James F. Vesely, Editorial Page Editor of The Seattle Times, a leading newspaper of the State of Washington, U.S., recently visited Korea to observe the development of Korea’s port cities, as well as to personally experience Korean society and culture.Q You have already written several articles about Korea for your newspaper. So, what are your impressions about Korea?A
Korea is much more than I had expected. I found the dynamic economy, dignified atmosphere, and green landscape quite memorable. However, the most impressive thing, above all, was the Cheonggyecheon restoration project. Mr. Lee In-ken, the director-general of the Urban Planning Bureau of Seoul , told me about the res torat ion of Cheonggyecheon in detail – how overpasses were demolished and the old face of Seoul was restored. I found those stories to be very exciting. Q As a journalist, what thoughts came to mind when you met with your counterparts in Korea and Korean people in general?A
I visited the Chosun Ilbo and met with its editors. The impression I got from them seemed similar to what I felt when I arrived in Korea: a dynamic and energetic sense. Their perspective on the future was very optimistic, which I liked very much. I also gave a lecture on the media, democracy, and communication to the students of journalism at Seoul National University. I was greatly surprised to see these young, future leaders so well equipped with the means for ubiquitous use of diverse communication networks, including the Internet.Q Based on your columns, you seem to have a keen interest in urban planning.A
Yes, that’s true. One of the reasons I visited Korea was to gain firsthand knowledge about the development of Korea’s port cities. The reason for my paying particular attention to urban planning is that it shows you the current living standards and likely future of a city. In fact, urban planning reflects the development of not only a city but also a country.
I will be visiting Busan and Gwangyang during my stay here, and I am very excited to see these port cities, which have continued to develop through industrialization. I also visited Samcheongdong, in Seoul, a district that serves as a good example of urban planning. You can say that I felt an atmosphere of a well organized community. I thought it showed the essence of city life where you could find a harmony of the old and the new.Q You have long served as an editor in charge of Asian affairs. How did you develop an interest in Asia? A
Most probably geography had a major impact on me. Since Seattle is located on the Pacific coast, I often heard news about Asia, and this made me develop more of an interest in the Asian region. In the case of Korea, I was very impressed by the way it overcame the Asian financial crisis with the IMF’s assistance. Looking back at the situation, I thought there was no guarantee that the U.S. would not experience such a financial crisis.
Related reports on Korea taught us valuable lessons. While writing about the development of Korean democracy in editorial features, I became all the more interested in Korea. Many things are happening now in Asia, and I find Asia a very interesting place. For this reason, I would recommend to younger journalists that they start their careers in Asia or by covering Asian affairs.Q Will you be writing an article about your visit to Korea for The Seattle Times?A
Of course. One of the editorial commentaries, in our Sunday June 1 issue, will be about my visit to Korea, so you can read about my experiences. In addition to the editorial, I think this visit will also turn out to be a great opportunity for people at The Seattle Times to better understand Korea. Personally, the visit will help me to write more relevant articles in the future, and be a well informed reporter and editor who can report on Asia-related issues more accurately.Q Do you have any final thoughts about your visit?A
I am grateful for your invitation to visit Korea at this critical point in the development of Korea-U.S. relations. I was pleased to gain firsthand experience about the development of Korea and have a glimpse into the bright future of Korea. I hope the relations between Korea and the United States will further develop through our closer cooperation.