Over the summer, I interned for the Committee of Foreign Affairs and Unification of the South Korean National Assembly. As a Korean American student interested in law and in international relationship, I looked forward to gaining a fruitful experience to observe the legislative process and the diplomatic and political complexity in the National Assembly.
The main responsibility that I undertook during my time at the committee was assisting my supervisor in organizing the Youth Exchange Program between the National Assembly and the US Congress. Starting my first day, I accompanied with ten Korean delegates in their preparation session in Korea a week before their departure to Washington D.C. This involved attending presentations at various organizations like KOICA and KF, and participating in discussion on the researches that the delegates have written on American legislative and political system. Afterwards, I helped my supervisor in preparing and organizing the schedule for the American delegation for two weeks. I proofread the program book and updated the schedule with new events. Once the American delegation arrived, I accompanied them for two weeks as well. I translated to coordinate a smooth communication between my supervisor and the delegates. Besides, I carried out simultaneous translations at some of the official meetings since not every offices or organizations we visited had a translator. The last weeks involved reading over the English translation of the legal documents and contracts that the committee was reviewing.
I especially enjoyed time with the delegations because it gave me an opportunity to experience broader aspects of South Korea. While visiting the ministries, I was given a detailed presentation of President Moon Jae In’s official unification plans and the nation’s histories and strategies with various East Asian countries like Japan, China and Russia. The trip to Pyeongchang and Gangneung included both cultural and political elements, balancing the exciting activities, such as visiting the 2018 Winter Olympic sites at Pyeongchang, with more serious meetings, like meeting with the Deputy Mayor and the members of the City Council of Gangneung. Personally, I was fascinated by the members’ specific plans to create a sustainable plan for developing Gangneung after the Olympics. Furthermore, I was able to contemplate on the struggles of the North Korean defectors settling in South Korea, and the North-South Korean relationship while visiting the DMZ.
I am greatly thankful for this internship experience since my main interest in this internship was to refocus my attention on developing my Korean identity. I was born and raised in South Korea before moving to New Jersey when I was in fifth grade. As a young ten year old, I picked up English, and busied myself to filled in the ten year gap that I missed. Turning twenty in my sophomore year, I realize that I have grown distant to my Korean identity. I found the news on Sewol ferry and the candle light vigil disconnected from me, and realized that I had no understanding of the political background and foundation that led to such a symbolic event in Korea. I wanted to develop my younger Korean identity that stopped growing at ten, and reconnect with my faded origin back in South Korea. In this aspect, I am especially thankful for the opportunity to participate in such a meaningful and fruitful time. It enabled me to contemplate on the pressing issues for the South Korean government, and to form my opinion on the current social issues significant especially for the Korean students at my age. Importantly, I started to really value my multicultural background and bilingual ability that often time confused and troubled me.
I also want to thank the committee members who provided a hospital welcome and introduction to the committee. I sincerely thank the Korean Institute for this opportunity for allowing me this opportunity.