Soo-hwan Goo had worked for KBS (Korea Broadcasting System) as a producer for more than 25 years. His representative work includes In-depth 60 Minutes and Sunday Special. He also directed two documentary movies Don’t Cry for Me Sudan and Resurrection on the life of Father Lee Tae-seok. For Don’t Cry for Me Sudan he received many awards including the grand prize at the Houston International Film Festival in 2011. He currently works as principal of Goo Soo-hwan Journalism School and chairperson of Lee Tae Seok Foundation. – Ed
Q: Before we talk about Lee Tae Seok Foundation, please tell us who Father Lee Tae-seok is.
A: You might have watched Don’t Cry for Me Sudan, a movie about Father Lee Tae-seok, who devoted his life to help people overcome poverty, diseases, and war in Sudan. Father Lee has built schools and hospitals in Sudan to help those who suffered from diseases. However, he was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and passed away in 2010 at the age of 48.
Q: You were a renowned producer while at KBS. How and why did you start to work for Lee Tae Seok Foundation?
A: It all started from the documentary movie I directed, Don’t Cry for Me Sudan. The movie moved the audience so much and made a huge impact on them. I myself was also moved by Father Lee’s sacrifice and tried to seek ways to follow his life. That is why I participated in establishing a foundation in Father Lee Tae-seok’s name. I believed Father Lee’s spirit of sacrifice could exert good influence on everyone and make remarkable positive changes in our society.
Q: Can you tell us some examples of the foundation’s achievements?
A: We started with building hospitals, with Father Lee’s name, in South Sudan. Unfortunately, the project ceased due to the conflicts between different tribes after the independence of South Sudan, but I continued the work for the foundation by producing documentaries about Father Lee Tae-seok while working as a KBS producer. However, I found that the documentaries I produced did not have a significant impact on the public or make big changes in our society as much as I wanted. In the meantime, I thought about what I should do personally to make any tangible change. I concluded that the education of the youth should be the focal point. One of the ideas I came up with was running a “journalism school.”
Q: Tell us more about the journalism school.
A: In the “journalism school” we teach the youth what they can do for our society by journalism. I think two key points of journalism are sacrifice and empathy. As a former producer, I wanted to teach them the virtue of journalism and so we held a 10-week class at a closed school in a rural town. At first, the participants had no passion for learning about journalism. However, as time went by, they started to show the change. I think the devotion to show how much the teachers care about them changes their mindset. That was what Father Lee always emphasized.
Q: What is the foundation doing lately?
A: We continue to teach the youth journalism. Also, the foundation has been supporting students in South Sudan, whom Father Lee had taken care of until his death. Some pursued their dream to be doctors following Father Lee’s guide. The two most important purposes of the foundation are to support the youth in South Sudan and engage them in interaction with Korean people whom are willingly supporting them under the name of Father Lee. We want them to be a leading group for their country and play an active role for their neighbors in need in South Sudan.
Q: What are the future plans for Lee Tae Seok Foundation?
A: We are planning to build a school in South Sudan or elsewhere in the name of Lee Tae-seok. We produced a documentary film Resurrection to deliver how Father Lee Tae seok’s spirit is still alive in South Sudan and we would like to keep awakening what his devotion could make. In the same vein we are planning to stand beside the disciples of Father Lee in order to encourage them to keep their study.
Q: Do you have any words of advice for our young readers?
A: Young students need to develop self-esteem or self-respect. These are most important virtues in our life. When we do not respect ourselves fully, we cannot possibly respect others. It is through voluntary work that we can build firm self-esteem or respect. Through voluntary work, we will see others change with our own eyes, and we will make a good impact on them and our society. This healthy cycle is, I think, the surest way to make our society better for all.