By Nam Sang-so
The Thoughts of the Times column is a unique space, and as I see it, it works for Koreans as one of the best gateways to become a successful English writer.
A Korean mother of a college sophomore was once so overjoyed that she ran to the kiosks in subway stations and swept off two dozen copies of The Korea Times that had published her son's article. She mailed them to her relatives and friends, and sent me a copy of the opinion page with a note which said she was so happy that the college boy had gained confidence in his writing. The English cram school the boy used to attend was far more delighted and copied the page in their brochures to boast of its teaching ability.
English is not my profession and despite my decades of efforts, I'm still a poor writer. It's impossible for me to write like a native-speaking writer, and so I have decided not be ashamed of my own way of producing English compositions.
Writing something to be published requires a spirit of resistance to the outdated thoughts of the current society. Readers won't waste their time reading an article that contains common knowledge of or disciplinary words. A writer, as an independent citizen, should be ready to debate, argue for and against a variety of controversial current topics.
Make one argument thoroughly, point by point. If you try to do too much, you will wind up with an article that, in striving to say everything, ends up saying nothing. Your views can be completely divergent from the editors' opinions. They look for timeliness, ingenuity, strength of argument, freshness of opinion and newsworthiness.
Once your submission is accepted, the copy editor edits and fact-checks the article and corrects Romanized Korean names.
Your published English article, if it hits the hearts of people, will flow around the world on the internet. Here is an example: The Korea Times published my article "Two villages in DMZ" on Nov. 11, 2013.
Four years later in October 2017 I received an email from the editor of Telewizia Polska in Warsaw, Poland. It said that staff at the public broadcaster had read my article in The Korea Times and wanted to send a television crew to cover the two villages in the DMZ. He asked me for permission to quote the article and would I help the Polish reporters. I said yes, and the Warsaw TV crew came to Seoul where they interviewed me for two hours on the sad and fascinating stories of the Freedom Villages where communism and capitalism collide.
The writer (email@example.com) is a retired architect and engineer in Seoul.