South Korean news anchor Lee So-jeong rehearses for broadcast at the Korean Broadcasting Station (KBS) in Seoul.
Gulf Today Report
Lee So-jeong paves way for women journalists in South Korea by stepping into the first-ever shoes of a female lead news anchor for the country’s prominent broadcaster, KBS.
Undeterred and prepared, Lee takes the spotlight in KBS’s “News 9” bulletin live studio, a newsroom previously monopolized by men until her ascension last year on November 25.
Lee’s stellar work ethic and journalistic grit landed her the best female reporter award in 2006, a nod to her groundbreaking on-site coverage of the Mexican rebellion army Zapatista and its leader Marcos in 2003.
A veteran in her own right, Lee has been on the run with the Korean Broadcasting Station (KBS) since 2003, reporting news from the finance sector, covering societal affairs and undertaking investigative journalism.
“A middle-aged male anchor would deliver leading stories followed by a younger female announcer who relayed lighter news to the public. Such was the standard dynamic of broadcasting stations,” revealed KBS. “We’ve decided to reverse the roles.”
The patrilineal hierarchy flips under Lee who reports weighty news items with a male announcer as her subordinate.
With the cultural reversal, however, Lee fears her position might emasculate the importance of her news in the eyes of the still conservative society of Korea.
After leading the bulletin for over a month, the anchor disclosed in an interview that she still "questioned" her presence in the newsroom, whether it was okay for her to be there.
Viewership ratings spiked from 9.6 to 11 percent once the 43-year-old anchor took to the main.
During the interview, she also said that if her efforts failed, it could disgrace other women reporters as a whole.
"I have to do well so that other female reporters could have more opportunities.”
Lee recalls her novice days when a veteran woman journalist had treated her to a meal with the words ‘no matter what, you have to hang in there.’
She laments the high turnover of remarkably skilled female journalists, like her senior, who often retire from their careers once they become mothers.
Though change is on the horizon, Lee says Korea still has ways to go.
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