■ Park Ki-tae
■ The head of VANK
■ Born in 1974
■ Graduated at Seokyeong University in 2000 ■ Member of 2008 National Image Development Commission on the Prime Minister office, Commissioned as the Spokesperson of Seoul 2008
■ Selected as a “101 person who influence Korea” on Seoul Newspaper, Awarded the “Special Prize” by Catholic Media and the National Assembly of Korea.
■ Wrote a book named Cyber Diplomat the VANK
On July 9, a full-page advertisement named “Do You Know” which informed that Dokdo is the territory of Korea was advertised in The New York Times by Seo Kyoung-deok, a Korea public relations specialist. This full-page advertisement was put in the newspaper to inform injustice of Japanese government’s history distortion to dominate Dokdo to the people of the world. And also Kim Jang-hoon, a Korean singer, expressed sympathy with Mr. Seo’s view and participated by supporting the expenses of the advertisement.
With the continuing distortion of Korean history, the activity of Korean private groups or non-government organizations became active due to their trust against the government’s activity. The Korean government has been correcting the wrong history of Korea to the world. Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (VANK) which discharges cyber diplomatic missions is also one of such organizations. The VANK, which was established in 1999 by Park Ki-tae, the head of the organization, began the work motivated by yearning to meet foreign friends and make foreign relationships. The VANK has been performing a cyber tour guide spreading the Korea history through pen pals. The pen pal relationships were made through Korean college students. However, when Mr. Park exchanged the letters with pen pals, he found out that many foreigners were misunderstanding Korea. So, he worked to correct wrong information steadily, unnoticeably, leading the VANK to become the organization which has the character of cyber diplomatic mission.
Kim Jang-hoon has become public relations promoter of the VANK and has been opening concerts by the theme of “Informing VANK” once a year. And Kim Ji-woon, director of the movie The good, The bad, The weird, donated in support of its object. The Hanyang Journal meets the VANK which is a crucial organization on the Dokdo controversy.
Working and Memories of VANK
Q What kind of work has the VANK been promoting?
A The VANK has been promoting a project to educate the world. In order to change the Korean image at the global era to a friendly one, we have been promoting a global public relations project for the Korean image and constructing a central nation on Northeast Asian. And we also have made lots of plans such as cyber diplomatic training project of all the nation, foreign internet pen pal friends campaign, amendment project, etc.
Q I heard you have searched the works directly by yourselves to correct the errors about Korean history and others. Was not hard for you to work? What was the most difficult task in the beginning? And how did you overcome the difficulties?
A In the beginning, it was really hard to work by myself and few members. But as time went by, we worked very hard, and did our best to our online members. One day, we got a good reputation which they did correct distorted history made by Japan and other countries. So, nowadays, we became the organization working spontaneously by
participating with over 500 online members. It offered as a stepping-stone to our own success.
Q What are the most memorable things in working and running the VANK?
A I can not forget that Japanese entered the VANK, and hacked the server in 2005. It turned into a grave issue at that time in Korea. But, after the issue became the social problem, the people got to know about the VANK, and they joined and helped us. This is a good case of overcoming the mess. So the help from the people tided us over the crisis. After that happened, we now feel it as an opportunity to fight our crisis and difficulties.
VANK and the Aid of People
Q As you have worked many things, you may have had various support of the aid in finances or other area. What are the most impressive support that you can remember?
A Yes, I have had support not only financial aid but also the people’s activity in correcting the misunderstanding of Korea. So I have lots of wonderful memories from the people and the most impressive support was from Kim Jang-hoon, who donated one hundred millions won. Members of the VANK supported continuously with a small amount
of donation. And such people’s support has been useful to the VANK in management. However, the most important thing for the VANK is not financial, but the people’s interest for the VANK and their participation.
Q As Kim Jang-hoon became the public relations promoter of the VANK, it was the opportunity for your organization to inform the existence of the VANK to the people. How and how long have you been working together with Mr. Kim?
A Mr. Kim came to the VANK last year and he said, “I like the VANK, I want to meet the VANK, and I hope to work with your organization.” So we formed a connection. And when we talked about the VANK’s difficulties, I said that I hoped to get more people at the VANK. He was a great help to us as the VANK’s public relations promoter. So, Mr. Kim has been opening a concert once a year and, by doing that, we were able to work closely together.
Korea and VANK’s Future
Q What do you think about some of the modern college students who are indifferent of historical or political issues in Korea? Give them some advices.
A Everyone knows the period under the rule of Japanese imperialism. Sometimes, I think if the period at that time
comes back again, would we be able to overcome the difficulties and insults? The answer depends on the people’s attitude. Of course, Korea will promote more powerful national power, economical strength, military forces. It plays the important part. But, first of all, the importance is young people and their attention to defend one’s country. Korea’s geographical position is always influenced by neighboring countries. So, young people should play a leading role in the global market so that we can stand in a position to help out neighboring countries such as Japan and China. So I feel many young people in Korea need to be the leader.
Q Could the Dokdo surely be the territory of Korea nobody doubted? Could you tell us as an international perspective?
A In comparison with Japanese claim, we have an advantage in informing Dokdo is Korea territory to the world because Dokdo is under the control of Korea. In other words, Korea is presently managing the territorial sovereignty of Dokdo and we should inform this truth to the world. Then, someday, the Dokdo will be the territory of Korea admitted from all of the world. And we do these works by uniting the efforts by our people.
Q Last question to the VANK and you. What is your future purpose and project in the VANK?
A The biggest aim of the VANK is to cultivate over two hundred thousands cyber diplomats. Then, I hope that each diplomat in the VANK make five foreigner friends and make them Korea-friendly individual. After making foreign friends, the VANK members act as a Korean educational organization. So, we can make them as a Korean public relations promoter who can advertise Korea.
And the VANK has missions to share one nation’s joy and sorrowfulness to the world; Firstly, changing the Korea’s image to the world. Secondly, gathering six million Korean members who can work all over the world. And thirdly, tens of millions of the Korean citizens living together by accomplishing their wishes and goals.
|▲ A visit to Dokdo with VANK Asia Peace Makers in 2006