▲ At center, People’s Daily Overseas Edition President Xu Bao Kang. Right, Jeju Governor Woo Keun Min and, left, Seoul Bureau Chief Mang Jiuchen. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
There is one journalist in the world who can objectively understand the Korean peninsula’s situation better than any native. He also has a firm grasp on the relationship between Korea and China.
A veteran correspondent, Xu Bao Kang is currently the president of the People’s Daily Overseas Edition and is running the Korean version in Seoul. He’s had a long, storied career. Case in point: the man was working in Pyongyang in 1975 when the daily newspaper, which is owned by the Communist Party of China, opened its office in North Korea. It remains today the only foreign media office in the reclusive state.
On a recent jaunt to Jeju, Xu graciously answered 10 questions posed by The Jeju Weekly.
He started by explaining what a landmark decision the establishment of diplomatic relationships between China and Korea was in 1992.
“At the time of the Cold War, there was little correspondence between the two nations, and they couldn’t trust each other,” Xu said. “This groundbreaking event ... improved international relations.”
Xu was the man who wrote the editorial on the issue. Editorials in The People’s Daily are considered to be direct statements of government policy.
“Since 1992, the two countries have achieved dramatic development, opening the Asian era,” Xu explained. “With diplomatic relations the world saw in a new light Asian values and the philosophy of harmony. Korea has become a good model in balancing Asian values and Western values.”
Xu also feels that Japan had a biased Western point of view and came back to “Asian values” after the establishment of relations between China and Korea.
However, there is much more work to be done and room for improvement.
According to Xu, “As relations [continue to] develop, China and Korea should reinforce their cooperation to establish peace in Asia, improve the community of Northeast Asia, and solve the problem of North Korea.”
Xu pointed out as Korea recently and successfully held the Group of Twenty (G-20) summit, with China as a member, both countries should carry out their respective duties and responsibilities.
Considered the factory of the world, China has, economically speaking, learned many things from Korea. Xu was precise in his elaboration and added where the future lies.
“Firstly, Korea has balanced between development and national welfare and dealt with the problems caused by the excessive industrialization such as poverty and pollution,” Xu said. “China wants to learn the Korean way of developing technology of advanced countries and exporting that technology.”
Last, as Korea is doing now, China wants to better cultivate global, technological human resources, Xu said.
As with any figurative symbiotic relationship, Korea can also learn a thing or two from China. Xu considered Koreans to be short-tempered and needing to learn and practice a long-term perspective rather than the here-and-now approach.
“Also, [Korea] should learn to keep the cultural tolerance and blend themselves to create a new value, considering the regional circumstance,” Xu said.
▲ Xu, left and World Natural Heritage Manager Kang Seong Hoo hold Xu’s Jeju New7Wonders of Nature Campaign honorary ambassadorship certificate. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
It is safe to say that tens of millions of people have read his articles throughout his career. According to the World Association of Newspapers’ latest figures, the People’s Daily has a circulation of more than 2.8 million in China alone, making it the 10th largest paper in the world. In addition, the paper has editions in English, Japanese, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, and most recently, Korean, with the Seoul correspondent’s office opened in 1993.
That’s a large responsibility to shoulder.
“Most of all, I need to send truth to my readers,” Xu said. “These days, there are so many stories that are distorted. We need to tell only the true stories.”
He added: “As the media leads society, we should [act with] social responsibility when writing articles for the advantage of the nation and the people. We should have the insights of right and wrong.”
Xu took some time to talk about Jeju and its issues. He’s been to Jeju about 20 times and with every visit he sees something new, especially concerning the eco-awareness of Jeju people.
“I can see their strong will to commercialize the environment, making it a part of economic development,” Xu said. “[Jeju has] already completed economic industrialization. Now [this can be] a good model of industrialization supporting the environment.”
Of note, with regards to Chinese nationals, there is a movement where some are beginning to buy second luxury homes on Jeju Island. They may obtain citizenship if certain criteria are met. Xu said this situation is ideal in promoting the island and it needs to be encouraged.
“The reasons for this are economic, environmental, and speculative,” Xu explained. “Of course, we should maximize investment in the clean environment. They can live happily. But, we need to regulate the real estate speculation.”
During his most recent visit to Jeju, Xu promised collaboration between the People’s Daily and The Jeju Weekly’s Chinese edition.
“The two newspapers pursue the same purpose of understanding each nation more, improving relations, and finally living well together,” Xu said. “Our readers have different nationalities but have the same nature. So we have many valuable [opportunities] to cooperate by way of exchanging articles and holding joint forums.”
Xu finished his interview with an interesting anecdote from his experience in North Korea. He was working in Pyongyang at the end of the 1980s, where talks between North and South Korea were held at Panmunjeom two or three times a month.
“There’s a Korean saying, ‘Namnam Buknyeo,’ which means ‘In the South it is the men who are handsome and in the North it is the women who are beautiful,’ ” Xu offered. “Like the saying, interestingly, all the staff from South Korea were males and all the staff from North Korea were beautiful women.”
“The saying proved true.”
(Interpretation by Jean K. Min)
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