In 2001 I covered a story about an 8-year-old girl who had been raped by older boys in her neighborhood. It was then that I became aware how little I knew about what victims go through or how we as journalists should approach a victim suffering psychological trauma. I became increasingly interested in this issue. The next year a colleague and I focused on the psychological trauma resulting from physical and mental abuse experienced by combat policemen during their training and we produced “What’s Happening to the Combat Policemen?” for the newsmagazine program “News Chujuk” (“News Pursuit”). In Korea, all men have to serve in the army or become a combat policeman. We caught the police trainers abusing the conscripts by kicking them in the head or other vital points so the bruises would not show. We discovered that there had been more suicides among combat policemen than ever before and more combat policemen were showing signs of mental illness. It was the first program in Korea to focus on psychological trauma. The National Police Agency apologized and improved its training.
The role of journalists in reporting on psychological trauma is a subject I focused on during my Nieman year. I took an anthropology course about memory and politics and I was led to books such as “Trauma and Recovery” by Judith Herman and “This Republic of Suffering” by Drew Gilpin Faust. I was able to interview Dr. Frank Ochberg, a leader in this field. I returned to Korea as a pioneer, developing guidelines for journalists covering traumatic events such as the 2014 sinking of the Sewol ferry carrying high school students on a class trip. Now, finally, psychological trauma and the role of journalists in covering it is a social issue acknowledged and discussed in my country.