Don Oberdorfer Award Ceremony

It is undeniable that journalists play an important role in advancing the U.S.-ROK relationship, particularly in enhancing our core shared American values of free speech, freedom of the press and a robust civil society.  Don Oberdorfer was a prime example of a journalist who contributed to this advancement with his unbiased and factual reporting.  After graduating from Princeton University, Oberdorfer went to South Korea with the U.S. Army.  He would later find himself spending a lot of time in Korea while working for The Washington Post.  His reporting helped Americans understand Korea, the challenges faced by its people, and how the United States could provide assistance and cooperation.  Over the course of his career, he received many awards, including the National Press Club’s Edwin M. Hood Award for diplomatic correspondence and Georgetown University’s annual Edward Weintal Prize for diplomatic reporting.  Oberdorfer was also well-known for his book, The Two Koreas, which contains a highly regarded account of the Korean Peninsula’s history.

“The Two Koreas” by Don Oberdorfer 

In order to recognize his contributions, I thought it would be fitting for the U.S. Embassy to create the Don Oberdorfer Award to acknowledge journalists who adhere to the same high standards of journalism that were exemplified in his life and work.  After the decision to create this award was made, the U.S. Embassy asked the Hanmi (Korean-American) Club to assist by selecting a worthy recipient.   Former Ambassador to the U.S. Lee Tae-sik chaired a committee comprised of respected journalists from the Hanmi Club who selected a winner from a group of highly-qualified candidates.  The Embassy played no role in the selection, leaving that critical decision to the journalists and others on the panel.

Congratulations to Mr. Roh Hyo-dong of Yonhap News, the first recipient of the newly established Don Oberdorfer Award for excellence in reporting on U.S.-ROK relations!

On October 4, U.S. Embassy Seoul presented the first annual Don Oberdorfer Award to Yonhap News reporter Roh Hyo-dong for his excellence in reporting on the bilateral relationship between the United States and Korea.  We were very fortunate to have Don Oberdorfer’s son, Daniel Oberdorfer, and his wife in attendance for the award ceremony.  Daniel returned to Korea after having visited with his father on one of his trips when he was younger.  Initially following in his father’s footsteps and working as a reporter for over 10 years, Daniel later decided to study law and is now an award-winning litigator based in Minnesota.

Mr. Oberdorfer expressed how pleased and proud his father would have been to see this award recognize great journalism.  “My father devoted his life to journalism, democracy in Korea, and the ROK-U.S. relationship.  I am happy that I was able to witness the establishment of the Oberdorfer Award, which will help remember my father’s spirit of journalism.”

Mr. Roh with Daniel Oberdorfer and his wife, Evelyn

Also in attendance were members of the Hanmi Club who graciously assisted in selecting this year’s recipient of the award, including former Ambassador to the U.S. Lee Tae-sik, and First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Lim Sung-nam.  I especially want to recognize and thank Hanmi Club Chairman Dr. David Pong, who was unable to join us for the ceremony.  Without Dr. Pong’s strong support and leadership, this award would not have been possible.

Thank you all for joining us at this meaningful event!

The award winner, Roh Hyo-dong, is the Assistant Political Editor at Yonhap News with an illustrious career in journalism that spans over 20 years.  He has spent the past decade reporting on U.S. policy and various other viewpoints related to North Korea, the Korean Peninsula, and U.S.-ROK relations.  He recently returned to South Korea after a three year assignment as a foreign correspondent in Washington, DC.  His robust and balanced reporting contributed to the strengthening of U.S.-ROK relations.  According to former Ambassador Lee, the award committee selected Mr. Roh by a unanimous vote.

Mr. Roh giving remarks at the Don Oberdorfer Award ceremony

I would like to personally thank Daniel Oberdorfer and his wife for making the trip to Seoul, the Hanmi Club committee for helping to select such a worthy award recipient, and Roh Hyo-dong for his excellent work.  I hope the spirit of Don Oberdorfer will help inspire all of the journalists reporting on the U.S.-ROK relationship to continue their high quality reporting that serves to strengthen our core values of free speech, freedom of press, and a robust civil society.

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