S. Korean internship
the perfect fit for jazz student

As a fifth-year student majoring in law and music at Auckland University, the opportunity to intern with South Korean entertainment company CJ Cultural Foundation felt like the perfect fit for Karen Hu. During her internship, Karen interviewed musicians around the world to gauge the impact Covid-19 has had on them and the wider music industry.
Karen working at her laptop

Karen: "...it was been eye-opening to delve into the workings of the global industry through research and interviews."

Just a few months ago, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I would be interning for an organisation located halfway across the world called the CJ Cultural Foundation that has supported some of the artists and musicians I admire most.

For a bit of background, CJ Cultural Foundation is a part of the South Korean conglomerate CJ Group. As one of the CJ Group’s corporate social responsibility initiatives, the Foundation supports emerging artists in Korea across music, film and performing arts.

Some of its programmes include Tune Up, which supports musicians through the process of recording music, releasing albums and running concerts, and the AZIT Live YouTube channel.

It also runs the CJ Music Scholarship, which helps fund study for young Korean musicians at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston Massachusetts.

I am a student at the University of Auckland, about to head into my fifth year of studies in law and music, majoring in jazz performance. When I first stumbled upon the CJ internship, I knew I had to apply — it seemed to be a perfect fit for my interests.

My main task at CJ was to conduct research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the music industry and to reach out to relevant industry professionals to get in-depth comments.

Ultimately, the research will culminate in a report to offer solutions to help the industry move forward from the pandemic.

As a musician, I’ve been involved in the live performance side of the New Zealand music industry, but it was eye-opening to delve into the workings of the global industry through research and interviews.

I’ve found it particularly interesting to get in touch with jazz students and musicians to hear about their experiences and projects throughout the course of the pandemic.

Karen and a fellow intern on a online chat with a colleague

Having conducted so much of her life remotely over the past year, Karen found doing the internship online easier than she expected

I do have to admit that the idea of a completely online internship seemed a bit daunting at first. However, given that we were accustomed to using Zoom for university lectures already, we settled into the routine of weekly catchups and calls fairly smoothly.

Navigating the different time zones was much less of a challenge than I initially thought it would be, as we were able to communicate with each other frequently outside of Zoom calls through WhatsApp.

Most of the work was done independently, but I felt well supported throughout the internship. Furthermore, working remotely also meant I was able to continue with most of my commitments over the summer, including a North Island tour in January with my band FRED and a session in the recording studio.

Despite the online format of the internship, my fellow intern, Karen Falloon, and I were provided with many valuable insights into Korean culture thanks to the efforts of the Asia New Zealand Foundation and the CJ Cultural Foundation.

We were introduced to Foundation Leadership Network member Onnuri Lee for a cultural competency training session where he answered all our questions about work and life in South Korea and I expanded my very basic knowledge of Korean language through an online language course.

Our supervisor also gave us a briefing about the current state of affairs in the South Korean industry and introduced us to the stunning facilities run by the CJ Cultural Foundation through presentations over Zoom.

If anything, the experience made me even more eager to travel there — for work or leisure — as soon as the situation allows for it.

I hope this internship will only be the beginning of my involvement with Asia. It has introduced me to many opportunities I wasn’t formerly aware of and helped foster connections with people in the arts industry, not only in South Korea but elsewhere in Asia.