CNN American Morning correspondent Alina Cho recently returned from North Korea, where she, along with other American journalists, covered the New York Philharmonic’s historic concert in Pyongyang. Part of Cho’s journey was personal: she brought along her parents, both native South Koreans, and reported on her ultimately unsuccessful search to locate two uncles believed to have fled — or been taken to — North Korea during the Korean War.
Alina joined CNN in 2004 after stints at ABC News, ABC’s affiliate news service NewsOne, CNBC, and at local news stations in Tampa and Chicago.
(After the jump, personal photos of Cho’s travels.)
1. TVNewser: Sharing my personal, family story on-air has been…
Cho: Surreal. Imagine interviewing your own parents. The Korean War is often called “The Forgotten War”, but my parents lived through it and, nearly 60 years later, they still have not forgotten what happened.
My dad’s two uncles disappeared during the war never to be seen again. I have never been eager to talk about my family on television, but this felt like the right time. So many people know nothing about the Korean War and here was a way to help them understand and care about this important moment in history. The response both inside and outside of CNN was overwhelming. That was gratifying.
2. TVNewser: As a journalist, I’d describe the rare opportunity to go to North Korea as:
Cho: Amazing, life changing. In some ways, the internet has made the world a very small place. But North Korea is an exception, it is still largely off limits. Even now, few journalists are granted access. To be able to report live from inside the concert hall where the New York Philharmonic had just performed literally gave me the chills. I was witnessing history and reporting on it in real time.
3. TVNewser: What I learned about life in North Korea:
Cho: It’s like no place on earth. Imagine going to a country where average citizens are not allowed to own computers or cell phones. Imagine a capital city with roads but no traffic jams.
There are stores but few shoppers. You can’t go anywhere without a government minder. I bought some books to give as gifts and left them in my hotel room only to find the packages opened when I returned. That’s what life is like in Pyongyang. But the people I met were all incredibly warm and more than a few told me they hoped I could come back soon.
4. TVNewser: My career — one that has included stints in so many different aspects of the TV news business (local news, national, business, online, overnight news, affiliate news service) — has helped shape me…
Cho: I always say there isn’t a shift I haven’t worked. I’m a big proponent of slow-but-steady success. As fast as you rise is as fast as you fall, in my opinion.
Every weekend and overnight shift, every city council meeting I’ve covered has prepared me for what I’m doing now. I’m still my own worst critic and I’m always pushing myself to do better.
5. TVNewser: My dream interview:
Cho: Kim Jong Il… or Madonna. What can I say? Growing up, American Bandstand was one of my favorite shows. Now, I watch CNN.
Alina Cho and her parents.
Cho with producers, photojournalists, and North Korean ‘government minders’ (with suits and red lapel pins).
Cho covering the New York Philharmonic performance.