His story could teach some lessons to Ewhaians looking to find their place in a globalized world.
In his cozy office, Koo greeted with a smile saying, "I greatly enjoy meeting young people because I believe mentoring is very important. Having a chance to talk to predecessors in one's field of interest can help."
Koo graduated as a law major from Korea University in 1965 and a journalism major in the graduate school of Columbia University in 1968. From then on, he worked in the Associated Press (AP) from 1968 to 1987 as a reporter, editor, and foreign correspondent. Then, he worked at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) from 1987 to 1993 as Senior Public Affairs Officer/Coordinator of Parliamentary Affairs and later as Deputy Director for Information. In 1993, he became the first Korean national to join the United Nations (UN) in New York, serving first as the Director of the Promotion and External Relations Division in the Department of Public Information, followed by a stint as the Director of the UN's 50th Anniversary Secretariat, and then the Director for Special Projects as Deputy to the Under-Secretary-General for Public Affairs. Between 1997 and 2003, he was back in UNICEF, working as the Director of Young Asia Television and then as the Director of the UNICEF Office for Japan and Korea. He returned home in December 2003 to direct Arirang TV, Korea's all-English channel. He is also the chairman of the International Committee of the Korean Olympic Committee and Vice Chairman of the Korea Image Promotion Board, promoting the slogan, "Dynamic Korea."
Koo says that his English skill was the tool that got him started on the track that led to where he is today. "I think I was good at English since my middle school days. Back then, I was tired of studying all other subjects except English, because I had studied all of them so hard in order to get accepted to the middle school I wanted. My father hired a college student to be my English tutor. I enjoyed learning from my teacher because of her teaching style; she was like a big sister to me. Since many people complimented my English skills from then on, I wanted to keep my reputation, so I never stopped studying English." Koo says, "To fulfill your dreams, language, experience, and a caring and helping mind are important. However, if you have no special talent or skills to make people notice you, then all of the above may be of only marginal value. I prefer students who are outstanding in any one area to students who are simply very good in all areas." During his university life, Koo says he was well known on campus for being the student most fluent in English. But, Koo believes that language has an importance beyond fame and success since, he says, the more languages you master, the readier you are to understand other cultures.
From travelling he learned to value sharing and caring. Koo says that he has been able to free himself from most of the racial bias he once had against people from poorer countries. In this regard, he feels Korean education, both in and out of school, leaves a lot to be desired. "This can be seen easily in how Koreans treat migrant workers," he says. According to Koo, Koreans' poor treatment and negative views towards migrant workers are one of the reasons why Korea's international reputation is low.
As a global leader, introducing Korea to the world and the world to Korea, Koo says he carries a global mind-set. "A global mind is opening up to one another and caring for each other, especially those in difficult circumstances since all humans are a one big family. In today's society, no one can live alone," he says.
Currently, Arirang TV is sponsoring a "Host Family Campaign," where Koreans can volunteer to help migrant workers. Koo says Koreans should open their hearts to migrant workers if they want them to understand Korea's difficulties, such as our nation's division.
"I like the Golden Rule over any other saying. We have to treat others as we want to be treated. In the international stage, Koreans only brag about their achievements. They often do not take into consideration that there are so many less fortunate people (2.8 billion) who survive with only two dollars per day. To really gain respect, we should help others and share what we have instead of just bragging about what we have."
저작권자 © Ewha Voice 무단전재 및 재배포 금지