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An interactive feature about South Koreans in Seoul – the speedy capitalist capital separated from nuclear-armed and impoverished North Korea by a Demilitarized Zone. After rocket-speed growth, then a near financial meltdown, the economy is precarious. The young compete to find decent jobs. Koreans in America are competitive, too, seeking out the best opportunities in business, education and lifestyles. Some retain deep ties to South Korea.




Korea Boy

By Anne Brice

Eleven years old and almost no free time. That’s reality for a determined boy and his ambitious parents, and for countless other South Koreans. In an atmosphere of high expectations and high stress, many parents believe rigor will pay off, and that constant coaching will cultivate excellence.

Tough 20s

By Hyunjin Seo

Landing a job isn’t easy in South Korea. Competition is a constant for many. Results on standardized tests can open or block a career path. Making the grade is never easy. So groups of would-be police officers and civil servants move into one Seoul neighborhood to study for months — or years — to bone up for tests.

Life on a Skewer

By Tyler Orsburn

There’s a nagging divide between rich and poor in South Korea. Those who lose their jobs or homes are stigmatized. For most, starting again fresh can be difficult. A middle-aged man, hobbled by debt and a tinge of shame, struggles to maintain his dignity. He sells chicken skewers on a street corner.

The Return

By Jessica Lum

South Korea keeps many mentally ill patients in hospitals for long periods. Some health care professionals now advocate more community-based living for those whose symptoms can be controlled. One longtime patient returns frequently to a mental hospital to help others and retain her sanity. Her new life alternates between solitude and social interaction, anxiety and joy.

Widow in Morning

By Hyunjin Seo

More and more elderly Koreans in Southern California choose to live in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles. Some leave the homes of their adult children in the suburbs. They’re part of a generation of immigrants caught between two cultures. Limited by language, many enjoy living their twilight years in a community that is both secure and familiar. Jungsoo Sung is one of them.

Changing Course

By Jessica Lum

Glory Yang is a native of South Korea and a member of the women’s golf team at UCLA. She’s spent half her life in America, training to become a pro. She always aimed to follow in the footsteps of Se Ri Pak, who won the 1998 Women’s U.S. Open at the age of 20. But after Yang hit a rough patch last year, she began to reconsider her future.

Peggy Lee Plus Three

By Shirley Lau

Many Korean immigrants settle in America to give their children good educations so they might find professional jobs. Some of their children have different ideas. Peggy Lee and her husband quit corporate careers to open a fast food franchise. Their business frees them from the 9-to-5 grind and positions them to build a new life.

Out of the Fast Lane

By Tyler Orsburn

For Sung Lee and Yoon Lee, life in South Korea was just too hectic. So they came to San Jose, California. They work hard, but now enjoy a slower pace of life. They own a Korean supermarket and grow chemical-free vegetables on a farm. They’ve also learned to cope with tragedy.

The Guide

By Anne Brice

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where most Koreans attend Christian churches, nearly 150 people seek refuge in a Buddhist temple in Oakland. The temple relies on donations and the dedication of a spunky nun. Sun Jung Park, 36, says she strives to combine Korean and American values — supporting the well-being of the group while embracing individuality.

Infographic about South Korean military, population and diaspora


These stories were produced by reporters trained in the "Digital TV and the World" special project and the “Reporting on Korea” class at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley. According to project director Todd Carrel, the digital journalists travel the world to "find interesting stories that help reveal the fabric of a community." The series began in 2002 with stories about ordinary people — from a fishing village near Nagasaki, to the rainforests of Peru, to the streets of Phnom Penh.

The Center for Digital TV and the World, a project of the Tides Center in San Francisco, is supported by major gifts from The Henry Luce Foundation and the The Skirball Foundation, with additional support from The Pacific Century Institute, ANA and UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, Institute of East Asian Studies and Office of Resources for International Studies.

CREDITS: The Center for Digital TV and the World in association with the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

Stories by Anne Brice, Shirley Lau, Jessica Lum, Tyler Orsburn and Hyunjin Seo; with Diana Jou.

Digital TV and the World Instructor: Todd Carrel; Special Advisor: Sangho Lee; Special Mentors: Ben de la Cruz, Samantha Grant, Choe Sang-Hun; Zachary Stauffer and Christopher Beaver; Technical Advisors: Jim Richards, Roy Baril.

The Center for Digital TV and the World, a project of the Tides Center in San Francisco, is supported by The Henry Luce Foundation, The Skirball Foundation, The Pacific Century Institute, ANA, and UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, Institute of East Asian Studies, Center for Korea Studies, and the Office of Resources for International and Area Studies.

Thanks to Lee Gunho, John Christopher Carpenter and the faculty and students of Ewha Womans University. Production Associates: Jiyoung Ahn, Haesol Bae, Jeong Eun Bae, Eunjeong Cheon, Hyewon Choi, Sungmin Chung, Hojung Doh, Sieun Ha, Jihye Kang, Bomin Kim, Da Eun Kim, Daisy Kim, Hooyeon Kim, Jiyoung Kim, Juweon Kim, Minji Kim, Tae Rim Kim, Hyunjoo Lee, Seungju Lee, Young Eun Lee, Naye Sarah Noh, Yookyeong Oh, Carolyn Park, Jong Suk Park, Yu Jin Roh, Jihee Yoon and Jiwon Youn

Special thanks to Julia Chen; Neil Henry, Tom Goldstein, Lydia Chavez, Jon Else, Paul Grabowicz, Rob Gunnison, Richard Koci Hernandez, Jeremy Rue of the Graduate School of Journalism; Aaron Miller of the Center for Korean Studies; Marcus Brauchli, Ben de la Cruz, Wilson Andrews, Kat Downs and Chico Harlan of The Washington Post.

Web design and production by Jessica Lum. Title design by Diana Jou. Digital still by Shirley Lau. Infographic by Diana Jou and Shirley Lau.