Celebrating our 50th birthdayToday marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the JoongAng Ilbo, a sister paper of the Korea JoongAng Daily. As it coincides with the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule and the division of the Korean Peninsula, we feel a special obligation as one of the leading media groups in Asia. In a half century of pursuing the goal of achieving a free press with an unrivaled spirit of rationality and generosity in covering news inside and outside of Korea, the JoongAng Ilbo has grown into the largest media group in Korea with traditional media like newspapers, television networks and magazines, as well as new media, all under its umbrella.
It would have been impossible without readers’ concern and support, encouragement and criticisms. We extend our deep appreciation to our readers for their contribution to our growth. We also thank the more than 5,000 employees, former and current, of the JoongAng family for their sincere dedication to the dramatic transformation of the JoongAng Media Network.
In 1965, when the paper launched, South Korea’s per capita gross national product was a meager $105, lower than North Korea’s. The biggest challenge for most South Koreans at the time was how to feed their family to survive. But they worked a miracle of achieving both industrialization and democratization in just a generation through diligence and austerity. Our per capita GNP last year stood at $28,101 - a whopping 267 times larger than a half century ago. In the run-up to the miraculous makeover, we take pride in our pivotal contribution to the advancement of the nation as a timekeeper and compass of the dramatic advancement.
The JoongAng Ilbo’s policy of quickly reporting the truth to embody social justice beyond the boundaries of factionalism to usher in a brighter future played a crucial part in promoting democracy and human rights in the country. Our epochal scoop of the mysterious death of a student activist in 1987 under the military government sparked a watershed movement for democracy. We have also endeavored to stitch up the wounds from social conflict to accelerate national integration.
Korean society faces daunting challenges at home and abroad. China’s rapid rise as an economic and military power forces Korea to confront an ever-tougher choice, while Japan is reborn as a war-capable, normal state after 70 years. In the meantime, North Korea is beefing up its nuclear and missile capabilities through its double-track policy of pursuing nuclear armament and economic development at the same time. With inter-Korean dialogue nearly at a stalemate, we should be on alert for future provocations.
Korea faces an economic crisis stemming from the ominous slowdown of China’s economy and uncertainty over the U.S. Federal Reserve’s benchmark lending rates, as well as the triple whammy of low economic growth, efficiency and birthrate. Social schisms across regional politics, ideology, wealth and labor are ever deepening, not to mention the friction between the young and old over jobs and the ever-growing “class gap” between salaried and part-time workers. Despite the mounting demand for welfare services, financial resources are rapidly depleting.
Korean society is at a crossroads. If we cannot find a new growth engine because of self-satisfaction with the 50 years of accomplishments, we cannot rebound. But if people and leaders can be reenergized, we can expect another leap forward. Here, journalism’s role is critical. The destiny of our country heavily relies on the press to suggest a path toward common prosperity after effectively reflecting various voices.
On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the JoongAng Ilbo kicks off an ambitious campaign to navigate the turbulent tide of change to chart a new course toward a better future for the nation. Our company’s survival depends on how we overcome the challenges in the age of the Media Big Bang. We promise that we will lead media around the world by fulfilling our innate mission as the press.
The JoongAng Ilbo has drawn deep resonance from our readers for the peace and unification of the Korean Peninsula through its special project called “Peace Odyssey” - an on-site visit by Korea’s top intellectuals to the border between China and North Korea. An attractive country capable of attracting global talent and capital with open-mindedness and generosity should be the vision for a unified nation upheld by the participation of citizens. The JoongAng Media Network will take the lead in guiding the country toward the goal as a top media group in Asia. JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 22, Page 40