Publication for Koreans hits stands

Publication for Koreans hits stands

CHAMPAIGN – While some newspapers are struggling for survival, a new one is starting in Champaign-Urbana.

Joohyun Kang of Champaign has begun publishing the CU Korean Times, a biweekly newspaper with both Korean and English editions.

The newspaper, which covers news of interest to Champaign-Urbana's Korean community, is available not only online at www.cukoreantimes.com, but also in print at many locations around town.

The first edition of the CU Korean Times was produced in October. Since then, the 12-page paper has been issued every two weeks.

Kang said she started out having 2,500 copies printed – 1,000 Korean-language and 1,500 English-language – but has since increased that to 1,500 Korean and 3,500 English. The printing is done by The News-Gazette Inc.

The free, advertiser-supported paper is distributed in Korean churches, restaurants and grocery stores, the Illini Union, public libraries and other sites in Champaign-Urbana. The English version is available in area restaurants and coffee shops.

So far, six issues have been published. Stories have included the recent spike in the U.S.-South Korea exchange rate, the dropout rate for Korean students in the United States, Korea's entry into the U.S. visa-waiver program and how Barack Obama's election is expected to affect U.S.-Korea relations.

Much of the newspaper is devoted to local features, such as a profile of Soohwa Yu, a production chef at the Illinois Street Residence Halls on campus, and a first-person account from volunteer librarian Soo Kyung Ham.

The latter was featured on the "Fragrance of Neighbors" page, which regularly urges readers to "please share your fragrant life with us."

The paper carries reports of activities in local Korean churches, as well as news of Korean Student Association soccer and basketball tournaments.

Kang, who came to Champaign-Urbana in 1992, said the idea for the paper arose last spring and summer. Several in the Korean community agreed "it would be really good for all of us Koreans to have a newspaper," she said. "We don't have anything like this – a newspaper or magazine, and this is a fast-growing community."

Kang already operated a graphic design business, IF Design. When she started the newspaper, she had her hands full, coordinating stories with the student writers and translators.

Now that Marie Hong has joined the publication as editor-in-chief, Kang has more time to work on advertising sales. Advertising hasn't covered all costs so far, "but I think it's going to be better next year," said Kang, who operates the newspaper from a studio in her basement.

Sangdeug Kim, owner and vice president of the Green Onion market in Champaign, said he has noticed interest in the CU Korean Times and thinks it's good for the Korean community.

But he said he doubts the newspaper can depend on Korean businesses alone for advertising, given that the Korean business community is small and already familiar to many Korean residents.

Already, the newspaper has attracted advertising from non-Korean businesses, including O'Brien Auto Park and Provena Medical Group.

Kang isn't sure how many Koreans live, work and study in the Champaign-Urbana area, but believes it may be anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000.

According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 3,244 people in the Champaign urbanized area identify their ethnicity as Korean. That includes 1,735 in the city of Champaign and 1,282 in the city of Urbana.

Kang said she hopes the CU Korean Times helps the Korean community adjust to life in America and increases interaction with the community at large.

Hong, the editor-in-chief, said many Koreans in town face a language barrier, leaving them on "a sort of cultural island."

The newspaper "is trying to help them to ease and overcome these difficulties ... by providing stories of their neighbors and encouraging them to contribute their own at the same time," said Hong, who came to Champaign in 2002.

Kang said the newspaper can prove helpful not only for recent immigrants, but also for those considering a move here.

"There are many people planning to come here from Korea," she said. "A newspaper can help them to come."

But she hopes the readership won't be limited strictly to Koreans or Korean-Americans.

"We really want to share the newspaper with everybody," she said. "It's not just for us."

From the pages of the CU Korean Times

– A review of Korea's top 10 stories of the year, including candlelight protests against imports of U.S. beef; a rash of celebrity suicides in South Korea; South Korea's seventh-place finish in the Beijing Olympics, with 13 gold medals; and the first Korean astronaut, Yi So-yeon.

– A brief story on "Konglish," described as "English made by Koreans for simple and trendy expressions." An example: "skinship," used to describe the touch of the other sex.

The article states: "If someone says, 'You have great skinship,' it is a compliment saying that you're sexually attractive when it comes to touch."

– A commentary by the Rev. Kookjin Yoon of the Jesus-Love Church on the election of Barack Obama: "I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Obama a year ago on the plane and immediately felt a warmth overcome my body. Since the acquaintance, I have strongly supported Mr. Obama and his policies. ... As a supporter of Mr. Obama, my responsibility is to not let him stand out of God's will. In truth, I was not on either side of the Democrats or Republicans, but only God."

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