December 18, 2009

Korean War Correspondent

The other day I had the chance to meet an extraordinary person. His name is Chinwa Kim. Mr. Kim speaks several languages including Arabic, German, French and Hungarian. He is a truly international man. However, what makes Mr. Kim so interesting is not his worldly knowledge or language skills, but his sense of adventure...

Mr. Kim is one of the first Korean television war correspondents who spent most of his career in the Middle East. I would bet his is THE first. He covered the 6 Day War, the first and second Gulf Wars and countless other conflicts throughout the Middle East. He still sought after as a “fixer” for many Korean business ventures in the region and still cultivate ongoing relationships with several Middle Eastern dignitaries.

However, I was most impressed by zest for life and the stories he tells…

Shooting a Microphone

I really loved how he met his wife. I believe he was in Aleppo, Syria covering a serious skirmish. The PLO and Yassar Arafat had outlived their welcome so the Syrian government of Hafez Alasaad decided an eviction was in order…so to speak. Let me set the scene… A television war correspondent needs to report during live action. And if you are Korean, you ought to do things right… Meaning real bullets better be flying around when you go live. I am not sure, but I think this adds more drama...

Anyway…during the action, as Mr. Kim is talking into the camera, holding a big fuzzy microphone, a sniper decides to shoot the microphone right out of his hand. I am imagining the sniper had a side bet with one of his gun-toting buddies. Or maybe it was a stray bullet…I don’t know, but never let the truth get in the way of a good story. As the microphone explodes in Mr. Kim’s hand, his Arab sound-man panics, drops his 30 pounds of recording equipment and runs for the nearest cover. I am not sure what happened to the camera man, but I bet he high tailed it out of there with the sound man. So, Mr. Kim is stuck dragging the giant recorder, what’s left of the microphone and his “arse” out of harm’s way. I am not clear why he didn’t leave the equipment in the street, but I think he was more afraid of being on the hook to MBC for the expensive recorder than getting shot.

The mayhem gets broadcast back in Korea and he is an instant celebrity. His future wife is smitten by Mr. Kim’s reporting heroics. As is every other women in Korea at the time, but she just so happened to work the same station (MBC). His fate was sealed. ;-)

Shooting a Picture
One day Mr. Kim decides he wants to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. I won’t get into the details of how he became “Muslim” in order to be allowed to go, but let’s say Mr. Kim has chutzpah...

So off he goes on his trek to Mecca. Being a reporter, Mr. Kim also needs photos of his endeavors. Makes sense…but there are no pictures allowed in Mecca. Hmmm… So, Chinwa decides he will smuggle his camera into the holiest of holy places. At the time, this is big no-no, especially for the only Korean in the city, but he easily makes past security with the camera hidden under his garb. Once in, he starts squeezing off a few shots. Unfortunately, a bystander spots him…the gig is up…but instead of chastising Mr. Kim, his “fellow Muslim” ends up taking pictures of Mr. Kim with the “Black Stone” in the background.

Well, the police eventually see what’s going on and nab them in the act and drag the would-be paporazzis off to the slammer. Terrified, Mr. Kim flashes his certificate proving his “Islamic certification” and confesses his part in the crime. The police are so impressed by the novelty of a Korean “Muslim” that, to his surprise, Mr. Kim is released. But…the bystander is not so lucky. Despite Mr. Kim’s protests, the police maintain that, “You can go, but he has to stay…he was the one taking the photos.” It goes to show you that, no good deed goes unpunished, especially in the Holy Land. ;-)

It was purely random that I met Mr. Kim…I think. There are lots of things you can find along your journey through life, but the best of what you find will come from the people you meet along the way.


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