At the Communication Building of Korea University (KU), there are group of young reporters gathered to contemplate ongoing issues in and out of campus. Under the name of The Granite Tower (GT), the English magazine of KU has continuously endeavored to represent the eyes and ears of KU students until now, when it celebrates its 60th year of publication.
GT has a history of 60 years. From its beginning in 1954, it has been through many changes in order to improve its content and to make it more approachable for students of KU. Currently, it mainly covers current issues and provides information that can be useful for students on the month of publication with a rather soft tone of voice. However, the structure of the present is said to be greatly different than that of the past.
In the past, GT was much busier than it is now. Even though the magazine is published once a month these days with soft news in general, GT is famous for its busy schedule. But before, GT was published twice a month with more hard news than now. It would have been not only twice as busy as it is now, but it would have required journalists to do much more research. As a young English magazine, GT took on the task of a newspaper by printing more news intended for delivery of information rather than attracting readers’ attention. To do this, sections such as AnAfrican Tale, Global University, and Letters From used to be regular parts of GT.
Now, the magazine has altered its format to connect better to students studying at KU in a more familiar style. Instead of publishing hard news in general, it has added more soft news and has adopted a gentler expression compared to the past to make it easier for KU students to approach the magazine. While journalists’ opinions were portrayed strongly in the news in the past, the opinion section of today has become more diversified to promote soft news. Not only that, fun sections like Photo Essay which is a part mainly consisted of photos, have been added to draw the attention of readers.
GT consists of cub reporters, junior reporters, senior reporters, associate editors and editor in chief. In order to get promoted, they need to go through two weeks of training, which is held during the vacation. It is when they encounter the chances to practice writing different sections of articles as well as spend the most time together. As part of GT, members participate in frequent meetings, during which certain theme is chosen for the publication of each month and topics that go along with it are accordingly decided.
“GT’s present style resembles that of the army,” comments Professor Lee Yong Wook (Political science and international relations), who is in charge of GT. The reason for this remark is because of the strict rules and professional attitudes of the members. The biggest feature of GT these days is punctuality. Like any other magazine or newspaper firm, GT prioritizes getting the job done on time. This is because everything gets delayed when one person is late for his or her work which slows down the publication and creates conflict.
The strict rules of GT also permit journalists to miss or be late for activities five times, but each time, they have to submit a document explaining why they were tardy. Because everyone has a deadline to stick to, it is necessary that the rules are strictly enforced. They may bend at inevitable times but are almost always kept because they are what keep the magazine being printed on time.
GT in the present is one of the most respected English magazines in all of the universities in Korea. It boasts being the longest one, consisting of 60 pages and including through, in-depth contents. Not only that, GT has the most copies printed, with 4,533 copies every month. In 1997, GT started providing their contents to readers free of charge on its online site (thegranitetower.com) as well. After 60 years of history, it has improved greatly and seeks more developments to aid KU students with their lives.
Memoirs of GT
Kim In Seop (’81, English Language and Literature)
GT had a profound impact on my life. My experience as a student reporter expanded my horizon of knowledge as it enabled me to cover issues in and out of campus and meet diverse people. Compared to others, we were students who were more interested in journalism. Although I eventually failed to become part of a broadcasting station or a newspaper publisher, I still cannot leave out the influence GT had on me. As a current member of Korean Society of Translators, I think my experience in GT triggered the passion for globalism and guided me to discover my strong linguistic interests.I joined GT in the second semester of my freshman year. As far as I remember, there was a kind of corporate ladder, so sometimes editors ordered things and revised the articles written by reporters. GT was mainly composed of male reporters by then. Despite the fact that we were from different backgrounds, we worked in harmony, overcoming the conflicts that arose from time to time.
I still remember the first article that I wrote as a cub reporter. I attended a seminar at a downtown hotel, hosted by KU Asia Research Center and found a few foreign news reporters by my side. Although the article that I wrote was quite short, I was very excited to feel professional. Because there was a student movement at that time, even university papers had to undergo censorship by the relevant authorities. All of us did our best to illustrate the issues as objectively as possible. I remember writing an in-depth article about people who were opposed to the ongoing urban development. Because we sympathized with their situation, we had to end up weeping. Since the magazine was published twice a month, meetings to review the articles were frequently held among us, after which we would enjoy our dinner or drink together.
