Intern gets behind the scenes insights
into S.Korean pop culture

Kate Small says she threw herself into the internship experience and didn’t “use the foreigner card” to excuse herself from fully participating in work life. She says the experience has strengthened her resolve to make South Korea part of her future.
Kate and a colleague posing in a cafe/bar

Kate: "Outside of work was definitely centred around eating - having team dinners with co-workers or other friends - as well as going to many cafes and the usual sightseeing."

As a lover of cold weather, I was more than happy to be skipping New Zealand’s hot summer and going straight into South Korea’s frigid winter for an internship at CJ Cultural Foundation.

CJ is a large conglomerate with branches in food, lifestyle, entertainment and more. The cultural side of the business focuses on supporting young artists in the music, film, and performing arts industries.

Getting the opportunity to start my career in South Korea with this internship is something I’ll always be very thankful for, considering how hard it is to get a job here that doesn’t revolve around English education.

My first couple of weeks were pretty slow - getting to know my co-workers and fellow interns, as well as the culture of office. While I was already very aware of how different from New Zealand the working culture in South Korea is, it’s definitely something you never truly understand till you get first-hand experience.

It took a while to get used to - the strong hierarchy system, cultural etiquette, company dinners, an office TV that at 9am every morning plays the company song alongside some morning stretches that everyone ignores.

I speak enough Korean to get by in the office without needing to use much English, and I’m sure my experience would have been much different if I didn’t speak any Korean at all.

It also would have been a very comfortable, but unproductive experience, if I didn’t make an effort to adapt to the working culture, or just played the foreigner card whenever it got hard. Because of the effort I made, I’ve been able to increase my Korean language ability, gain a new perspectives, develop stronger connections with people, and have a more productive internship.

People on a set with a video monitor in the foreground

The making of a music video was just one of the interesting things Kate got to see through her internship with CJ Cultural Foundation

While I spent some weeks sitting at my desk doing research, editing, or other jobs, I also got plenty of opportunity to get out of the office and help out or just observe at some of the amazing events and experiences that CJ Cultural Foundation organises. These included filming for a music video, monthly concerts, visiting film stunt schools and demolition special effects, and much more.

These events were exciting and made for some amazing experiences, but my research projects were equally exciting and provided for some great learning experiences as well as a future career path.

My first research project focused on the development of CJ Cultural Foundation’s YouTube channel (CJ Azit Live), while my second was on prospective collaboration opportunities between CJ Cultural Foundation’s film branch and New Zealand’s own Weta Workshop, which included being able to make some amazing connections and even meeting Sir Richard Taylor himself.

A band playing on a set

A band warming up in preparation for filming their music video

Life outside of work was definitely centred around eating - having team dinners with co-workers or other friends - as well as going to many cafes and the usual sightseeing. Being in a city so much bigger than Auckland is amazing because even just walking around the neighbourhood there's always new things to see and do. 

On a more career/academic level, South Korea's geographic location and history is also something that I love about living there. Being so close to China, Japan, Russia and, of course, North Korea, means international studies becomes a lot more relevant and local.  

The experience of living and interning in South Korea will not only help me with my career but has really secured my goals and future plans. I’m hoping to be back in South Korea for my master’s degree in August this year.