies, it intends to convey to the reader the "real" news of life in which all of us are the hosts and main characters. You will even find the kind of stories frankly shared with friends over dinner, not the sort of media that feels distant due to its overly broad perspectives and emotional detachment. It will become a media not of another's invention but consisting of "one's own free and independent stories." It will become a space where you can read and discuss clear and honest news based on fundamental principles and infinite curiosity and love towards the world. It will be an "individual's companion" that gives respite and peace to our soul with news that is fresh and novel, fun and original. At the same time, through The Huffington Post's worldwide network, it will offer global news to a Korean society that requires more internationalization and diversification. The citizens of the world, on the other hand, can more easily learn about Korean traditions, opinions, philosophy, and so on.
At this moment, there are lively online conversations in Korea regarding the launching of HuffPost Korea. Fear and concern always accompany a new challenge and change. It is rather fortunate and delightful that a variety of views and voices already focus on HuffPost Korea. If you want to share or receive more pleasant and happy news, please find us. Besides Koreans, anyone, regardless of nationality, race, gender, age, occupation, religion, or ideology, is very welcome. Thanks to you all in advance for writing the history of HuffPost Korea together with us. Welcome to HuffPost Korea!