Alumni profile: Jinbum Parker has spent the past decade building bridges between Korea and China

Jinbum Parker appears on Chinese television

Jinbum Parker has made China his life’s work since 1988 when he started his undergraduate degree in Chinese literature.

“The more I study China, the more obvious it becomes, the more I do not know about China,” said Parker, 53, a 2010 graduate of the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication. “If you can’t find the answer for even more than 30 years, you may get tired, but I enjoy this.”

Jinbum Parker with his Global Business Journalism classmates

Jinbum Parker has made good use of his China expertise at the Korean Broadcasting System, where he has worked as a documentary producer since 1995. He is well known as both a reporter and producer committed to sophisticated and balanced reporting about China.

Life at Tsinghua

After being selected as an overseas trainee in his workplace, he earned the opportunity to study at Tsinghua, China’s top university in the spring of 2008. He chose Global Business Journalism, where he could both improve his cross-cultural awareness and hone his practical journalism skills.

Parker said GBJ provided a global vision and a range of viewpoints, propelling him to new heights as a journalist.

Parker in the Global Business Journalism classroom at Tsinghua University

“GBJ provided a great turning point in my journalist career,” Parker recently reflected. “It was an invaluable opportunity for me to study with colleagues worldwide.”

While studying at Tsinghua, he actively networked with Chinese students and enrolled in extra courses in international relations academies and humanities to grasp Chinese society. During his time in Beijing, he enjoyed traveling around the country. He visited 30 cities in 33 days during winter vacation. He has been to all 34 provincial administrative units in China except the Tibet Region. A history buff, he visited 125 historical places in Beijing designated as national treasures.

Not all his adventures went as planned, however.

“I accidentally joined the Female Students’ Club” at Tsinghua, he admitted. “Although I was not the only male but couldn’t get out of being the sole foreigner in the club. However, with my proficient social skills and cultural sensitivity, I got along well with them and left many memories together.”

Classmates said Parker was a leader at Tsinghua

Parker’s classmates say he was a leader on campus and has been an active alumnus.

“He played leading role to all students and always gave impressive advice to colleagues who want to work in the media,” Yoo Ho-Yeon, who formed the Korean alumni association at the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication with Parker, said.

After graduation, a career as a Korean journalist

After graduation, he continued to develop his expertise in China while working as a correspondent in Beijing for the Korean Broadcasting System from 2010 to 2013. Returning to Korea in 2013, he began to take advantage of his deep understanding of China. Based on his knowledge and vivid experiences, he filmed the documentary “Super China” which brought him international acclaim as an expert on China.

Jinbum Parker’s work on “Super China” brought him global recognition.

According to Nielsen Korea’s research, its average viewer rating led to 8.38%, which was very high among TV documentaries. It also recorded more than 40 million views on China’s video platforms. The program received rave reviews and was subsequently shown in dozens of nations worldwide.

“I think the most interesting with this documentary is that it provides another perspective. Before there was always the negative tone of voice and negative angles,” Danielle Ling, the CEO of the Twitter PR team in Beijing, said. “This Korean’s tone of voice and narratives have taken a new angle. I think the basis is because it starts from a deeper understanding and common interest of tone and voice and explores China as opportunities rather than seeing as the threat.”

Some Korean students in China regarded Parker’s documentary as a breakthrough in international journalism coverage of China.

“As a student who has studied in China for many years, I was always somewhat disappointed to hear global reporting related to China generally biased toward negative aspects,” Ye-Chan Moon, a Peking University graduate, said. “However, I thought ‘Super China’ provided reliable and abundant data about China. It also furthered to glimpse China’s future goals on the international stage.”

After filming the documentary, Parker organized many exchange programs with Chinese experts and gradually increased the exposure of China in Korea’s media. In addition, he has worked as an executive secretary of “Beijing Group,” a gathering of ex-correspondents of Korean media to China, and published the quarterly magazine called “Korea-China Journal” with “Beijing Group” journalists since autumn 2019. This spring, the 11th issue was released and a new issue is an upcoming summer.

Becoming a Korea-China “moderator”

China has been increasingly prominent in the global society in the past few years. In this era, Korea cannot help but pay attention to China because both countries are closely connected with diplomacy, economy and national security. Despite the two nations’ proximity, media coverage of China in Korea generally remains critical, as it was in the Cold War days. Chinese media coverage of anti-Korean sentiment in China also has hampered understanding between the two countries.

The first 11 issues of Parker’s Korea-China Journal

The magazine “Korea-China Journal” has become the leading platform for Korean-Chinese relations. Harnessing the intellectual power of experts in both countries, Parker is confident that his magazine can help media outlets in both Korea and China see each other’s countries without distortion or prejudice.

To today’s journalists, he implores: “Don’t see China with your prejudice and don’t try to confirm your antiquated stance. Only a flexible and transparent mindset could let us know how to deal with its changing nature.”

Fond of both countries, he emphasized “求同存异,” which means seeking common ground for both sides while holding back differences.

Jinbum Parker: “I would like to keep my role as a contributor who can reduce the prejudice and media distortion for two countries.”

“Korea and China have experts in various fields, and there would be areas where they can cooperate and compete sometimes,” Parker said. “There may be many roles of journalists in covering Korea-China relations, but my orientation is to promote mutual understanding between two countries through the more accurate and balanced way of reporting.”

2022 will mark the 30th anniversary of Korea-China diplomatic relations and the eighth anniversary of the broadcast of “Super China.” Parker is committed to an active role in China-Korea coverage in the future.

“I would like to keep my role as a contributor who can reduce the prejudice and media distortion for two countries,” he said. “In addition, I hope to establish my journal as the best platform for exchanging ideas about Korea-China issues. In honor of the 30th anniversary of Korea-China diplomatic relations, I wish to develop bilateral ties between Korea and China.”

Parker sees the Global Business Journalism program as an essential conduit to cross-cultural understanding and improved coverage of international relations.

“Through this precious opportunity, I suggest we should be equipped with a global and pluralistic attitude that can respect different cultures,” he said. “Although GBJ is an international English course, I hope all students try to explore China more in-depth.”

Commemorating the success of the Korea-China Journal

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Coline Kim

Coline Kim

Story Teller based in Seoul and Beijing