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Survival of the Fittest, English Newspaper Remains Through Adapting to the New Surroundings
  • Khang Seok-jun, Kim Ji-seun
  • 승인 2016.05.30 16:39
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  ▲ These are the past volumes of The Dongguk Post.  

/Photograph by Khnang Seok-jun

>> The Dongguk Post is the English newspaper in Dongguk University. This year, The Dongguk Post has met its 50th anniversary. To celebrate, the Post has looked back its trails as well as the role and the meaning of university English newspapers not only in their universities but also in Korea.

   The 21st century is saturated with all kinds of media, SNS, newspaper, television news, and so on. Unlike the past, when one or two media handled all the functions as the only source for providing information to the public, the function of traditional media has been divided into pieces and designated to different media. English newspaper is also assigned with its particular role as one of the media composing our society.


English newspaper appeared to broaden Koreans’ perspectives

   The first English-language newspaper in Korea was The Independent, published on April 7th, 1896. The newspaper was made up into four pages, three written in Korean and one in English. The English version of The Independent’s goal was to give an objective view about the situation in Korea to people and to awake Koreans from their narrow perspectives. Through an official gazette on April 7th, 1896 and an editorial on April 11th, 1896, the English version of The Independent mentioned a “Righteous Army” blaming the government at that time using critical words playing a role as surveillance and information delivery medium.


From Korea to the world; the target has broadened

   However, the roles of English newspaper in Korea have been changed by various factors. Shin Hyon-hee, a staff reporter in The Korea Herald, said, “A variety of factors brought change to English newspapers; globalization, the increasing number of the middle class, the high quality of education, and so on.”

   Through adapting to the changes, English newspapers acts as the reliable source for the foreigners in Korea and provide in-depth international issues to Korean readers. Jin Eun-soo, a staff reporter from Korea Joongang Daily, said, “Due to its extremely restrictive range of subscribers, the English newspaper becomes a unique press in Korea. Despite its barrier, I think it could turn into an opportunity. This is because English newspapers are able to deliver domestic news to foreigners with in-depth analysis, which is what Korean newspapers cannot do.” Thanks to English newspapers, Korean readers can widen their perspective by reading articles written by foreign reporters of English newspapers in Korea. Several English newspapers in Korea are written by foreign reporters so newspapers include wider views on each issue. Similar changes are happening in the university English newspapers as well.


English newspaper in university enlightens the students

   The first university English newspaper, The Argus was founded in 1954 by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Afterwards other university English newspapers such as Ewha Voice, and The Sogang Herald were published. At the initial stage, English newspapers were means for studying English and enlightening other people as the intellects of the age. Professor Kim Seong-hae (Journalism, Daegu University) said, “When I was a university student, reading English newspapers was one of the few ways to experience English.”

   However, as the time passed, many political and economic events were raised in Korea during the 1970’s to the 1990’s. Eventually, Korean universities were influenced as well, increasing the number of articles related to those issues. While Korean society matured politically and economically after overcoming these hardships, globalization stimulated foreign people to be interested in Korea, which leads to growing the number of international students in Korean universities.

   
 
  ▲ Reporters of The Korea Herald are working at their office.  

/Photograph by Lim Ji-soo


University English newspaper delivers diverse messages to students

   Thanks to the increasing number of international students in universities, there are numerous articles involving school issues to help them understand what is going around the campus. To be specific, Ewha Voices posted “University Health Service Center; five decades of nursing Ewha,” introducing a useful health service system for students in the school. The article let students know that any of them, with even minor injuries, can receive professional treatment in the center. It also enables international students to use the school system properly.  

   With its purpose to enlightening people, the English newspaper plays a role in education for university students by suggesting keen insights on a specific debate. The KNU Times, Kyungpook National University’s English magazine, introduced “An Unknown Story about ‘Android.’” It was about the hidden intention behind the free distribution of the Androids, which was mainly for profitable benefit of Google.
 
