Interview with Misook (Mia) Jung
Firstly, thank you so much for the opportunity to introduce myself.
My name is Misook (Mia) Jung. I am the owner of Gulf Korean Times (GKT Media). My family and I have been active community members in Dubai for more than two decades. As the owner of a media company, I am well positioned within the Dubai Korean community with twenty-three years of business and community service experience. As an entrepreneur, wife and mother, I am blessed to have achieved a level of success: I thoroughly enjoy what I do and am proud of these achievements.
1. What was your story of becoming a woman entrepreneur? (please talk about your past work experiences, career growth journey, and share your long-term vision)?
Looking back to 2000, I had just moved to the UAE with my husband for his new job. This was my first time living outside of Korea: it was a very abrupt upturning in my life. Suddenly to be upended and supplanted here without the familiar structures, family and people who I had to come to completely depend upon: I was a newly wed in a multicultural marriage and a first time expat concurrently. Further, I was relatively new to English as a second language. At first, I struggled with not only the language, but also with the many different variations, dialects and the many regional pronunciations used: it was quite challenging. Over time, my confidence grew. With it came more opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. Dubai, though lesser known on the world stage at the time, was certainly poised to take center stage in the time we’ve lived here.
Both my husband and I quickly embraced the region: local travel, the desert and expat life. For my own Korean networking, Dubai was still relatively unknown and unfamiliar; however, within our first year, a number of global exhibitions were already taking place at the WorldTrade Center. And, luckily for me, I was able to meet my first business partner at a jewelry fair where we began importing Korean jewelry to be distributed throughout the Middle East. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, the price of gold skyrocketed: the gold market literally died. Thankfully, I was able to pivot to my husband’s education business. Working together, we established ourselves as leaders in the Koreaneducation market, providing educational services for children of Korean expatriates in the Middle East.
Long term the vision is to continue to develop digital structures and to embrace social media to improve outreach. Media is so much about being able to connect with people: building a community we proudly serve. With the advances and ease of technology, our ability to meet people where they’re at has certainly flourished. Our ability to communicate, connect and inspire others remains at the forefront of the business.
2. How did you come up with the idea of creating the GKT?
As a child I have always enjoyed reading books: non-fiction in particular. To this day, my own family is a family of readers. As I grew older, I learned to love writing, literature and essays too. I even made a habit of journaling my life through my high school years. Because of the passion I had towards writing, I felt I would always head in that general direction in terms of career paths. My childhood dream was to eventually become a broadcast journalist; however, I never ended up going down that career path after college.
Instead, I only followed that route much later in life. I wonder whether or not my childhood ambitions subconsciously led me to head up a media company. Fortuitously, some time back, I had the opportunity to acquire a local Korean newspaper the Gulf Korean Times. After the acquisition, the decision was made to expand upon the business which, at the time, was purely printed media, serving only our Korean community. In its current form our media outreach now serves a number of community interests with a greater digital presence across the Emirates and the GCC region.
3.What’s the mission behind the Gulf Korean Times? What’s the main focus of the newspaper?
Our weekly magazine provides new life information and news about the UAE, including GCC & MENA, as many nationalities live together. As the Korean Wave culture is booming here regionally, we are providing a wide variety of events, including Korean cultural events & K-POP concerts, with our embassies and consulates.
At the heart of any successful business endeavor is the ambition to create a community which you then serve: media is to inform and even entertain. As we look at politics, economy, humanities, and history through the media, we look at the world and discover new trends, and learn more about people and human interest stories. Curiosity is central to development. Civilizations have developed through healthy discourse and inspired communication. We are nothing if not intelligent and inspired by our understanding of new places, ideas and events which, in turn, open each of us to greater possibilities. I know that I am inspired by others who, through their determination and dynamic nature, offer a greater, sometimes better, way of thinking.
The company’s mission is inspired by the same. Our continued focus is to continue to be a safe space for community-minded individuals to collaborate and convine. There’s no shortage of news, ideas and events both regionally and globally to share. Our current focus is to continue develop structures for the digital world of the future; social media and hosted applications continue to transform media outreach.
4. How important is it for you to support the Korean nation in the UAE?
The diplomatic relationship between the UAE and the Republic of Korea has already reached its 41st year. During that time, no doubt both countries have made vast trade and economic advancements; however, our relationship with the UAE is also one which remains quite endearing. I am often filled with awe when visiting with a number of young university women who are passionate about learning Korean language and culture. A number of regional universities have Korean Clubs where students gather to discuss our culture, to catch up on the latest gossip on their favorite K-Drama or K-Pop stars. Many address me respectfully as Unni (언니) which is Korean for elder sister: it really fills my heart with such joy. I am very proud to represent Korea in such a way.
Since the pandemic, the number of foreign nationals wanting to visit Korea has swelled. So, too, has regional interest in travel, business and trade. Through media, Gulf Korean Times supports various events for Korean travel, investments, business and startups. The contents of which are provided through the Korean Cultural Center, KOTRA (Korea Trade/Investment) and our own Korean Consulate. In fact, there have been a number of recent ways our government has sponsored engagement. For example, The Korea Tourism Organization held the K-Travel Week in May (May 1-May 6) in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in collaboration with a few large-scale public-private partnership teams, to promote the economic and diplomatic achievements between Korea and the UAE, as agreed by our President Yoon Suk Yeol and the UAE leadership in January.
The Arabian Travel Market (May 1-4) was the largest tourism exhibition in the Middle East, featuring sponsored collaboration with K-Tourism, K-Startup Investor Relations. Such initiatives bolster business agreements with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office and the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau. With this exhibition over 100 local tourism companies gathered together to engage in bilateral discussions to promote tourism exchanges among a variety of regional and Korean travel destinations.
GKT Media is honored to be a bridge between UAE and South Korea.
5. What advice would you give to the young entrepreneurs? And which business skills will you recommend for them becoming successful?
This may sound cliché; nonetheless, I would remind younger entrepreneurs to search for the joy in what you do and to pursue those things which you are absolutely passionate about: the start of any worthwhile venture will test your limits – personally and professionally. Without doubt, the unflagging dedication and unwavering focus required to start a business is well-known. Clear focus, strong ethics and determination, however, are bolstered by the faith and inspiration of a product or service which you feel very strongly about. Each going a long way to stave off burn-out and boredom. After all, you want to succeed, and you can only do that when you are genuinely motivated to keep working.
With any business, keep your faith greater than your fear. Do not fear failure: embrace it. You will traverse many pathways and will need to overcome obstacles and bumps in the road. Sometimes you will need to detour, to pivot, along the way. None of us get far in life without suffering from doubts. I am only where I am today through perseverance: I am often reminded of the value in failure. Another imperative is people: relationships and skillful, empathetic conversation are the most important factors in promoting business. We grow through people. Hence, the most important skill for my success has been my sincerity and communication with people.
Golden Wings Magazine