One of the most pleasant memories of GT was going on a field trip for membership training. During summer and winter vacation, we went to Seorak Mt. and Songni Mt. It was the best opportunity to relieve our stress from workloads and build stronger bonds with each other. Thanks to the time we spent together, I have had a very good relationship with former members of GT. Even nowadays, we get together several times annually on an irregular basis. It is good to see most of the members in my generation to have succeeded in their career, being in a high position of the society. Looking back at our youth, we never regret having worked as members of GT.
Kim Jin Hwan (’90, German Language and Literature)
GT definitely took a big part of my college life, as I spent every break time at the office with my colleagues. Sometimes, I would even miss classes to spend time at the office of GT for it was a great place for us to work and socialize at the same time. Every member felt free to visit even after graduation so active interaction took place among upper classmates and under classmates.
Before I entered GT, I was busy spending my time having fun and enjoying freedom as a freshman. After being a member of GT, however, I think my life became much more organized and passionate. Because we did not have laptop computers or PC rooms by then, we would gather up at the office until late at night in order to submit our articles before deadline. Sometimes, we would even carry heavy desktop computers to motels nearby and stay up all night. Under the directions of the editor-in-chief, we would finish our articles together. GT was published twice per month by then, which made us bombarded with meetings for planning and reviewing.
Going to MT and fieldtrips with the members of GT still remain unforgettable. As soon as we entered, we participated in Sabalsik in order to be recognized as a new member of the organization. By having both fun and harsh times together, we could make precious memories and build stronger bonds with each other. Mainly being composed of male students unlike now, we would share worries and thoughts that we had deep inside our minds.
Although it is normally not very easy to meet up with friends after getting jobs, we still gather up regularly and celebrate each other’s family events. My experience in GT also had a great influence on my career as well. As a student reporter, we wanted to report the truth and criticize different aspects of the society, visiting various regions and organizations to convey lively details as much as possible. Such experience made me form my own perspective toward journalism, which lasts until today when I work as a PD at KBS.
Kweon Yun Jin (’11, English Language and Literature)
My school life rotated around GT and my closest friends were from there too. Since GT pursues a tight schedule and requires a lot of work I also scheduled my plans according to plans I was given. Oftentimes I would think about writing articles even in my classes. For example, when I was taking a class on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in my Law and Human Rights class, I could not stop thinking that it would make a great article.
As a leader, I do not consider myself extraordinary. While I worked as editor in chief I kept in mind the sentence “Bear the crown if you want to wear the crown” which means that responsibility follows power. More than anything, I had two goals that I stuck to. The first was to keep a democratic system and the second was to stick to principles. I wanted to make GT a group that was lead by every one of our participants and I wished to create trust between the members. For that I had lots of individual meetings with journalists and hosted many formal and informal get togethers for communication. Also, keeping the rules is also the biggest priority in a magazine to keep up with the deadlines. Everything gets delayed when one person does not keep the time so I wanted to make sure that everyone was working punctually. I did not allow rules to be broken unless there was a reasonable purpose.
There were lots of difficulties too, such as the fact that I was one of the few students who never lived abroad in GT. I felt small frequently because I felt like my English was not as good as the other students. Even so, GT benefitted me greatly in seeking my interests. During GT activities, I had several meetings with people from various fields and it really helped me know more and think deeper about my future. My interest in human rights also began as I interviewed North Korean refugees for an article in April 2012.
People say that I changed GT greatly but I believe that GT changed me instead. Before working in GT I was rather emotional and strong willed. However, because GT requires the staff to cooperate with other members often and also encourages rational thinking, my personality was altered to be more cool headed. Instead of getting impatient with journalists, I learned to make compromises. I could feel that other members were starting to trust me as I showed patience. GT was an indispensible part of my university life and I believe working in GT is a great privilege to see a bigger world.
Why Do You Read GT?
As many other English magazines do, GT frequently faces the dilemma of being avoided by many students who do not enjoy reading in English. As a matter of fact, it does not seem easy for GT to appeal to every student at KU. Kwon Myeon Chul (’13, Chinese Language and Literature) says, “The design of the magazine is very attractive as it is full of colors and pictures. Also, its great accessibility enables us to grab the magazine anywhere around the campus. However, no matter how many times I try, I find it quite difficult to concentrate on reading the articles as they are very long and difficult.”
