Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Posts Tagged ‘South Korea

What’s summer like for a freelance journalist?

leave a comment »

img_3283

South Korea’s gleaming capital Seoul

It is the 29th of July, France won the World Cup, we’re over halfway into 2018, and I’m still a freelance writer and journalist living in Beijing.

I went to South Korea in the last week of June for eight days. Four years ago I visited North Korea, for the same amount of time, and it became a hugely profitable trip. Going on a tour of the “Democratic” People’s Republic of Korea is quite expensive but I managed eventually to recoup what I spent and more.

Did South Korea turn out to be as successful a freelance trip? Originally I had set out to visit only for travel’s sake but I eventually thought of a saleable article idea, and I emailed my editor with the idea and he approved. It was then a process of finding a fixer. I used Twitter, and I got myself someone who could help me with research, fixing, and interviewing (I cannot speak Korean).

Seoul is a wonderful city, perhaps the most modern I have visited. It was a marvel of city planning and architecture, with a sense of space and flow that left me deeply impressed. I visited the offices of The Korea Times, the country’s oldest English-language newspaper which started following the aftermath of the Korean War that divided the peninsula. I ate Japanese food and drank Irish stout. I ate stupendously good Korean fried chicken. I made friends with a Korean journalist and we watched the Korea v Mexico World Cup game in the centre of the city, on the grass, with hundreds of other Koreans and a surprisingly large number of Mexicans in the middle of the night.

It was a great trip, and I managed to get my article done, and it will make me more than what I spent on the trip, so all in all I consider that a success.

*

I have just come back from a trip to Inner Mongolia. It is China’s third largest province (twice the size of France) and is located north of Beijing, spanning west to east.  I had been aching to get to a particular part of this province since I first heard about it last year.

I am hoping to write something about the experience, and sell it, but I have not yet begun to pitch it out to editors.

It was a place of endless grass, undulating hills, an enormous number of insects, and horses, Caucasian Chinese people, and fresh mutton barbecued to astounding flavour.

It was great to get out of sweltering urban Beijing and head to a temperate grassland of breezes and fresh air, and huge blue skies.

Now I’m back in the city and itching to work and write.

*

Lately I have come to a conclusion so obvious and simple that it left me wondering why I hadn’t thought of it before.

For someone whose sense of identity is bound to whatever it means to be a writer, I do very little actual writing. I do read a lot. I read widely and constantly.

I have a friend (a published author these days) who once advised me to write something at least once a day, even if it was just a long email, just write something.

That was a few years ago. But now that I am writing fiction seriously, I realise the trueness of this advice more than ever. To get better I have to practice. To become a better writer I have to write, at least a little, every single day. Dancers dance, painters paint, writers write.

Advertisements

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

July 29, 2018 at 9:12 am

The weekend of February 13th: getting ready for Myanmar

with 3 comments

I booked a flight to Myanmar on Friday. It’s a one-way ticket. My situation here in Beijing has changed a little. I am now part-time at the Chinese TV company where I’ve been working for over a year. The salary I draw from them is now low enough for me to consider jumping ship, to other jobs, or even to cut loose, though I still consider Beijing my base.

It’s been very cold, although the days now are warming swiftly. The first part of the year in Beijing is always tough. The feeling is one of getting through the depressing days – and difficult for a freelancer I feel. Although commissions have been forthcoming, the motivation to complete them is low. Simply because the sun-deprived body and the comfort-seeking mind dreams of future summery days and craving small satisfactions in the meantime. A bonus of maintaining this blog however is that I can look back to blog posts from the same time last year and see that I felt the same mixture of misery and ennui, and that I eventually got over it.

I bought a TV. I also bought a one-way ticket to Myanmar. How are these two things connected? They aren’t so much as they point to different paths. The TV (which I use to play my Playstation 3) points to my increasing reliance on Beijing and its related comforts: friends, familiar bars and routines. The ticket out is exciting, quite scary and a path to very many unknowns. I am intending, once I arrive, to journey south, eventually reaching the former capital Yangon, although I do want to explore the coastline also. I might even head to Vietnam after. I have not too much money. I am in fact hedging on future freelance payments derived from the stories collected from my travels, to fund present and future life.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

February 15, 2015 at 5:33 am

What exactly is a freelance foreign correspondent?

with 3 comments

Let me try and define it.

You go to a country. You might stay long. Or not for long before returning ‘home’.

You’re in China. In Beijing. And you explore the society and journalism topics about it all, and you pitch and write about them, about China. You grow your list of clients. But you’re also interested in South Korea. About their hi-tech but traditional society. So you read up about it. Maybe make some Korean friends. To ask questions.

Then maybe you hit on something you find fascinating. And salable. An idea you can sell. So you find contacts and maybe a Korean translator with journalism experience. You sell the idea. You book a ticket to Seoul. You find other ideas to make it worth your while. And you do your reporting while gazing at the skyscrapers and wacky advertisements and strutting South Korean girls in their converse shoes, miniskirts and perfectly arrayed hair.

Yes, you look a lot at those girls. Somehow exotic and yet familiar.

You do your reporting and you jet back ‘home’.

You become known for your interesting subjects and your unique take on China. You are also noted for your diversity (South Korea, maybe Japan and south-east Asia too).

You stay a year in China.

You become ‘famous’.

You decide to go to Brazil.

Because why not.

It’s lovely, the sand is warm. And heard you something about the…

 

For part two in this series go here

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

September 30, 2013 at 12:10 am