A magazine that serves its articles sunny-side up

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A magazine that serves its articles sunny-side up

In the publication world, magazines are born and shredded on a daily basis. Nevertheless, among the numerous publications that decorate the newsstands of the Seoul subway system, there is one little magazine, its size roughly resembling that of a Readers' Digest, that has justified its survival with a somewhat different formula.

The magazine is called Positive Thinking and is basically a collection of nonfiction article about life. I had the first opportunity to read this little publication when I was in boot camp in 1998. There was only one kind of book that was allowed to be read and the obvious choice for the draft-based Korean army was Positive Thinking.

This little magazine has been around since August 1992 and started out with only a staff of four people. Today, there are 30 people working at the publication's office in Mapo district, while the circulation is around 300,000 copies per month. The magazine does not carry any ads. A single copy costs 2,000 won ($1.70).

The magazine is unique in some ways as its contents are drawn from its readers who submit their own stories. "Around 70 percent of our stories come from our readers while the rest is written by our reporters," says Kim Sung-gyung, 34, editor in chief.

So how many letters does the magazine receive? According to Ms. Kim, around 1,000 per month. Most of them come from people who belong to low-income households. Most appear average people on the street.

Thirty percent of the readers are young women in their 20s, while many students read the magazine as well.

The concept of the magazine is to provide hope and some positive meaning to the people. "I think people just want to tell their own stories and their stories are about daily life with which our readers can easily identify themselves," Ms. Kim said.

The magazine has found its ways into many government organizations, like district and army offices, while hospitals are other places where it can be found.

"The stories are really touching. They remind me that life can be a lot worse and they give me some sort of new energy to go on," says Hong Suk-gyu, a government worker at the Mapo district office. He adds, "When you go to public offices you usually have to wait. Instead of reading all those commercial magazines, I think this is really good stuff to read."

by Brian Lee

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