Interning at the ROK National Assembly-Summer via the IOP Director's Internship-Summer 2011

October 11, 2011

2011 ROK National Assembly Intern, Kwon Yong Jin, on left, in KoreaI interned for the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Unification of the South Korean National Assembly this summer. The internship went far beyond my expectations, both in terms of the welcoming atmosphere and the work the staff gave me.

For the vast majority of the summer, I kept a 9~6 work schedule, with little overtime. Occasionally, I wanted to finish a project as quickly as possible, so I opted to stay later than six, but those were not the norm, and there was no expectation that I work past six.

The atmosphere at the Committee was a very exciting and comfortable one as well. The staff members all tried to include me in as many Committee events as possible (including hoesik- dinner with drinks with the staff) and made me feel very welcome. Also, whenever I asked the staff for help regarding a project, they would take time out of their busy schedule and help me.

As for the work, I split the summer into three phases. For the first three weeks, I checked over translation on international treaties to be presented for ratification and prepared budget resolution reports. The latter was the most interesting part of the internship, as I had the chance to look at the interaction between the legislative and executive branch of the South Korean government. With my background in economics and finance, I was tasked with evaluating the investment performance and risk management policies of the South-North Cooperation Fund (fund held by the Ministry of Unification and used for North Korean aid). I examined data and reports from Export-Import Bank of Korea (which manages the fund) and identified some problems with how the fund is being managed. My report, which outlines these problems, was incorporated into the overall budget resolution report for the Ministry of Unification distributed to the National Assembly members. After sending the budget resolution report to the Export-Import Bank, I talked to the staff at the Bank to get their feedback and adjust the report accordingly—dropping parts for which the Bank provided sufficient explanation—and this process showed me one side of how different government agencies work with each other.

After I finished the first draft of the report, I helped out with the US Congress-South Korean National Assembly Youth Exchange program for two weeks. The Exchange Program consists of the American Program (ten South Korean students touring various cities in US) and the South Korean Program (ten American students/Congressional interns touring Korea), and I mainly helped out with the South Korean Program. With a legislative researcher in charge of the South Korean Program, I accompanied the American delegation to various government agencies/cultural sites in Seoul, Gyeongju, and Busan, occasionally serving as tour guide and translator. Touring Korea with the American delegation allowed me to get a different perspective on Korean culture and daily life, and it was a lot of fun spending two weeks with the American delegation.

After I returned to the office, for the last few weeks of the internship, I took on a new project on the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement. The opposition Democratic Party put forward a list of ten provisions in the FTA that needs to be renegotiated, and my job was to synthesize the Democratic Party’s positions and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s responses to the Democratic Party, evaluating the merits of the two sides. This project helped me learn a lot about one of the most controversial topics in Korean politics and was a great way to finish an amazing internship.

To conclude, this internship gave me a chance to understand South Korean politics from an insider’s perspective and get hands-on experience working in government (writing a government report in Korean, experiencing work culture inside a government agency, etc.). I would highly recommend this internship, especially to those interested in public policy.

Kwon-Yong Jin, '12