Arirang CEO Sees Chinese TV as Bridge for Exporting Korean Culture

Using Chinese broadcasts to spread the Korean Wave around the world? This may sound like an outlandish claim, but English-language broadcaster Arirang TV is pursuing this project and has made some headway. Spearheading this project is Sohn Jie-ae (48), president and CEO of Arirang TV & Radio.

Sohn visited southern China late September and signed a contract with Guangdong TV International to broadcast Arirang's Korean entertainment program, "Showbiz Korea," on the Chinese channel for viewers around the world beginning next month.

The station, operated by Guangdong Province, is an English-language broadcaster that airs its programs on the mainland and overseas.

Sohn, who spoke with the Chosun Ilbo in Guangzhou, said, "We are also looking into airing a program called 'Wave K' on [state broadcaster] CCTV and Guangdong TV International. The show features live performances by Korean pop singers and is set to begin airing next month."

Sohn Jie-ae, president and CEO of Arirang TV & Radio, talks to the Chosun Ilbo at a hotel in Guangzhou, China. /Courtesy of Arirang TV Sohn Jie-ae, president and CEO of Arirang TV & Radio, talks to the Chosun Ilbo at a hotel in Guangzhou, China. /Courtesy of Arirang TV

Arirang TV is seeking to expand such ties with China's CCTV, Suzhou TV, Tianjin TV and Dunhuang TV. The latter three stations cover the southeastern, mid-northeastern and western regions of the country of 1.3 billion people.

Sohn is a former journalist who worked as the Seoul correspondent for the New York Times and as the Seoul bureau chief for CNN. Last year, she wrapped up her 18-year career as a journalist and took up the role of president and CEO of Arirang.

This followed a brief stint as the spokeswoman for a Korea-hosted G20 Summit, a role she reprised to promote international public relations at the presidential residence of Cheong Wa Dae.

"Both foreign news media and Arirang TV can serve a similar function in telling the world about what is happening in Korea," Sohn said. "But foreign media coverage of Korea is largely limited to reports about nuclear-related issues, the six-party talks or North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's health, and I felt frustrated by that."

"At Arirang TV, my field of vision has grown much wider as I can handle topics ranging from the Korean economy to culture and society. I can now deal with topics that I was not really able to as a foreign correspondent." 

Sohn is known for her impeccable English as demonstrated through her years of live broadcasts on CNN. She learned the language while living in the U.S. for four years as a child. She moved there as a second-grade student when her father was posted to work at the Korean Embassy in Washington D.C.

"We are seeing a rapid increase in the number of countries that offer 24-hour satellite broadcasts in English, such as France 24, China's CCTV News and Japan's NHK World," she said.

"All of them aim to publicize their country's culture and development and convey their stances on global issues. Arirang TV will expand its global base of viewers from the present 91.9 million households in 188 countries to 100 million households by 2013," Sohn said.

Due to her experience and track record, Sohn is considered an iconic Korean career woman. But when asked to recall the highlight of her career so far, she said nothing compared to the experience of raising her three daughters.

"I often tell other female journalists what an enriching experience it is for a working woman to also devote oneself to one's children and one's family as well as the job," said Sohn, who also lives with her mother-in-law.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 14, 2011 09:00 KST