Open Mic Grand Jury Spotlight: Hee-Jung Chung

New York Festivals Grand Jury are some of the best and brightest in the radio industry and the brilliant creative minds who judge the 2019 NYF Radio Awards. These award-winning directors, producers, journalists, writers, actors, creative directors, composers, on-air talent, and programming executives are all actively involved in creating today’s innovative radio content.

Open Mic Spotlight spends a few minutes each week with NYF’s respected Grand Jury members and each NYF Spotlight interview shares the insights of these esteemed content creators from the wonderful world of radio.

This week we shine the spotlight on New York Festivals Radio Awards Grand Jury member, Hee-Jung Chung, Executive Producer/Director for Korea News Network(KNN). In 2017, Ms. Chung earned a New York Festivals Gold Trophy for Best Audio Book – Fiction for her outstanding entry “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme -A World Premiere of Barrier-Free Opera for the Visually Impaired.”

Hee-Jung Chung accepting the 2017 NYF Gold Trophy


New York Festivals: What project meant the most to you in your own history?

Hee Jung Chung: The Project that has a significant meaning is, Barrier-free operas; the world’s first-ever opera for the visually impaired, which won an award at the New York festival. I started this project in thoughts to find a way that could help the visually impaired to enjoy opera. Barrier-free Movement (enabling facilities and contents regardless of disability) is spreading, but nobody considered applying this barrier-free concept into an opera.

People can enjoy other genres of music regardless of any disabilities. However, since the opera is not an easy genre of entertainment with an integrated art that includes the theater, it is difficult to appreciate it if you are not familiar with it. When someone wonder about opera, individuals without disabilities can try to understand it by watching DVDs or performances.

Barrier Free Opera Score

My goal when making Barrier Free Opera was to fulfill the questions and urge about opera to visually impaired.

It was an exceptional project that started for the visually impaired; however, it even amused the non-visually impaired individuals who were strangers to this difficult genre of music. Those familiar with operas could also enjoy the nuance of the original language without the inconvenience of watching the subtitles. Many complimented with the positive response about being able to enjoy the opera, setting their own stage with imagination.

Barrier-free opera, however, has become a new genre that everyone can enjoy, regardless of their disability and eliminating barriers. By looking at this, my belief ‘working for the weak is the answer for everyone’ embedded deeper into my soul. Through making, it made me realize what I can do and what I should do. It was my MUSE on how to live for the future.* Barrier-free Opera

It is the world’s first ever opera that visually impaired could enjoy. Barrier-free opera has brought the premiere in the dark, provided an earphone and an option for a sequential interpretation system as a choice of language for visually impaired on the famous Opera DVD, invited visually impaired to opera venues. With the Seoul art center, we created barrier-free opera films, presented them at the Barrier-free Film Festival and distributed them for the visually impaired nationwide. As a successor; I performed an opera called “Chung Hee-jeong”, adapted to the general opera but made it understandable only by the sound.

The opera La Bohème in the dark, which was the premiere, performed as a commemorative performance at the United Nations delegation on International Day of People with Disability, co-hosted by the United Nations and sponsored by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Houston. The recordings were donated to the Braille Library and the Houston Public Library.

Through the opera in the dark, we have created a social issue about the necessity of producing barrier-free contents, and we continue to work on the barrier-free of DVD and opera performances. Ultimately, we have been steadily building on DVDs and theaters, with the goal of enabling people with disabilities to enjoy it whenever and wherever they want, regardless of disability.

Rehearsal of barrier-free opera

New York Festivals: What qualities are most important in award-winning work?

Hee Jung Chung: All the New York festival entries are without a doubt superior with lots of creativity.

The criteria that I put the focus is how this work could be used afterwards rather than work and creativity itself. I focus on inspiration more than creativity. More specifically, how well the work draws attention to the things that people are not aware of or the things we ignore.

It could be the dark or the bright side of our modern society. Whatever it is; the work that keeps us gazing at what we need to know, or what we should to think about once. The work should stimulate some social behavior or develop something to realize, to think, and ultimately to the belief of each person’s thinking.”What can I do now to contribute to society?”

To give an example, after watching a work with the theme of visually impaired, it should go beyond entertaining the audience but to broaden the understanding of the other world without lights, and extends to some idea, “what can I do to contribute in my life?”. It would be ideal if it leads to creating a system or infrastructure to improve the lives of visually impaired.

Beyond cultural differences, we see how we break our frame, how we make the world, and how to understand people. There are genius works that don’t end with laughter and joy, but that show the message behind them. To sum up, one of these great entries has a lingering sensation of mind, and this reverberation is the work that has the power to change the world.

New York Festivals: How does your experience within the industry help you throughout the judging process?

Hee Jung Chung: I created the world’s first “Barrier-free opera” for the visually impaired. Every moment was a series of decisions, which has never been done before. I had to make choices with no previous experiences or knowledge. Every moment I stood at the crossroads, wondering the path between the right answer, easy answer, and a difficult answer. Sometimes quick intuition was right, sometimes time-consuming and difficult. Sometimes I took a step back and watched, and sometimes I tried to stick to my head. To make sure that I would make the decision that I would not regret. It was important to try everything possible to find the answer that makes the most sense. These experiences also play a role in screening. I learned a lot watching and judging the work of other directors.

Barrier Free Opera Logo

Also, technically; People with visual impairments are sensitive to sound. It’s radio-like. Not only words but also the sound to express visual elements such as space, location, movement and color need to be carefully produced. This experience also seems to work sensitively when reviewing works. By able to imagine with closed eyes to feel the intention is one of the techniques I used in judging.

In fact, I feel that the spectrum is getting wider than when I’m producing my work. I try to enjoy moments of life, organize my thoughts, and think a lot. In fact, there are things you must do within the time of production, so you’re so absorbed in thinking about it.

In the name of efficiency, it is time to choose witty or intolerance. And then I would just be a functionary if I don’t have time to look back, to recover myself, to build inspiration.

Ironically, the time and thought I spent on this kind of rest of my production has been much more helpful in judging. Rather than evaluating a piece technically, it allows to elaborate the work more comprehensive and deeply understandable. The time to build a warm gaze for people and a clear understanding of the world is also inspirational to your work, but it also seems to deepen your eyes on other works during the judging process.

There are a variety of ways I have not thought of before. The new method is more effective. New technologies are fascinating, and the fresh impact of these new technologies has a momentary, deeper impact on content. But that’s often the only thing, technology, whereas the novelty of it doesn’t last long.

Good stories are spoken to by people over a very long period. It’s the power of good content.

The most advanced form of storytelling in my opinion, is to match good content to the best representation of that content, to a new way of matching the purpose of that content. The development of technology is widening the range of matching. And this will give the opportunity for broad-minded people to find needles in the haystack.

New York Festivals: What advice do you have for young people just beginning a career in the industry?

Hee Jung Chung: Think deeply about people and the world. Continue to explore what is real to see what is blinding your view and beliefs. At any moment, believe in yourself and be on your side.

And always remember, the power to change the world is inevitably counterproductive to existing and existing worlds. Find the stars in yourself, and believe in them, no matter how rough the road is.


Believe that even though we are just broadcasters, through the work we could move the mind of an individual, change the mindset of this society or even change what you have always believed.We only move one individual’s heart to see this broadcast, but the small movements can gather to change the world.

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