During the 2007 South-North Korean Summit from October 1 to 4, the SeoulPressCenter functioned as the sole distributor of news and photographs from Pyongyang to domestic and foreign reporters. According to Park Eun-jung, the Government Information Agency deputy director in charge of managing student volunteers at the SeoulPressCenter, Ewha’s International Studies (DIS) and the Sogang’s Mass Communication were the only departments they specifically contacted for recruitment among other universities. “Since we expected many foreign reporters, we thought of Ewha DIS students, who are fluent in English,” said Park. So, 10 Ewha students were placed in jobs where English speaking was required.
The registration desk was the first place to feel the start of the summit. Yee Hyo-jeong (International Studies, 3), said, “My job began on the day before President Roh’s departure to Pyongyang. I handed out press passes to reporters since the seats in the briefing room were allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis. Reporters came earlier to get better seats.”
Chung Hyo-kyeong (International Studies, 3), who worked in the briefing room, assisted with the smooth running of things. “My job was to make sure appropriate interpretation is given and microphones were working well, so that the reporters can write their articles and air news,” said Chung. “Being in the briefing room allowed me to see the news faster than anyone else in Korea. It was interesting to see 500 reporters typing on their laptops at the same time when President Roh and North Korean leader Kim met and shook hands. It was like the sound of thunder.”
In addition, some worked in front of computers. Kim Jee-hyun (International Studies, 3), worked in the Info-Net room where real-time news articles and photographs sent from Pyongyang were uploaded for the reporters. “The student volunteers in the Info-Net room were all Ewha DIS students. Our job was to put English captions under the photographs,” said Kim Jee-hyun. Since pictures were sent from Pyongyang after each session was over, they faced many difficulties. “We couldn’t predict the exact uploading time of the pictures, and always had to stand-by,” said Kim Jung-ha (International Studies, 3). “Also, it was difficult to translate North Korean words into English. We had ‘sugar water’ to translate so we spent a long time deciding how to say it English. We ended up saying ‘juice’,” said Kim Jee-hyun.
The SeoulPressCenter was open until of October 4 and most of the volunteers remained till the closing hour. According to Kim Jung-ha, she didn’t like it first when she was positioned in the static Info-Net room, but, she said, “I think our job was the most memorable job since we left some evidences of our work.”
“We were impressed by the Ewha DIS students because of their fluent English skills and enthusiasm toward their work,” said Park. Kim Jee-hyun added, “It was a valuable experience to be a part of a historical event. I even had an opportunity to pick up a hotline telephone installed between the South and North. There are many opportunities where students can participate and be a real help so I hope more people can courageously challenge themselves to work at these kinds of events.”