Have you ever seen the books such as <Together, Again, Europe>, <Place of Dreaming Traveler, South America>, or <We Again in Somewhere>? The author of these books is writer, photographer and broadcaster Oh Jae-chul, a graduate of Chung-Ang University. Oh Jae-chul traveled around the world for 414 days, published books related to his trip, and he was raised awareness on social issues. Through traveling, Oh Jae-chul says he learned how to live his own life and gained insight into seeing the world. He is interested not only in his own life but also in the lives of young men. By conveying his life story, he really hopes many young people will live their own. CAH met Oh Jae-chul who finds his own life through traveling.
CAH: Nice to meet you, Oh Jae-chul. Please introduce yourself briefly for Chung-Ang University students who will read this article.
Oh: Hello, I am Oh Jae-chul, and I graduated from the Department of Photography at Chung-Ang University. After I graduated, I worked as a professional photographer. Also, I traveled around the world for about 414 days after I got married in 2011. My goal was to reduce the marriage expense to 1 million won and rather use rest of money to traveling around the world as a honeymoon with my wife. After the world trip, I worked as a writer and lecturer. By working in different field, I was able to broaden my perspective. While I was traveling for a long time, I experienced a number of unique situations, where I experienced other people’s lives indirectly, and thought a way for people to live happy. After all the valuable experiences, I have been considering about happiness more than ever before. I am still finding a way how Koreans can live their own life more happily. Therefore, I can definitely say that I am a person who is passionately interested in happiness.
CAH: These books are all related to traveling: <Together, Again, Europe>, <Place for Dreaming Travelers, South America> and <Again, We Are in Somewhere>. In addition, you have degree in Photography, so we are very curious about your perspective of the meaning of a photograph on a travel.
Oh: Well, when people go on a trip and see beautiful scenery, they use variety of ways to make records. Some people make records by writing down. Some people make voice recording and some draw the scenery. Every single one of us has different methods of making a record for what we experience. I, specifically, make records by taking photos. I try to capture all the feelings and emotions that I have for the moment when I take the photos. Therefore, a photograph in itself means a lot to me. When I look back all the photos that I have taken from travels, I can literally feel the emotions that I had and vividly remind. This comes so real that I can feel as if I traveled just yesterday.
CAH: Do you write the books when you are traveling, or after the traveling is done?
Oh: Of course, sometimes, if I think the feeling is intact, I complete the writing when traveling. However, after traveling, I can arrange and express my feelings through writing. When I wrote my books after traveling, I used memos or pictures on my cellphone to recall the feelings I felt when traveling.
CAH: Reading your books, I thought you not only wrote about happiness and memories through traveling, but also pondered the lives of ordinary people. What tips do you have for feeling more than just happiness on the travel?
Oh: Everyone sees the things they are interested in. If someone’s job is chef, that person might be interested in local foods or recipes. The reason people think travel is a form of rest is they are exhausted from their daily lives. Therefore, they are naturally interested in rest, so they think of traveling as a kind of rest. I have sometimes heard ‘Traveling is like life.’ I think there are diverse ways of traveling just as there are diverse lives. I am interested in the lives of people. Accordingly, when I am traveling, I frequently see the lives of people. It is a difference of interest, so I think the tip is that ‘you can see the world as you know.’ If you broaden your views and then go traveling, you can see more than you saw previously. I hope you grow internally in your own way.
CAH: What was your chance to start traveling?
Oh: I think I have loved traveling from youth. When I was in elementary school, I did the activity such as the Boy Scouts and the Aramdan. In addition, when I was 29, my dream was traveling all over the country. Therefore, I went on a penniless journey when I entered university. I also did activities with a traveling club called ‘Youth Hostel.’ I had been thinking about why I love traveling so much. I concluded the reason I love traveling is the desire for something new. Because I had a problem related with my family when I was 19, I might have wanted to travel as an escape. I went to America for language study in 1998. From then on, I earned money by myself and traveled.
CAH: You are a travel writer, photographer and lecturer. Most people in Korea have one job. What is the know-how you need to do many jobs? Furthermore, if you experienced any troubles by doing many jobs, what is the tip for overcoming those troubles?
Oh: Because I had lived in Korea for about 40 years, I thought my job was one thing and the other works were just side jobs. One day, I asked myself ‘Which is my major job?’. I concluded that I could not answer. If I thought of how I made the most money, I earned the most money as a lecturer; therefore, I chose lecturer as my major job. On the other hand, if I thought of which ability I have is the best, I chose photographer as my major job. I thought of it over and over, and finally I admitted they were all my job. After that, I thought if I express my feelings through writing, I am a writer; if I express my feelings through taking pictures, I am a photographer; and if I give a lecture, I am a lecturer. My philosophy and feelings are more important than my job. After all, I think my major job is ‘Oh Jae-chul.’ Meanwhile, most people think that in order to gain a job they have to learn technology. That is right. However, now, it is more important to have one’s own philosophy and values than simply to be a technician. For example, in the past, good photographers should graduate from the Department of Photography. However, anyone can be a professional photographer now. That is, technology is less important than the past. Accordingly, I think it is possible to have multiple positions. To have multi-positions, I think the most important thing is my philosophy, feelings and inner growth different from others.
CAH: Most recently published book that you had written is <Again, We Are in Somewhere>. We wonder if you are writing a new book.
