My favorite journalist had been a certain white-haired fellow on a cable news station until I met Mr. Sang-Hun Choe of the New York Times and International Herald Tribune at a lecture about North Korean issues in the media at Wellesley College this past spring. Thoughtful and soft-spoken, Mr. Choe was too polite and humble for my presumptions of what a New York Times Asia Correspondent with a Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Bridge At No Gun Ri, co-authored with Charles Hanley and Martha Mendoza under his belt would could be like. I had been a fan of his New York Times pieces on North Korea in the past because his articles were comprehensive and clearly revealed that he did his research. Judging from his writing, I assumed that he crafted his English in the United States or another English- speaking country, but much to my surprise, and probably to many Korean parents eager to send children abroad, he had never studied outside South Korea until his recent stay as a Koret Fellow at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. Meeting him in person not only bumped the Silver Fox down my fan list, but also reminded me of the dedication that some journalists put into investigating topics and publishing their work for the world to read. The following interview shows a glimpse of journalism, North Korea issues in the media, and of the man behind the text.
My experience as a Ministry of Unification Overseas Correspondent has given me so many opportunities to explore the various issues surrounding the reunification issue, but more valuably chances to get to know people serving in all areas within this cause.
Even six months after the DMZ tour and the rest of the volunteer activities, the late night conversations I had with my North Korean and South Korean teammates still resonate. I had advocated for North Korean human rights on my campus with my student organization for years, but when I shared a beer with a North Korean defector woman ten years my senior did I realize that I was rooting for a better future for people like her. There were faces, names, and personalities to the distant “North Koreans” I was praying for now. Continue reading
The North Korea Freedom Coalition’s Chairwoman Suzanne Scholte organized a vigil for the repatriated North Korean defectors in China this past January. In front of the White House, I stood among what seemed to be a small and quiet group in comparison to the Free Tibet demonstrators who were standing a few yards from us. I could not help but think that the ratio of demonstrators between the two causes, not that they’re in competition with one another, reflected the levels of awareness the American public has about the human rights violations against Tibetans and those against North Koreans. Nevertheless, no matter the number, we had gathered to voice our solidarity with and the hope we have for the North Korean defectors.
My Google Alerts has been emailing notifications to my blackberry nonstop with news on Kim Jong Un’s lavish birthday celebrations and more importantly, President Hu Jintao visiting President Barack Obama in Washington next Wednesday, January 19, 2011. Hu’s visit bears much significance on the U.S. – China relationship. Foreign policy experts have their fingers crossed hoping that this visit will appease the hostility between the two after conflicting interests in a number of issues including: exchange-rate policy, Internet censorship-Google, human rights, environment concerns, and North Korea’s deadly attacks on Yeonpyeong, South Korea. With grave economic issues and Chinese militaristic growth hovering over the discussion table will enough time be allotted to resolve stances regarding how to deal with the unruly North Korea?
Nuclear stability concerns will most definitely be raised as China prioritizes softening U.S. & South Korean response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. But what about the thousands of defectors who lead perilous lives fearing repatriotization? Will the rampant poverty rates and unimaginable human rights violations in North Korea even be mentioned during this rendezvous?
She’s one of the most amazing women I have met not only in this field, but also in my life. She works as a banker by day, and runs a non-profit when not in the office. Crazy busy, humble, grounded, and passionate about serving the North Korean defectors.
Q1. Please describe PSALT’s purpose and acronym.
PSALT is an acronym for Prayer, Service, Action, Love, Truth. The full name of the organizations is PSALT NK (North Korea)
Our organization is a 501c3 non-profit Christian ministry that works to educate others about North Korea and carrying out work to help the North Korean people – particularly the North Korean refugees. As a Christian group, we focus particularly on the spiritual aspect of the battle over North Korea, and work to educate and mobilize the response of sincere, committed and praying people to meet both spiritual and physical aspects of the needs.
Due to the very sensitive nature of this area of work, one of our purposes began with bridging the gap between the missionaries out in the field who cannot be open or public about their work, and the citizens in the ‘free world’ who learn about the sufferings of the North Korean people and are looking for straightforward and reliable channels through which they can make a difference.
Occupation: Student @ Wellesley College
Likes: Asparagus; Banana Milk in the triangle carton from S. Korea
Dislikes: clusters of small dots (not candy); wide-ruled notebooks