Let me open the window of life

With Mr. Brijesh Bhatia (India), Eddy Suprarto (Indonesia) and Pramod Mathur (India) - 2008 visit

With Mr. Brijesh Bhatia (India), Eddy Suprarto (Indonesia) and Pramod Mathur (India) – 2008 visit

By Nasir Aijaz

As William Zinsser, a renowned American writer and journalist (1922-2015), had once said ‘Memoir isn’t the summary of a life, it’s the window into a life’, let me too open the window and share some glimpses of my life – the life which I spent as a member of Asia Journalists Association (AJA) during the last fifteen years.

In the last fifteen years, I have been to Korea five times, but all these years we, the AJA members, remained connected like the family members.

It was November 2, 2007, when I first received an invitation from AJA to join an annual general assembly in Korea. Visiting Korea was my decades-old dream, which was become true.

With Ms. Pooneh Nidae (Iran) and Mr. Lee Sang-Ki in Incheon - 2008 visit

With Ms. Pooneh Nidae (Iran) and Mr. Lee Sang-Ki in Incheon – 2008 visit

In the late 1970s, I was impressed by the scenic beauty of Korea and the humbleness of Korean people after watching the documentaries at the Consulate General of Korea in Karachi.

Being excited, I had acted swiftly to get the visa, but was granted it only on November 28, the day I had to fly for Korea, and the AJA General Assembly was going to take place on the evening of November 29.

During all these days, Mr. Ryong Oh, then Secretary General AJA, was in constant touch on the telephone, not only with me but also with Consulate officials. And when he learnt about the grant of visa, he suggested that I should hire a taxi from Incheon Airport to Seoul on arrival, as the General Assembly would start by that time.

As I reached the City Hall, I was welcomed warmly by the AJA friends – I use the word friends, because despite having met for the first time, I felt as if we were old friends meeting after a long time.

With Mr. Ryong Oh - 2008 visit

With Mr. Ryong Oh – 2008 visit

The friends I met first were Mr. Lee Sang-ki, AJA President, Mr. Ryong Oh, Secretary General, Mr. Ivan Lim of Singapore (Senior Vice President AJA), Mr. Eddy Suprarto of Indonesia, Ms. Norila Daud of Malaysia, Mr. Dolgar Chuluunbaatar of Mongolia, Mr. Shafiqul Bashar of Bangladesh, Mr. Salayakanond Wirasak, Mr. Brijesh Bhatia of India, AJA Director Joon Jai Cha, an American Korean journalist lady Ms. Kelly and others.

Speaker of the National Assembly of Korea Mr. Hak Rae Choi was the chief guest. The first day event had different segments including speeches, music, and comedy but the most important one was screening of a documentary on the life of a Japanese photo journalist Nagai Kenji who was shot dead in Burma by a soldier when he was covering the pro-democracy rally.

The first day ended with the exchange of gifts and a performance by a group of artists who sang a song with the theme of ‘Love, Peace and Friendship in Asia’.

With some Korean officials on the way to DMZ -  2008 Visit

With some Korean officials on the way to DMZ – 2008 visit

The very next day, the AJA family proceeded to Manhae Village visiting the Samsung head office on the way. The night stay was arranged at Manhae Inn, where the AJA conference was also held to discuss the media situation in our respective countries.

Again, early morning, we left for Baekdam Temple located at Seorak Mountain, and spent a day holding meeting in a hall of temple on AJA affairs, including the election of office bearers for the next two years.

Later, we enjoyed the traditional Buddhist lunch hosted by the Chief Monk Mr. Samjo, who also briefed us about the life and literary works of Monk Manhae who fought for the freedom of Korea from Japan.

Our next destination was Gangneung, a coastal cultural city on the East Coast, which was recognized as World Heritage. We also visited another coastal city Naksan of Gangwon province, ancient homes, temple, and museums.

With Pramod Mathur (Late) and Miss Garam Lee - DMZ - 2008 visit

With Pramod Mathur (Late) and Miss Garam Lee – DMZ – 2008 visit

My second visit to Korea was in October 2008. The visit was from October 6, during which I had the opportunity to meet old as well as new friends.

This time the AJA had invited more than thirty journalists from different countries including Hong Kong, Iran, Egypt, Dubai, Russia, Nepal, Mexico, Philippine, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, China, Japan, Bhutan, and Kuwait.

My new friends, with whom our bond of friendship proved long lasting, included Brother Ashraf Aboul Yazid of Egypt, Ms. Pooneh Nidae of Iran, Ms. Rasha Abdullah of Kuwait, Brother Pramod Mathur of India (who passed away due to COVID), Ms. Alin of Philippine, and many others.

This year the entire group visited different places in different cities but the night stay at Baekdam Temple was memorable. We also visited the Demilitarized Zone where a declaration for peace and unity was issued with signatures by all the delegates.

There was a long break of eight years after that trip, as I couldn’t visit the Korea for personal reasons but in 2013, I sent my journalist son Rahul Aijaz to represent me in AJA meeting as well as the World Journalist Conference organized by the Journalists Association of Korea.

With Mr. Brijesh Bhatia atBaekdam Temple - 2007 visit

With Mr. Brijesh Bhatia atBaekdam Temple – 2007 visit

Later, from 2015, Rahul also worked at AJA headquarter in Seoul for The AsiaN and Magazine N, for about one and half a year, for which I had been contributing from the day one, when Mr. Ryong Oh, managed it.

My visits to Korea resumed in 2016 and continued until 2018 for three consecutive years to attend AJA meetings as well as World Journalists Conferences. It was in 2019 when Rahul Aijaz again toured Korea.

During the later visits, the AJA had elected Brother Ashraf Aboul Yazid as its new President. He is a renowned scholar, writer, poet, travelogue writer, novelist and journalist of Egypt, and has three dozen books to his credit. He is also the winner of Manhae Prize of Korea.

The AJA family came into being thanks to Brother Lee Sang-Ki, the founder President of AJA, who not only provided an opportunity to all the members to be connected but also turned the AJA into a bridge between the countries of Asia and beyond.


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