Franklin Lee, '15, Intern at the ROK National Assembly in Seoul, Korea-Summer 2014

September 4, 2014
Franklin Lee

My internship at the National Assembly in South Korea this summer has been no doubt one of the most memorable experiences in my life. For a long time, I had interest in comparative government and legislative procedures at international scales and so I was naturally drawn to the prospect of seeing the Korean legislative body firsthand. Believe it or not, my internship site provided me with much more!

At the National Assembly I was able to sit in during various committee sessions in the National Assembly organized by the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee. My internship helped me better understand some of the most current political issues happening not only in South Korea but also China, Japan, US, and North Korea. The time I spent in the committee hearings gave me a better idea of the most pressing issues in South Korea in relation to some of the political happenings within the globe. However, the most valuable experience that I have been having at the National Assembly has been helping my supervisor prepare for the annual US Congress- South Korean National Assembly Congressional Youth Program. This program selects ten Korean and another ten American delegates selected by Congressmen or National Assembly members as a way to experience both the US and South Korean government and culture. As assistant program director, I helped create the program itinerary, supervised their activities, and had various translating sessions. With the group, I was able to visit Jeonju, Pyeontaek, Gunsan, as well as various places within Seoul known for either its political, cultural, or economic significance.

My work for the youth program was mainly valuable for the significant and lasting relationships I made with the people I met. Apart from the 20 students and the two supervisors within the program, I was able to meet wonderful people who were both inspiring and resourceful through the trips that we made according to our itinerary. For example, I had the chance to personally talk to an employee of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) a governmentally sponsored organization that focuses to provide global service and volunteer work at international scales. During my visit the North-South Korea Entrance Office near the DMZ line the civil workers from the Foreign Affair and Unification and my supervisor kindly updated me on the latest news on North-South Korean conflict. Everyone I met was so kind, smart, and resourceful and I cannot thank those who made me experience working for the National Assembly so invaluable and worthwhile.

As such, I am so thankful for the support that I have received financially and emotionally from the Korea Institute and other sponsors for my internship program. While I was born and raised within the states, my upbringing in Koreatown, Los Angeles and the fact that neither of my parents spoke English well helped me maintain my Korean fluency and other cultural remnants within my daily life. However, I nonetheless had very few opportunities to visit my parents' homeland; I visited South Korea for the first time last year through another winter program. With the support from the Korea Institute I have been able to utilize my summer in the most productive, fun, and memorable way possible. I learned how fortunate I was to maintain my mother tongue as I was able to communicate with people with a very different culture and state of mind than people in the state and see various landmarks and sceneries that I had never seen before. Most importantly, I realized that my background and experience as a Korean-American could help me become an influential global leader finding creative modes of efficient and peaceful communication between countries around the world.

Today I hope to work for the International Court of Justice (ICJ). I feel certain that my experience at the National Assembly has made it a bit easier to achieve my goal, as it helped extend my knowledge in international affairs and global politics. At the near center of East Asia, South Korea is no doubt a country with a huge international role. Especially since the beginning of the 21st century, South Korea is often noted for its rapid economic development since the Korea War and its consistent social and political developments. At the same time, South Korea maintains various conflicts including its tension with North Korea, political disputes against Japan, and its intricate relationship between China-US relations. As South Korea is broadening its political influence and relations with other countries worldwide, I was able to experience a much more international experience in the National Assembly than one would normally expect. As such, I feel that my experience at the National Assembly has equipped me to think more critically about such problems in order to try and solve them. Although difficult, I believe that my growing role in the international sphere and the step I am taking to try and reach my goal can make it that much easier to realize a future brighter than the one we are currently living.