July 08, 2009 10:05
Kang Kyung-ran has spent over 20 years covering wars. The producer and CEO of the one-man Frontline News Service, she recently produced a documentary called "A Human Land" on the desperation and hope of Asians in conflict areas. At times risking her life, Kang has been to Afghanistan a dozen times so far, staying an average of five to six months each time. There she established ties with the top echelons of the Taliban, who are inaccessible to even world-famous broadcasters. The resulting footage earned her a reputation as a conflict area specialist.
"The Taliban are unique," she explains. "They might not be easy to be comprehended for people in the modern age, but they are simply very strict about their rules. As long as you stick to the rules, they are generous and tolerant. The Taliban now are completely different from the Taliban in the past. Then, whenever some issues came up, the problems were settled immediately when people complained and petitioned the leadership. But in the current situation, nobody is able to solve anything. Afghanistan may be in the most dangerous situation it has ever been in right now. Of course, there is a coherent theme now and then -- that is, anti-American sentiment."
Asked why foreigners have become targets of frequent kidnapping in Afghanistan, Kang says, "Abduction has become a business sector. Not only foreigners but also Afghans who seem rich are indiscriminately being kidnapped. There's only one person left of the 30 people that I first interviewed there. The rest have gone missing or are dead."
Why does she leave North Korea off her itinerary? "I went to North Korea for about two weeks in 2007 as a member of a women's rights group," she says. "I felt it would be very difficult to cover the country journalistically, more so than any other countries I've been to. I made the fatal mistake of naively assuming that speaking the same language and sharing the same ethnic roots would make the task easier."
Because she has been to so many battlefields, there must have been moments when she nearly faced death. "It's okay to be shot by a bullet, because you die instantly. But I'm afraid of beheading because you have to suffer for a long time until you die," she says. So why does she keep risking her life? "Although I think of my job as difficult, I still think I'm a happier person than the people in those war-torn regions. I keep in touch with people I've worked with. They're a huge asset to me." Has she ever thought she might die on the frontline? "I could end up dying in a war," she says. "I think it would be fortunate to die on the spot rather than being injured and having to suffer. Because I've witnessed so many deaths, I developed an objective perspective on death."
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