Park Kyong-ju, 42, president of an Internet broadcaster for migrant workers and immigrant women, is looking to bridge the gap between Koreans and the immigrant community.
A graduate of the printmaking department of Hongik University, one of the nation's top art schools, Park studied abroad at Braunschweig University of Art and Berlin University of the Arts.
As a foreigner there, her interests focused to the issue of discrimination. She photographed and recorded the lives of migrant workers in Berlin and Korean miners and nurses sent to Germany.
She came back to Korea and became interested in the lives of migrant workers and immigrant women as a cultural activist.
``I thought that Korea needed to change in terms of cultural diversity, but migrant worker issues were mostly focused on human and labor rights,’’ Park said.
She first tried to affect change through art, but realized that there were limitations to high culture. ``Art galleries did not have mass influence and making hit records required money. I became aware of the importance of media then.’’
Park decided in 2004 to create a channel that would give a voice to immigrant women and migrant workers. After a year’s preparation, Salad TV, then called Internet Broadcast for Migrant Workers, launched in 2005.
``Nothing out there was shedding light the lives of multicultural families and migrant workers,’’ Park said. ``I wanted to accomplish real communication without any prejudice.’’
This is the reason Salad TV is offered in various languages. ``I first thought of making a Korean Web site, but the migrants preferred their mother tongue,’’ she said. As a result, the broadcaster changed its name to Salad TV and now is provided in eight languages _ Korean, English, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Russian, Nepali and Mongolian. The site gets some 1,000-1,500 hits daily.
The name comes from the image of a salad, where various ingredients coexist to create a harmonious whole.
According to 2009 statistics, more than 1.1 million expatriates live in Korea and the number of married immigrants reached 167,000 with 88,000 children from multicultural families. However, the understanding of immigrants and multicultural families here still leaves a lot to be desired.
Broadcasting for Migrants
The multicultural broadcasting station is composed of three major businesses _ Salad TV conveys information regarding immigrant women, migrant workers and foreign students; Salad Theater portrays the lives of married immigrants and their families; and a publishing arm prints children’s storybooks and other photograph collections. About 50 people are involved in the multicultural broadcasting station’s operations, including directors, reporters, volunteers, actors and staff members.
``Some of them worked with me before establishing the multicultural broadcasting station as volunteers and the others applied for positions after seeing the job listing,’’ Park said.
Salad TV reporters not only work as journalists but as communicators connecting Koreans and their fellow countrymen. ``Sometimes, we receive tip-offs from migrant workers and the reporters can cover the cases while being translators at the scene,’’ Park said. ``I think this is what our reporters should do since they belong to a multicultural broadcaster. Making contributions and being helpful to society is also important.’’
Park offers a multicultural citizen reporter workshop once a week at the Seogyo Experimental Art Center to train immigrants as journalists. Those who complete the eight-week course can join the Salad broadcast team as a citizen reporter.
``Salad TV is not only for immigrants living in Korea. We also provide accurate and up-to-date information to people who want to come to Korea,’’ she said.
Play Written by Immigrant Women
The broadcaster acquired status as a preliminary social enterprise last year and Park wanted to create a branch of the company that could make money while working for the public good.
That was how Salad Theater was founded. It staged its first regular performance in last September, and the theater now has an original repertoire of four short plays and a long one, ``Tasty Recipe _ After the Rain.’’ The short plays are performed through touring performances at elementary schools and teacher training workshops. The story of the play comes from experience of the members.
``Once, we presented the play at an elementary school in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province, and a student had had a similar experience to one of our plays,’’ Park said. The play titled ``I Don’t Want to Go to School,’’ is about a child who has a married immigrant stepmother and how he accepts her as a part of the family. ``He was tearful when the father and mother fought in a scene of the play. He said it reminded him of his parents.’’
On Jan. 30, a party featuring a short play of Salad Theater will be held at Seogyo Experimental Art Center.
Making Healthy Profit
``Making a living by selling advertisements is impossible for us,’’ she said.
The projects of Salad TV do not make much money. Presently, the enterprise receives support from the Ministry of Labor and Salad Theater was selected for a project for multicultural families by Seoul City, but these are not enough for the organization to stand on its own as a proper social enterprise.
Park is seeking another way to make healthy profits while keeping the spirit of the multiculturalism. ``We will serve the common good and our projects will be in the same vein,’’ she said.
She wants Salad TV to fill the gap between locals and immigrants regardless of their background. “The best way to understand somebody else is to face them often, arguing and then understanding each other. However, the immigrant community is separated from Koreans,” Park said. ``We need to bring the migrant community to the sunny side.’’
Salad TV and Salad Theater provide opportunities for immigrant women to cross the boundary and be a part of the mainstream.
Park again emphasized the importance of diversity in society. ``Salad TV is going to be a media hub like a salad bowl, showing the variety of our culture,’’ she said. ``I hope people _ both Koreans and expatriates _ will amplify their multicultural sensibility through Salad TV and Salad Theater.’’