However, readers who have constantly searched for GT within the campus made it possible to lead its tradition of 60 years. Lee Yun Ha (’11, English language and literature) nodded excitedly with a wide smile when asked if she was a reader of the Granite Tower (GT). Her shining eyes showed her interest. But the student’s familiarity of GT stemmed from a personal reason. “I was actually a reader of the Korea University Newspaper Godaesinmun. One of my friends, Yun Jin, recommended GT to me when she saw me reading Godaesinmun.” Kwon Yun Jin (’11, English Language and Literature), the friend who recommended GT to Lee, worked as the chief editor of GT in 2013.
At first, Lee expected GT to be the same as Godaesinmun but only in English. But she thought that the articles in GT were depicted in such professional language that she started reading GT regularly. Later, she found that the two newspapers that she read had a fundamental difference. “WhileGodaesinmun focuses on more official and administrative news, GT has more information that can interest students. I think they target different students, too. Godaesinmun is for Korean students and GT is for foreign students and also Korean students who are fluent in English.” She illustrated with a time where her foreign friend appeared as the cover model. “Because of this trait, I think Korean students feel a little distant from GT. Many students feel overwhelmed by English and the fact that GT is an English magazine may keep them from reading it.” She suggests that GT would be better known to KU students if they were given out in front of the International Studies Hall instead of being placed in newspaper stands.
As Park Min-chi (’14, Business Administration) was walking down the Udang Liberal Arts Hall, she noticed GT stacked along with many Korean newspapers and magazines. Although she had a variety to choose from, the English magazine with the intriguing cover picture caught her eye. “The fact that it was written in English by KU students interested me,” Park elaborated. The business major has lived abroad for a long time and is more comfortable speaking English than Korean. This trait made her feel more comfortable with GT than any other magazine or newspaper at KU. Being a student who regularly reads only GT, she points out the specialty of the magazine. “GT is more academic than other magazines on campus, so I think it can be helpful for all students at KU,” she said affectionately.
She showed great enthusiasm in becoming a member of the GT staff herself as well. But there was a problem: she was not aware of the recruiting system. “I didn’t know that GT recruited freshmen. I think there need to be more advertisements because many of my friends do not even know the existence of GT and even if one knows GT, not much information about it is available.” As a solution, Park suggested that GT take part in more school events and also add sections like crossword puzzles to intrigue students. Allowing students to send back answers to GT and taking polls to award prizes such as KU Cinema Trap tickets would attract more readers, according to her.
Alex Romanowski (’10, Microbiology), a Russian exchange student who visited KU two years ago, had the opportunity to read GT thanks to his buddy in the Korea University Buddy Assistance (KUBA) group. According to him, he read the magazine twice during the years in KU but failed to read more often because he was not aware of where to get them. “What stood out to me was how colorful and professional GT looked. Compared to GT, English newspapers at my university are very boring,” he said. He still remembers the article about the history of Hangeul and that about life of KU. “It was very interesting to read such articles as a foreign student of KU,” recalls Alex.
Congratulations to GT's 60th Birthday
Han Suk Jun (’94, Material Engineering), a KU graduate who is currently working as an announcer for KBS, congratulated the 60th publication of the magazine. As a student, he was also a GT reader. According to him, the fact that the articles are written in English did not differentiate them from other newspapers because all of them commonly share the responsibilities of media. He remarked, “It is not easy for a certain organization to maintain its existence and connect to history. 60 years of GT’s history seems to prove the credibility and structure of the organization.”
Like Han said, it is not an easy task for media to continue its existence for 60 years. Throughout the years that GT has existed, it has spent a tremendous amount of time trying to publish smoothly written articles at were interesting and informative at the same time. Hundreds of members went through GT’s strict system and matured greatly in the process. As GT refined its articles, it refined the people as well.
As one of the representative journals at KU, GT will never stop its efforts to report the diverse aspects of ongoing events on and out of the campus, endlessly pursuing improvements. Even today, part of the Communication Building would be lit up with people who never stop contemplating on what to report in the next issue of GT.