When most people I meet learn that I have been a feature writer for this paper invariably many want to know if I have ever interviewed anyone famous.
Of course I tell them that over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interview many interesting, extraordinary and yes even some famous people while writing for the Times from Korean War heroes like General Paik Sun-yup and Gen. Raymond Davis to US TV personalities and entertainers like Alex Trebek and Wayne Newton (when visiting Korea as part of a USO tour).
Other times it was a member of a press pool like the time I got to ask former US President Jimmy Carter a question when he visited Korea in 2001 for Habitat for Humanity or a member of a reporting team for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Seoul in 2003. Once, I even interviewed the UK’s envoy to North Korea James Hoare in an embassy staff car while driving to a memorial ceremony in Seoul.
And with the Korea’s presidential campaign heating up, I could have very well interviewed Korea’s next president when I interviewed former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak in 2004.
Although I never really fancied myself as a hard-nosed journalist out to get a scoop with some of the interviews I have done (I was always much more comfortable writing feature articles or travel articles) when the opportunity arose for me to conduct an interview for an article, I jumped at the chance. It’s not every day that an expat writing for a local paper gets the chance to meet some high profile figures.
Such was the case when I approached the City Desk Editor at the Times in the fall of 2004 and told him that I was interested in interviewing Lee who had been making quite the name for himself with such projects like the Chongyyecheon restoration and Seoul’s new bus system. Moreover, there were already some rumors that Lee was preparing himself for a presidential bid and, if his success as Seoul Mayor was a litmus test for such a candidacy, it was as good a time as any for a face-to-face with him and discuss his accomplishments and political agenda for the future. The City Desk Editor also felt the same way and made all the necessary arrangements for me to meet with Lee in his office in city hall.
Read the rest of the column here.