"Unlike most traditional Korean newspapers, under the ownership of a family or business conglomerate, the Hankyoreh is owned by about 62,000 shareholders who joined the original drive for the paper's inception. "
Among them were dozens of former journalists who had been ejected from their jobs due to their roles in promoting freedom of the press and democracy. Their long-cherished dream of beginning an independent newspaper came true through successful fundraising, which began shortly after popular uprising against the military dictatorship in 1987. The Hankyoreh was inaugurated on May 15, 1988.
The Hankyoreh is a progressive newspaper, decisively committed to journalistic freedom, democracy, peaceful coexistence and national reconciliation between South and North Korea, which were divided by external forces after World War II. The Hankyoreh is unrelenting but fair in coverage. It does not negate the philosophy of the free market economy, individual liberty and personal freedom. But it accepts that the more detrimental effects of an unbridled market economy should be regulated by various means.
Its distinct feature is its unique ownership. Unlike most traditional Korean newspapers, under the ownership of a family or business conglomerate, the Hankyoreh is owned by about 62,000 shareholders who joined the original drive for the paper's inception. They are from all walks of life in Korea, ranging from teachers to university students to housewives. Even though their backgrounds are different, they have one value in common: a desire for a genuinely independent newspaper and for full-fledged democracy in Korea.
'The Hankyoreh' is a miracle. It is a child of Korea's democratic movement in the 1980s. The propelling force of its establishment, journalists fighting the military dictatorship, often faced oppression. The passion seen from the public at the inauguration of the paper showed that the cause of press freedom was justified. When the first issue of the Hankyoreh rolled out of the press on May 15, 1988, a new chapter was opened in the history of Korean journalism. No more censorship. No more intrusion from outside powers. The Hankyoreh had pioneered fundamental change in Korean journalism.
The changes were substantial, even down to the stylistic level. The Hankyoreh was the first daily in Korea whose stories were written only in Hangeul, or the Korean alphabet, rather than a combination of Korean and Chinese characters. It was also the first modern newspaper in Korea that published stories written in horizontal rather than vertical script. Horizontal editing was well tuned to the young generations who were familiar with horizontal writing. All of the school textbooks were written in horizontal script. Vertical script was the legacy of outmoded Chinese culture in which most of Chinese books were edited vertically.
Liberal Korean readers found a fresh perspective in the Hankyoreh. Through its progressive editorial policy, the Hankyoreh has greatly broadened the intellectual horizon. In an era of corporations exercising massive influence over news media, The Hankyoreh's combination of public ownership and commitment to progressive values strengthens its independent editorial stance, devoid of the corporate allegiances and pressures that tend to rein in today's media.
The title of Hankyoreh carries with it the ideas of trust and fairness. Recognized as the most reliable and authoritative newspaper in Korea, the Hankyoreh's detailed stories have earned it a high reputation. In particular, the Hankyoreh enjoys great popularity among Korea's young generation, which is longing for fundamental changes in Korean society.
Hankyoreh further distinguishes itself from other traditional media through its particular emphasis on in-depth coverage of inter-Korean relations from a progressive perspective. Its inter-Korean reporting is recognized as unbiased and fair. Its reporting of inter-Korean and East Asian affairs is based on its editorial policy of seeking reconciliation, stability and peaceful co-prosperity.
The Hankyoreh's financially humble, popular beginnings are part of its legacy: its initial capital stood at 5 billion won, falling short of what most media experts considered the minimum necessary funding for a startup newspaper company. The Hankyoreh solved this issue by instituting a computerized editing system, which replaced the old type-mounted system. The new editing system reduced expense by 90 percent.
Eighteen years after its inception, the Hankyoreh is striving to transform itself into a leading comprehensive 'new media' corporation. The Hankyoreh's vision for the 21st century is based on its 'second stage growth plan.' The latest reorganization of the newsroom is part of this ambitious plan. The Hankyoreh is on the move.