After a big last week in which I had two packages go to air, explored Seoul almost every night, and slept for no longer than four hours at a time, I’ve come to the rather obvious conclusion that I need a rest. Seoul is a city where nothing ever seems to close, an urban playground where temptation is everywhere you look. This might lead to trouble somewhere else, yet Seoul will go down as one of the safest places I have ever been.
Posing before an intensely fought game of beer pong. Photo by Svetlana Pasechnik
As I hoped it would be in my first post, Seoul — well, South Korea as a whole — is a place of apparent contradictions that, in reality, mesh together. An emphasis on youthfulness is complemented by embedded Confucian values that give elders primacy. The rich culture and traditions of Korea can be researched using public Wi-Fi on a smartphone at any time. The strong work ethic of many Koreans doesn’t clash with the equally hardy drinking culture; it just reduces the amount of sleep available.
In my last week, I didn’t get much of a chance to experience this, though, as I was busy working on a number of projects to varying degrees of success. The cricket package I outlined in my last blog was dropped due to a lack of responsiveness shown by the Korean Cricket Association, and several other interviews were unable to be conducted due to certain subjects’ flightiness. I did manage to get two packages on-air, however, and the amount of work I put into each was considerable.
The first package was slated to run Wednesday and was initially designed to be a reflective piece on the Sewol ferry tragedy from the point of view of an outsider (me). But on Tuesday morning I awoke to the news that Yoo Byung Eun, the fugitive owner of the Sewol, was confirmed as dead by Korean police — more than one month after his body was found by a farmer and inexplicably left in a hospital, decaying to the point where it was difficult to confirm his identity. If I’d gone ahead without acknowledging this development my piece would have come across as unaware and self-concerned, so my producer Christina and I agreed that it should change to be more of a news report. It would require a lot of work to redo the piece, and to complicate things, I had chosen to visit arguably Korea’s biggest tourist attraction — the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) — on Tuesday. By 4 pm I was back from the DMZ and ready to reformat my Sewol package, and it was just past midnight when I finished working on it, satisfied that the piece was newsworthy enough to be broadcast Wednesday morning.
The South Korea–North Korea border at the DMZ. Photo by Brendan Day
My second package, which profiled Australians living in Korea, was a bit light-hearted, but required a great deal more editing. Sound effects, music cues and extensive amounts of interview cuts meant creating the package tested my limited editing skills, but the end result was one that I’m proud of. I popped in to the tbs eFM broadcasting station on Monday to hear it go to air and say my final goodbyes before heading off to Incheon Airport.
When I wasn’t working this past week, I was either visiting the DMZ — a slight disappointment, as the presence of North Korean tourists directly on the other side of the border meant that we were unable to enter the Joint Security Area's Conference Rooms — or check out places like the Namsangol Hanok Village, an exhibition with examples of traditional Korean housing. I overcame my instincts and devoured a bowl of samgyetang, a Korean chicken ginseng soup that comes with an entire cooked chicken in the bowl. I was unable to work up the courage to take on some sundae, though, which isn’t a delicious ice-cream dessert in Korea, but a form of blood sausage.
A photo of samgyetang that, once again, demonstrates my lack of photographic prowess. Photo by Brendan Day
My time in Korea has been more rewarding than I could have hoped for, and in ways that have surprised me. The work I undertook at tbs was incredibly rewarding and wide-ranging, and went a long way in establishing the skills necessary to work in the media. Though I was mostly an observer at the internship’s start, by the end I was organising interviews, interviewing professors, creating and editing packages, and much more. My increased competency was noticed by Christina who, when it looked like Alex was going to be unable to conduct a pre-recorded interview for a later show, told me to be ready to do it in his place. Alex eventually was able to do it, but the vote of confidence from Christina was a welcome reminder that choosing to work at tbs eFM, being selected by the Australia–Korea Foundation for a Fellowship, has undoubtedly been a highlight of my fledgling media career.