Having been born and raised in the United States for my entire life, I was much more familiar with the “American” portion of my identity as a Korean-American. Korean politics and foreign affairs were things I had barely any exposure to. I applied to the Korea Institute’s ROK National Assembly Internship because I thought it would be a good way to learn about Korean politics and foreign affairs, and deepen my understanding of Korean culture.
At the National Assembly, I was an intern at the Committee of Foreign Affairs and Unification (committee focused on the unification of the Korean peninsula). The internship revolved around the United States Congress – Republic of Korea National Assembly Exchange Program, which the Committee of Foreign Affairs and Unification helps organize. I worked closely with a legislative researcher in the Committee of Foreign Affairs in organizing the program. The program occurs annually, selecting ten Korean and ten American young adults (delegates) who participate in a three-week excursion across the United States and South Korea. The mission of the program is to further the relationship between the two countries, and educate the delegates on the history, politics, economics, and culture of the United States and South Korea.
Before the program started, I met with the ten Korean delegates for a week and accompanied them as they got ready to depart for the States. We toured around multiple organizations like the Korea Foundation (KF) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Throughout the week I sat in on sessions where the delegates discussed the political system and history of the United States. Outside of the week-long preparation session, I helped the legislative researcher create the program booklet distributed to the twenty delegates, created a presentation about the National Assembly for the United States delegates once they arrived in Korea, and helped with translation work. During the time before the program was slated to start, I learned a lot of valuable information about the political state of South Korea, as well as the work that the Committee of Foreign Affairs and Unification does.
This information proved very helpful during the two weeks that the United States delegates were in South Korea. During the two weeks that the program occurred, I went along with the United States delegates and visited organizations like the National Pension Service, saw historical landmarks like Gyeongbokgung, and even went to the southern city of Gyeongju on an overnight trip. This two-week period was my favorite part of the internship, because I was able to see and learn first-hand about South Korean politics, history, and culture. A lot of places we visited made a profound impact on me—for instance, from visiting the DMZ and the War Memorial of Korea, I was able to clarify my understanding of North-South Korean relations and clear up any misconceptions I had about unification.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to intern at the National Assembly and to have learned so much. As someone who did not visit South Korea much while growing up and did not know much about South Korean culture or politics, this experience was invaluable.
Thank you to the Korea Institute for the support and opportunity to intern at the National Assembly this summer.