2013/14 Media and Communications International Fellows
28 March 2014
Final year Media and Communications students, Kate Bolster and Robert North share their experiences working as interns in South Korea.
Early in 2014, I was fortunate enough to spend five weeks working as a media intern in South Korea at one of the country’s leading English-language newspapers, the Korea Herald. The internship was a joint effort by the Department of Media and Communications, who put in the hard yards establishing funding and making contact with the Herald, and the Australia-Korea Foundation who generously contributed $5000 towards my journey.
My first port of call should I need help with my workplaces, accommodation or even the odd bout of homesickness was the Australian Embassy.
Meeting with the Deputy Ambassador, Brendan Berne was probably the key moment of consolidation between my Korean and Australian worlds. His astounding knowledge of Korean history, politics and culture was impressive to the point of intimidation, and he pointed out the plethora of opportunities for young Australians to make inroads and expand the relationship between the two nations.
Conveniently located a hop, skip and jump away from the Embassy were the Korea Herald offices, where I spent the bulk of my time in Korea, clocking in 10 hour days for the duration of my internship. My first few days at the Herald are probably best described as a baptism by fire, and I don’t mind admitting that I struggled to settle in at the beginning, but once I found my feet I was able to hit the ground running.
The experience of previous Sydney University interns taught me that my work at the Korea Herald would largely be self-directed, so I did have a few stories up my sleeve to begin pitching straight away. To my delight, two of my initial pitches were accepted straight away, and overall I was lucky enough to have seven stories published.
It was an enormously interesting time to be working in the Korean media, with the Winter Olympics (Koreans love their speed track skating), the North-South reunions and the release of the U.N.’s Commission of Inquiry into North Korea.
One month on I can still hardly believe that I’m home, and am eager to continue my Korean odyssey by sharing my experience with my fellow Australians. Korea is so much more than K-pop and kimchi, and as one of our most important trading partners, Australians owe it to themselves to learn more about the Land of the Morning Calm. I am honoured to join the ranks of Australia-Korea Foundation fellows, and for anyone who is thinking of taking up the mantle in the future, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Over the summer break I spent four weeks interning at TBS eFM, a foreign language radio station in Seoul, South Korea. I worked on the breakfast news and current affairs program 'This Morning'.
This was my first solo trip overseas, and my first trip to Asia. I was simultaneously excited and nervous, and so thankful to have been given this opportunity by the Australia-Korea Foundation, who have been developing and promoting bilateral relations since 1992.
The station staff were so welcoming and supportive in the early days of the internship, and through observation and supervised practice I was able to get a good sense of how breakfast news radio works and operates in the real world. Later I was given considerable freedom to pursue stories that I felt would suit the program and its audience.
The internship was a fantastic opportunity to hone the skills I had acquired over the course of my degree, and a chance to see how academic theories related to real world practice.
My daily tasks and responsibilities included pitching potential segment ideas, sourcing and contacting interviewees, preparing scripts and interview questions, and managing social media.
To coincide with the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, I also appeared live on-air each and every day for the final two weeks of the internship to highlight and discuss the different disciplines and events, so that even those with no prior knowledge could enjoy the coverage.
Additionally I was encouraged to pursue my own stories - I produced three independently researched two-to-three minute news packages for the program.
The first of these was a field report about the annual traditional Korean celebration of the first full moon of the lunar calendar. This involved heading to celebrations, recording the ambient sounds, interviewing locals about the festivities, and mixing it all together with my own written and recorded script. The second concerned the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, and I was lucky enough to interview commission chair and former Justice of the High Court of Australia, The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG, alongside several other South Korean lobbyists and international academics. My final news package addressed media representations of a controversial baby-box in Seoul.
Outside of office hours I was able to immerse myself in Korean culture. This internship was definitely the highlight of my degree. The Department of Media and Communications, the Australia-Korea Foundation, and the Australian Embassy were all incredibly supportive, regularly checking in to make sure I was getting the most out of the experience both professionally and culturally, and they were always willing to discuss any problems or concerns.
I've kept in contact with the staff at the station, and continue to submit occasional reports for their international news segment.