Lee Jee-eun is currently a journalist and an anchor at JTBC, a nationwide generalist cable TV network and broadcasting station. Photo by Kang So-young.
“I wish all loving students of Ewha to pursue their dreams and make their own unique path to reach their goal, regardless of the surrounding obstacles and disturbance. Isn’t life too short to be controlled and influenced by others, whoever they may be?”
Lee Ji-eun (’03, Media Studies) is currently a news presenter writing articles and broadcasting from the JTBC News Room on Fridays and weekends. The year 2018 is her eleventh working as a journalist, starting as a business journalist, then as a local news reporter, and now a world news reporter and anchor, holding each position for approximately three years.
Lee’s distinctive experiences during her college years motivated her to dream of entering a broadcasting station. Having experience as a producer and director of short documentaries at Ewha TV, an undergraduate broadcasting club, she was able to obtain a wider perspective towards the world, looking into the lives of people with diverse career backgrounds. Realizing that the world is still a warm and hopeful place, and the fact that she can show the public the world she saw, motivated her to become a journalist. Along with her experiences, noticing that fast-tempo jobs suit her better than those requiring a long period of time led her to the world of journalism.
After she succeeded in entering JTBC, Lee’s motivation remained at a high level.
“Entering a broadcasting station offered me the opportunity to work at the news desk,” Lee recalled. “The feeling of having a conversation with the viewers behind the prompter is fantastic, which keeps me energized to work harder and improve myself every day.”
Enduring hardships was most challenging at first. For instance, during her early years as a business reporter, she invested in stocks to understand the Korean economy. As a local news reporter, she had to enter police stations and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, seeing severe criminals along with sexual offenders.
“It was surely something traumatic for a young female journalist to endure.” Lee added. “There were moments when arrested men undressed me with their eyes. But I believe all of the experiences I’ve had so far have made me who I am as a journalist today.”
Having 11 years of career in journalism, Lee has reported many extreme cases. Asked about the numerous articles she has written and announced, she identified the Sewol ferry incident sinking as undoubtedly the most tragic.
“My belief at that time, that there could be no greater disturbing tragedy than one I already thought unbelievably shocking, was totally flipped by this event,” Lee recalled. “Watching with my own eyes as the ferry disappeared into the sea, letting the dark sea waves swallow the lives of those innocent high schoolers, tore my heart apart.” Undergoing hardships while keeping her personal emotions to herself, she announced the whole process of the tragedy from the ferry’s sinking to the imprisonment of ousted former President Park and Choi Soon-sil.
“We have the power and responsibility to tell the world, move the world, and change the world,” Lee asserted. “The many candlelight rallies in Gwanghwamun definitely touched not only the hearts of the public but the hearts of journalists as well. The Sewol has sunk but our memories of all the victims will always remain in our hearts.”
With regard to the Sewol ferry tragedy, Lee listed the problems she spots in Korean journalism: The first is the problem of grouping with others with the same thoughts and excluding or even completely disparaging the views of opposing groups.
“The attitude of ‘Only I am right and you are wrong’ seems to prevail in Korean journalism today,” Lee stated. “This is surely not an atmosphere you experience in healthy media, as reporters should be objective and focus on conveying the facts and their message.”
Lee explained that another problem is the Korean “boiling pot” temperament. They lose self-control and criticize or praise the news excessively, boiling up like “water boiling in a pot.” According to Lee, some tend to cross the limit and go too far, leading to rights violation and illegal acts. In order for viewers and subscribers to become more objective, readers should observe both the conservative and progressive perspectives. Written news is said to be in decline by many journalists as well as Lee herself. However, throughout the interview, Lee elaborated on the importance of reading the news and shaping one’s own view of the world.
Lee further encouraged Ewha students and future journalists to live their own lives as themselves, following their curiosity and intuition so that they do not regret their decisions in the future. Lastly, Lee emphasized the bright future for female journalists, as there will be increased opportunities for women to become reporters.
“I hope to spot more Ewha alumnae in the world of journalism, to be more specific, see them here at JTBC.” Lee said. “Experience as much as you can whenever you can and find your unique identity, different from others!”