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50 years in journalism and counting

Nov 22,2008
Kim Young-hie, fourth from left, is congratulated by Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of the JoongAng Ilbo, and former and current senior journalists of the newspaper, yesterday at a ceremony to mark Kim’s 50th year in journalism. By Kang Jung-hyun
Today Kim Young-hie, editor-at-large of the JoongAng Ilbo, celebrates his 50th year as a professional journalist.

Kim has lived and worked through the golden age of journalism, covered some of the most important news stories of the last century and retained an enthusiasm for writing and interviewing until this day.

A party to celebrate Kim’s 50 years in journalism took place at the JoongAng Ilbo building yesterday. More than 150 guests including senior journalists and politicians attended.

While many reporters who rise to be executives on a newspaper might write columns, Kim’s case is rare: He has combined an executive position at a newspaper with continued reporting and interviewing.

Kim Young-hie
Kim became a fledgling reporter in 1958. On his first day at work, at the Hankook Ilbo, Kim volunteered for the international news department. Since then, he has carved out a niche for himself as a foreign affairs specialist.

One of his best remembered exclusives was in 1963 when he reported the assassination of John F. Kennedy, then the U.S. president, to Korea.

In 1965, he joined the JoongAng Ilbo as a founding member and his career took off. In 1970, he served as the international news department chief and worked as the newspaper’s Washington correspondent in 1971. In 1983, Kim was appointed editor-in-chief of the Joong-Ang Ilbo’s newsroom.

After serving in the top newspaper post, Kim had a brief stint as an executive for the group’s culture and publishing affiliates, but he soon returned to his first calling.

In the early 1990s, the JoongAng Ilbo was revamped, changing the layout and hiring specialist journalists. In line with such efforts, Kim returned to writing as editor-at-large in 1995.

Kim has made a name for himself interviewing a range of global figures, from politicians and scholars to artists and writers.

In 1999, he caught up with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and two years later he sat down with Mikhail Gorbachev, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Kim interviewed Leonard Bernstein, the American composer and conductor, in 1978 and historian Arnold Toynbee in 1965.

Of the countless interviewees, Kim said the most memorable was with General Vo Nguyen Giap of Vietnam, the architect of the infamous Tet Offensive of 1968, a major military offensive against U.S. forces.

“The general is known as the Napoleon of Asia,” Kim said. “While covering the Vietnam War, my hope as a journalist was interviewing him. In 1995, an interview was finally arranged, but the Vietnamese government didn’t let it happen.

“The general, however, secretly showed up at our interview. It was like a 007 operation. I still vividly remember the thrill and emotion.”

Yoichi Funabashi, columnist and chief diplomatic correspondent of the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, said Kim has spent his life investigating, reporting and analyzing the post-war Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia and Asia-Pacific.

“Kim’s supporters are attracted to the balanced, moderate and gentle tone of his reporting,” Funabashi said.

Funabashi said Kim is both “editor-at-large” and “chief diplomatic correspondent” for his abilities and insight. The Japanese columnist, who has 41 years’ experience in journalism, said he values his friendship with Kim very much.

Kim Min-hwan, media studies professor at Korea University, calls Kim Korea’s Walter Lippmann, an influential American writer.

“Kim has reported facts as they are, and then interpreted and analyzed them to bring to light the hidden truths,” Kim Min-hwan said. “He has walked the path of true journalism,” the professor said.

“He should be a role model for other journalists.”


By Kim Han-byul JoongAng Ilbo/ Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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