   Due to less invasion on the editorial rights of university English newspapers, student reporters were able to cover sensitive matters more objectively than the general press. For example, in 1987, The Sogang Herald published an article, “Six Heads of SSO Are Fasting for 6.10 Uprising.” It was about students going on hunger strike for the eradication of the military dictatorship, censorship, and the withdrawal of 4.13 decision. While other general newspapers were unable to write articles negatively towards the government, university English newspaper was able to deal with it more objectively.

   University English newspaper released a variety of Korean issues to the world as well. The University Life, Kyung Hee University’s English magazine, covered “Anti-Ilbe, Time to Head Back from Witch-Hunt.” It is related to the Korean community website called “Ilbe,” which is one of the problematic issues in contemporary Korean society. Through the article, it dealt with many different factors of “Anti-Ilbe,” such as its definition and reasons why it appeared, and explained it as a social phenomenon in Korea. Such articles enable international students in Korea to learn about Korea deeply with diverse aspects such as social, cultural and economic.
     

University English newspaper highlights the unheard voices

   University English newspapers have different range of readers from other general newspapers. Naturally, they focus on different part of the society that other newspapers cannot cover due to limited amount of space and time they could deliver information. For instance, The UOS Times, the English newspaper of University of Seoul, wrote about disabled students: “Is the UOS Truly Helping Disabled Students?” The article explained from admissions of disabled students to their systems, needs, and examples of other countries in the world.

   Since, English newspaper in university mainly targets students on campus, it needs to offer unbiased facts regarding the controversial issues. Notably, international students have few routes to receive news about these events and the university English newspaper is one of the most qualified sources in the campus for them. Therefore, it should maintain its deep insight towards numerous issues and present confirmed analysis for the readers.

   In addition, just as the small number of sources for information around the campus, tools for expressing their thoughts are insufficient. English newspaper is the medium that could show more interest to international students and their needs compared to Korean newspapers. This indicates that the university English newspaper should be the Agora for the international students in universities and voice that represents them. Laura Larson (Senior, Advertising) expressed the need for the English newspapers to be the voice of international students on campus. “I feel the English newspaper can be the connection between the international students and the university.”

 

The Dongguk Post Looks Its Identity

   The Dongguk Post followed a similar path of change as other university English newspapers. It was first published on February 17th, 1966 as a tabloid form. It changed into a magazine on March 14th, 1994 gaining its own identity distinct from Korean newspaper and published its last magazine on May 29th, 2009. Then it was published in a berliner form starting from September 28th, 2009.

   As the time passed, society changed and contents of articles moved on as well. The initial stage of the Post, paper was usually covered with campus news and articles related to Buddhism. However, it adjusted to the stream of times. Chung Won-dong, the former reporter of The Dongguk Post of 1980’s, briefly explained about the situation at that time. “In 1987, when I entered the Post, it was the turning point of our political system. Pro-democracy movement of June 10th took place after the government tried to hide the Park Jong-chul incident. This led to the introduction of a direct presidential election system. At this political revolutionary stage, articles related to politics increased.”
 In these days, the Post is trying to deliver a wide range of perspectives towards universal issues. It covered “The Rainbow Wave Across the Universe,” providing international views as well as Korean’s regarding the issue of sexual minorities, hoping for readers to share different opinions of others around the world.

   As the number of international students increased, they became the main readers of the Post. Eventually, articles to raise the voice about their situation and hardships they encounter while living in Korea are frequently written. Particularly, the Post puts up interviews of international students like the article “Adventures of Romanian Student” written in Volume 411, in order to describe international students’ life in Korea.

   Since the school was founded under Buddhism, in the early days, the Post mainly covered issues happening at the school or events related to Buddhism. In 1966 the Post reported on the first Young Priests Buddhism Symposium. Now, it has even taken one step further to deliver Buddhism to the world. In Volume 402, an article explaining common misconceptions and interesting information about Buddhism was posted to reduce the prejudice people have towards Buddhism. Moreover, on volume 415, “Buddhist Art: Embracing the Beauty and History of Korea” mentioned about the situation of Buddhist Art in Korea to let readers have deeper understanding of the Buddhist art.

Khang Seok-jun, Kim Ji-seun  seokjun29@dongguk.edu, jiseunk@dongguk.edu

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