Oh: First of all, <Traveling through dessert> (working title) might be my next book. I don’t drink coffee or alcohol, because I have a childish sense of taste. Therefore, I am interested in desserts, such as bread or chocolate on traveling. I think dessert is the quintessence of food. Dessert is small, but it has everything of food including color and taste. A food always contains its culture, so I think dessert has each country’s culture. I have a plan to introduce each country’s culture through dessert, using the form of the travel essay.
CAH: We heard you are interested in problems of young men and want to give some advices. We want to hear your advices through this interview.
Oh: Most Koreans say, ‘It is hard to live.’ However, in fact, living is not very difficult. Nevertheless, the reason people think it is hard to live is most people want to have the better things. We get used to ranking many things from our youth. Because we think even lives can be ranked, we try to become high ranker and eventually think ‘life is hard.’ That is, since we focus on social value and material value, we feel life is hard. However, I do not think we have to focus on social and material values. Rather, we should think about what the most important value is in our own lives. There is no answer in life. People just choose their own way. My real life was started when I focused on my own values, not the material and social values. Therefore, I hope young men also have the time to think about their own values. Furthermore, I hope young men go traveling. When traveling, they will experience diverse lives and cultures. Those are helpful for understanding various lives and culture. For example, why they are laughing and how to live.
CAH: You graduated from the Department of Photography at Chung-Ang University. What is the difference between Oh Jae-chul when in university and Oh Jae-chul now?
Oh: I was interested in social success in university. My job and what kind of person I wanted to become did not matter. I just wanted to earn a lot of money. But now, my life and my own values are more important than money. Now, when I choose the work I do, I usually consider whether the work is what I want and whether the work is interesting. If these conditions are not fulfilled, I would lastly consider the money. However, if the first conditions are satisfied, the money would not matter. I do not want to work for money that is not valuable.
CAH: If you can return to the time when you were in university, what would you most like to do? Oh: If I had such a chance I would go on an around-the-world trip, and I think I should have done so. If I had done so, I might have started living my real life earlier. After traveling around the world, I could live my own life not considering others’ opinions. However, before traveling around the world, I was swayed by others’ opinion. Although the things I hoped for were different from others’, I could not live my real life being swayed by others’ opinion.
CAH: What influenced you to choose the Department of Photography as a major?
Oh: My father operated a photo studio. I was good at studying, and I went to an academic high school. However, my grades went down when I was 19 and I could not go to the college I wanted. Originally, I wanted to study Architecture. I thought Architecture was the most creative study. However, because my grade went down, I changed my mind. I hoped to enter the Department of Photography in Chung-Ang University. Of course, I had a talent in art. Consequently, I think the fact that my grades went down was lucky. Thanks to that, now, I live my own life.
CAH: You graduated from Chung-Ang University and now have impact socially now. Would you tell us about help you received from Chung-Ang University?
Oh: I think each person lives their life following their name. Having heard the word ‘Chung-Ang’ constantly, Chung-Ang University students would think ‘middle’ and ‘neutrality’ are valuable. The power of the word ‘Chung-Ang’ became a chance to live my own life. Furthermore, when I was in University, Anseong campus was one of the most beautiful campuses in Korea. Thanks to that, I enjoyed my life in University. It also helped my emotions.
CAH: As an alumnus and as an adult, do you have advice you want to say to your juniors in Chung-Ang University?
Oh: Most of all, I hope students live happy lives more than successful lives. Furthermore, I hope students think more about how to be happy than about how to be successful. Paradoxically, the main reason we cannot do work well is we always want to succeed and do well. If we are greedy, we cannot choose the right choice at the crucial moment. The driving force for why I could go around the world was to give up everything. In other words, I do not try to succeed. Actually, I have more books ready to be written. <I Decide I Would Not Be Rich> (working title). Successful people and happy people are different. Some people are rich and happy. Some people are happy but not rich. Some people are rich but not happy. Also, some people are neither happy nor rich. I hope students ponder what exactly they want. I think traveling is the best way to know what they really want.
CAH: What is the purpose as the ordinary person ‘Oh Jae-chul’ and as a writer?
Oh: I just want to live as ‘Oh Jae-chul’. It is not fixed to live as ‘Oh Jae-chul’. I think I change at every moment. Therefore, the short-term purpose is not important. Rather, I just want to live in my way. My purpose as a writer is just to do my best. Therefore, I am interested in how to upgrade my ability.
CAH: Finally, what is the last thing you want to say?
Oh: I think the beautiful life is to feel one’s feeling frankly. I hope readers of this article become beautiful people. To be honest about one’s feelings, they must ponder themselves and can escape from routine. Accordingly, their feeling would be better, and they will be passionate. In the long run, they can escape from a standardized life. Socially, most people think ‘the result is the most important, on contrary’, and the course is not important. However, I think this is a short cut to a sad life. I hope you enjoy your life, being a person who thinks the course is valuable.
It seems like Oh Jae-chul is enjoying his life and living his life to the fullest. He is a type of person who is optimistic and is honest with his feelings and emotions. On top of that, it appears that he is not bound by social standards. He is constantly thinking about his life in terms of the directions. When people are exhausted from their daily busy routines, they tend to stop thinking deeply about directions they are heading. From the interview, Oh Jae-chul gave us an advice to remember whenever we face in that situation or any obstacles. He stated, “Taking a time and reconsidering about your directions of life are very essential, and it is a chance that everyone should take once while they have the time.” < 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >