How Battling the Frontline Changed a Young Soldier’s Life

Tae-jun Kang said he divides his life into two parts. He describes the first one as a “fuck-up” and says the second part began after completing his military service in South Korea.

He recalled he had no goal in his early life which he partied away — going to clubs and drinking every day — since middle school.

But the draft to the military service came at age 21 and that two-year period changed his perspective in life.

He served as a riot police officer which enlightened him to see life is too short to waste, he said.

“People protest for what they want, it’s related to their basic human rights and livelihood, or people want to get a better life at work. By watching them, I realized I’ve got to live hard as well,” said Kang, now 29.

After finishing his military duties, he was determined to enroll in one of the top schools in Korea to begin a new life.

He remembered having a studious routine from 6am to 11pm every day for a year to prepare for his college entrance exam, and he was accepted to the business program at Korea University.

“There were so many things I had to catch up on, my brain was empty at that time,” said Kang.

His initial plan was to become a journalist for Korean media. But after two internships with Voice of America in Seoul and the online publication Toonair Post in the U.S., he changed his mind and realized he wanted to work for Western media.

He is drawn to the English press because he wants his work to reach a wider audience, not only Koreans. He said he likes to pick sensitive and disputed topics to write about so he can “reveal something and make some changes.”

He cited examples of his previous work on the controversy of dog meat consumption in Korea and a lousy pet delivery incident ahead of a new law to regulate pet delivery businesses.

To achieve his goal of breaking into Western media, he felt the need to have an academic credential to support him. He chose the HKU journalism program because its medium of instruction is English and it saves him having to spend a fortune to get a similar education in the U.S. or the U.K.

His goal after the master’s program is to be hired by international media and he intends to continue covering North and South Korean news.

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