It was three years ago I did a field report for a local English television news program about the first issue and humble beginnings of The Jeju Weekly, then located in an office close to Jeju National University.
I had my doubts. In addition, one of my colleagues surreptitiously and suspiciously questioned the paper’s motives.
What stands today on the third anniversary of The Weekly, is undoubtedly the definitive and all encompassing collection of information about Jeju in English — anywhere in the world — with more than 2,500 articles publicly archived online, along with accompanying links, technological tools, guides, and maps. The April 3rd Massacre coverage is beyond special. This stature, I believe, will stand for longer than anyone can even imagine.
It was not easy. The newborn paper was still a crybaby after four editors had cycled out of the position within the first 15 months. The fifth one stayed.
The cultural differences, internal and external drama, revolving carousel of Korean and foreign staff and freelancers — a brew of motley, intelligent, and quirky — made the challenges all that more daunting. I saw my fair share of what The Weekly was about taking on the task and finishing the Hike Jeju project.
During 54 hiking days spanning the fall of 2011, I covered all the Olle courses, Hallasan National Park trails, and 135 oreum. I wrote extensively on each of these three segments. GPS coordinates were logged and an incredible map was produced. The guide of the top 100 hiking oreum, will soon be online. In this issue is the top 100 list with a very brief description of each. The online version will provide each oreum’s location, shape, ownership, statistics (height, peak’s height from sea level, and total area), a full description, pictures, main reason to go and links.
In a mysterious land where the island’s government craves titles, I found Jeju people to be more innocent than I thought, thus a bit more unrefined, but positive. I found the environment, paradoxically, more wild and trampled on than I envisioned. The Hike Jeju project, along with all the other articles written, is meant to be an addition to Jeju’s public record.
I conclude there are five cards every foreigner should hold, in order of rank, to learn more about the island. First is The Weekly and its archives. Second, Yahoo internet group “Rhymes with Jeju” is the immediate connection to what’s happening. Third, the anonymous and occasionally irascible blog writer of “Lost on Jeju” provides the best and only unfiltered view of life on the island as a foreigner, writing since April of 2006. Fourth, KCTV English News is the correctly translated version of the broadcasting company’s Korean news. Fifth and last, before there was The Weekly, there was Jeju Life.
With all its shortcomings and restrictions, I value as a reader, The Weekly to be the best damn community newspaper I have seen left in terms of overall quality and production. I experienced print journalism gasping for air through the last decade and followed it through. The venerable Weekly produces what is unproduceable elsewhere.
To all, past and present, involved with The Weekly, happy third anniversary. May the final act be as enthralling as the rest of the story.
- Steve Oberhauser
On Jeju, American Steve Oberhauser was an EPIK teacher at Sehwa High School for three years, as well as a reporter for KCTV English News and The Jeju Weekly. A former journalist and public school teacher in Virginia, he is currently a proud member of the United States Postal Service.
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