Korea’s media start-ups breath new life into society

Start-ups in Korea have mostly been concentrated
in the IT industry. But recently, a bunch of noteworthy media
entities have been popping up, catering to the ever-evolving needs of a diverse global
audience eager to learn more about Korea. These new media players are also upping the
ante for quality journalism. Kim Jung-soo reports. It’s said that the media industry in Korea
is nearing saturation — that in terms of content and reach, it’s got all its bases
covered. But the country’s media startups would beg
to disagree. They think there’s a lot more room for growth
and experimentation. One such start-up is Korea Expose, an online-based
‘English news and culture magazine on South Korea with an insider’s perspective.’ Slightly before the site was formally launched
in August 2014, its chief founder, Koo Se-woong, submitted a piece called ‘An Assault on Our
Children’ to the New York Times. In it, he talks about the country’s hierarchical
education system, and how it makes students sacrifice happiness for success. The piece went viral, and was later translated
into Korean by Yonhap News, giving him much-needed confidence about his new project. Hopefully when people outside Korea see the
problem,… and then they criticize it, maybe it will bring some reform in Korea. It was an interesting insight for me to hear. The idea that everybody knows the problem
is there,…but they don’t necessarily talk about it.” They say good students, and people in general,
are products of a good environment,…and Korea Expose is one of a handful of companies
being incubated by the country’s sole media start-up accelerator, Mediati. On the same floor with Korea Expose is G-pictures,
a two-man company founded by a 21 year old. G-pictures produces video-content targeting
the country’s young demographic, mostly students. It’s most popular video dealt with menstruation
in schools. “Yes, our students practice so-called democracy
in our schools through mock elections, but really, such institutional practices don’t
mean much in our schools if there isn’t an open room for discussion.” Mediati’s founder says he is intent on fostering
media companies that address previously unrecognized needs. “Korea’s traditional media has a lot to be
proud of. But I also see how improvements can be made,
both in terms of content and accessibility, especially in the current media environment.” Unlike Korea’s often problematic educational
system,… the relationship between start-ups and Mediati is not an ordinary student-teacher
relationship. Koo says it is marked by mutual respect. Mediati is a minority shareholder in the magazine,…
and rarely interferes with decisions regarding content. “Ultimately, we believe in media freedom. I think everybody needs to be able to say
what he or she wants, in a free and honest way. But if you get money from particular sources,
and you become dependent on it, then you are not going to be true to yourself. You have to abide by somebody else’s agenda. That’s what we are learning here in Mediati. We are being trained to be independent, financially,
not just editorially.” “I think a good example is the presential
election. We went in-depth focusing on different aspects
of the story. We had a one-on-one interview with sim sang-jung,
who is a minor political candidate. From the perspective of the foreign media,..because
she is from a minor party, she doesn’t merit the kind of coverage that korea expose was
able to do.” Ultimately, Koo hopes he can make Korean society
realize that it shouldn’t be marginalizing its problems, but rather, embracing them,
a sentiment shared by other media start-ups as well This is not a country,… that’s very good
at talking openly about the problems it has. This is not just about Korea. There are lots of problems everywhere,…
because this is human nature,… human society is flawed but in Korea, criticism is not encouraged,…
so things get swept under the rug.” “When I see Korean newspapers these days,…
they are often a flurry of specific details, without offering much context. They already assume readers will think the
news is important. But with our videos, we try to link the personal
with public.” They say that learning takes a life-time. The common adage in the media is to always
be careful of making generalizations,… but it appears a growing question is not just
to find a balance, but also make deeper connections, between the local and the global. Kim Jung-soo, Arirang News.

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