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Seoul City foreign interns learn how capital tackles challenges

 Liu Lixiu has just finished her master’s in Korea, but didn’t go back to Singapore right away. She wanted to take the internship opportunity offered by the Seoul City Government.

Lixiu is now working at the Digital Medial City PR Division in Sangam-dong, western Seoul.

“Time for the internship is short. But this five-week program is more enriching than I thought, and I learned more than expected,” said Lixiu at a cultural event on Thursday. Her master’s program was at Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies.
Foreign interns try to make a traditional Korean bow during a Korean culture event at the Korea Tourism Organization, Thursday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
Foreign interns try to make a traditional Korean bow during a Korean culture event at the Korea Tourism Organization, Thursday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

She is one of the 42 students selected for the Global Internship Program of the Seoul City Government.

The program started in 2008 to give foreign students a chance to experience the city’s administration. It has selected foreign students in Seoul universities, but since 2010, graduate students from Indiana University have participated in the program. Among many Asian interns, the five Western students definitely stand out.

“It has been helpful and interesting to see a foreign government deal with many challenges in city administration,” said Dylan Ringle, working at the Information Planning Division of the city.

Having lived in Busan between 2006 and 2008 while teaching English, it is Ringle’s second visit to Korea. And this time he is involved in the city’s e-government.

For Tang Wen Qing, who speaks Korean fluently, this may be a chance for her to prepare herself to work in Korea after finishing the graduate course in hotel and tour management at Kyunghee University.

“I became interested in the field of conventions while studying at the school, and the internship opportunity has given me a real experience in managing conventions,” said Tang, currently working at the animation center of the city.

“I really enjoyed working for the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival last month. I worked with my team to open the event for the first two weeks of my internship,” said Tang.

The five-week internship has given some of them precious insights into the fields they want to work in after graduation.

“I am beginning to understand that PR is not just promotion, but it has something more to it,” said Lixiu who guides foreign visitors to Digital Media City.

“I also do research comparing Digital Media Center in Singapore with the one in Korea,” said Lixiu.

Since its launch in 2008, the biannual program has hosted 178 students from some 37 countries.

One of them, Pam Hoa, who interned in 2009, has started to work full time for the city government since July.

“Having interned in 2009 has led me to work at the city government,” said Hoa who works at the Seoul Global Center. “I applied for the position after I saw a recruitment notice of the center in May.

“As a foreigner, I hope I can contribute to Seoul city policies for foreigners here.”

This year, 42 students have been selected and placed in many divisions of the city government, including the Seoul Global Center, multicultural family center and tourism division.

Through the internship, Seoul not only hopes to nurture the students, but create a medium to let the world understand Seoul better and expand diplomatic networks for the future.

By Lee Woo-young (