This morning — well, it began at 11:30, morning to some of us — there was a guest speaker in my Global News class named Jinsun Lee who gave us an “Historical overview of Korean news media.”

I was late, so I don’t know what her title is, but I think she’s a Ph.D. student of Media Studies. Her name, Jinsun Lee, made me giggle. The two Korean characters on Lost are named Jinn and Sun, and they’re married. So I just imagined that this woman was a combination of their two personae. She actually looked like Jinn… see if you can make it out in this amazing creepy picture I took of her during the speech:

I took it on my phone, and I tried so hard not to look like a pervert doing it. But I think the slyness of my operation only made it worse to the people sitting behind me.

Anyway, I wanted to share two things that she said during the speech that I loved.

First, as an example of cute mistakes people make when they try speaking a non-native language, she told us that “Korea is not importing beef because of… how do you say… Crazy Cow disease?”


All images via Wikipedia / © their respective papers

Next, she told us the story of the aggressive newspaper business in Korea. There are three main papers, the Chosung, JoongAng and DongA Ilbos. Their competitiveness is so intense that they had to implement laws that toned down what they could do for their customers. The papers can’t give away free newspapers in excess of 10% of their subscriber circulation, they can’t give you a newspaper you don’t want more than three times, and they cannot give their subscribers gifts valued higher than $10.

That means these newspapers were printing out huge amounts of their papers to just give out before this happened. It also means that they were delivering papers to houses who did not subscribe. Jinsun told the story of how her mother would wake up at 5 a.m. to chase the delivery boy away, but he would still throw them a paper and ride away. Can you imagine one of the countries three largest newspapers being so intent on having you read it that they throw it at your house even when you don’t want it?

Finally, there are the gifts. Jinsun said that before they made it illegal, papers would give their readers free bicycles and other gifts valued at over $100! Then she told us this story of how the newspapers would get around this gift price restriction:

When Jinsun was moving out of her house, she noticed a group of men she had never seen before were unloading her possessions from the trucks. They emptied out the entire moving van for her. When it was all done, one of them approached her. He told her that they were delivery boys for one of the papers, and asked that she please subscribe.

These newspaper men wait until they see a moving van, and then they do all the work of a moving crew for no money. All they ask is that you subscribe to their paper. It’s incredible… and it’s a pretty smart idea. You’ve got to figure that if someone is moving into a new home, they don’t have a newspaper being delivered there yet.

She also said that Korea is not facing the incredible drop off in newspaper business that we’re experiencing today in the U.S. I guess if they have enough money to pay guys to pose as volunteer movers, they can afford to pay journalists too.

All this talk about the booming newspaper business in Korea made me jealous. As a journalism student, I’m preparing myself for one of the least secure professions. Newspapers are buying writers out every single day. For the first time in its history, the New York Times is performing cutbacks in the staff of its news room. I couldn’t have picked a worse time to enter the news reporting business.

All this has me thinking, maybe my future in newspapers isn’t what I thought it would be; maybe I’d be better off moving to Korea, throwing on a jumpsuit, and hunting down U-Hauls.

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