Ranka interviewed Korea’s Park Jieun after she had taken the bronze medal in the women’s individual event at the World Mind Games.
Ranka: Congratulations on winning the bronze medal.
Park: Thank you.
Ranka: Please tell us about how you learned to play go.
Park: My father played go. When I was ten years old, by Korean counting, which actually means eight or nine, I thought it looked interesting, so I asked him to teach me. I then discovered that it really was interesting. After I had been playing for a few years I began going to a go school–a baduk dojang. It was operated by an amateur player, but professional players would come and teach, so I had many professional instructors. After another year or so I made professional shodan.
Ranka: Were you also going to school during this time?
Park: Yes, but I spent almost one hundred percent of my time on go rather than school subjects.
Ranka: How popular was go in Korea back then?
Park: Seoul was full of go players. There were go classes in my school, although I didn’t attend them because I was already studying at the dojang. There were also amateur tournaments, I guess, but I didn’t attend them either because I was completely focused on training to become a pro. Anyway, this was a golden age of go in Korea, back in the 1990s and the first few years of the 21st century.
Ranka: How has it changed since then?
Park: Over time we professionals have continued to make technical progress in the game, but some things have been lost. Go used to be not only a game but also a cultural activity, with a lot of aspects that are hard to define, but they were enriching to the players. Now it’s a sport, and it’s only about winning. Go is still played in Korean schools, as an extracurricular activity, and there are go clubs at most universities, but go may not be as popular as it was before.
Ranka: Besides competing, are you also teaching now?
Park: Yes, one of my friends runs a go school, and I teach there once a month. I play teaching games, I review games the students have played, and so on–whatever I’m asked to do.
Ranka: What does go mean to you?
Park: When I was young go was interesting, it was fun, and I was simply enjoying it. As I’ve gotten older it’s become more complex. Sometimes I feel confused about my own feelings about the game.
Ranka: Do you have a future goal?
Park: My performance lately has not been so good, so my short-term goal is to recover my previous performance level. I intend to train more.
Ranka: What has been your high point so far?
Park: Winning the Jeongganjang Cup in 2003, when it was a women’s individual championship. That was my first world championship.
Ranka: Do you remember the game you played against Yoda Norimoto in the first Toyota Denso Cup?
Park: Yes, I was still very young. I expected to lose, so I tried playing a territory-oriented game, which was unusual for me at the time. Surprisingly, it worked–I won, so I was very happy.
Ranka: Thank you.