When it comes to recent influences on a global scale, few have taken over the world such as South Korea. The recent “Korean wave” has taken the world by storm. K-drama, K-pop and Korean films have started to become more mainstream and are watched by audiences all over the world.
The Korean wave has therefore helped elevate the profile of the country as many have become curious about South Korea. This phenomenon has therefore made it extremely popular and attractive for young people to pursue an internship in South Korea, Seoul in particular.
South Korea is one of the four Asian Tigers, a group of countries that have experienced tremendous economic growth in the last half a century. Due to its rapid growth, an internship in Seoul has provided numerous opportunities in a variety of sectors that make it an attractive place to do your internship at.
From its ever-impressive information technology industry, and stunning architecture to its fine cuisine, a Seoul internship is one that will be extremely rewarding.
So let’s explore why you need to do a Seoul internship!
Situated strategically along the Han River, Seoul is the capital city of South Korea and also its largest metropolis. A fun fact is that it is the fourth largest metropolitan economy. Home to nearly 10 million people, Seoul is the centre of finance and business in the country. Some of the world’s largest 500 companies have made Seoul their home and it is also where the national stock exchange is located.
Doing a Seoul internship will allow you to enjoy the highest speed broadband internet in the world. Seoul has been called the “world’s most wired city” as a result of its booming IT industry. The city boasts technologically advanced infrastructure and numerous technology companies. It is also home to global manufacturing companies such as Samsung, LG, Kia and countless others.
Due to its vast size, there is so much to do in the capital. If museums are your “thing” then we highly recommend you visit the popular National Museum of Korea. This museum has a collection of about 220,000 artefacts. The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is another good shout!
Other worthy landmarks and places to visit include the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Design Plaza, the War Memorial, Namsan Park, Seoul Olympic tower and countless others. There really is a lot to do in the capital so make a bucket list of all the places you want to visit!
When you do an internship in Seoul you also get to enjoy the city’s unique lifestyle. The city is known for its vibrant and bustling atmosphere and there is something for everyone in Seoul. From its out-of-this-world shopping experience, outdoor activities and sports to its buzzing nightlife and entertainment scene, you will not get bored of this amazing city!
In order to qualify for a Seoul internship, there are a few requirements you have to meet. Firstly, you have to of course meet the visa requirement because, without it, you cannot enter the country. A common visa to apply for is the Work holiday visa, which allows students to do an internship in the country. However, only certain nationalities can apply for this visa so we highly suggest you check if you are eligible for it!
To do an internship in Seoul it is best if you are a university or graduate student. Internships are often a requirement for university degrees and this can make the visa application easier too.
It is also expected that you have proficiency in English (business level) in order to do a Seoul internship. A positive working attitude, cultural openness and minimal supervision are highly appreciated. If you speak a little Korean this is a benefit as well but most companies do not expect this from you when you intern there. Brush up your research skills and Microsoft office proficiency too, this will get you far!
In terms of expectations, the Korean workplace and environment are unique in themselves, which we will explain further in the next section. As mentioned before, a positive attitude and cultural openness are highly appreciated and it will make it easier for you to adapt to the work culture.
To familiarise ourselves with what it is like to work in South Korea, we must explore what the work environment and culture are like.
In the workplace, you can expect a well-defined office hierarchy. That is that your age and status will determine the office hierarchy. It is expected that the individual of lower status must bow first to the higher authority. This is expected in the workplace but it is also a norm used in everyday life. This stems deep in Korean culture.
If you are a newbie especially, it can be particularly difficult in the workplace. Unfortunately, newbies are expected to respect the hierarchy and are treated differently in comparison to other colleagues. Not necessarily for the better, but that is unfortunately the reality is that their opinion does not hold much value and is often disregarded by senior members.
Regarding the language, Korean tends to be the primary language but some multinational companies use primarily a mix of Korean, English and other languages. So when you do your Seoul internship, do not worry as they will not expect you to speak Korean although it is welcomed! Regarding holidays, there are 14 days of public holidays in South Korea.
Most workplaces tend to follow the standard 9 to 6 however it is common that many work overtime. This is because it is genuinely frowned upon if you leave the office before your boss. The worst part is that you do not get any compensation for working overtime.
Despite the fact that Korean work environments give a strict impression, most companies try to treat each co-worker as if they are family members. That is to build a tightly knit family type of relationship and it is common for companies to have group dinners, go out for drinks and if you are lucky enough a karaoke session.
When it comes to business etiquette, it is important and seen as a token of respect that businessmen bow and shake hands with one another while maintaining eye contact. An exchange of business cards is followed, presented and received usually with two hands. Companies expect a business contract to be done by the highest authority and it is seen as disrespectful if it is conducted by anyone less.
When you choose to do an internship in Seoul, you are choosing to do an internship in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Due to its vast size, there are so many different neighbourhoods in the capital, each offering a unique glimpse of the city.
Are you a shopaholic? Then you have to stay in Myeongdong. This neighbourhood is the most central and not only will you have access to Seoul's shopping district, and exotic street food. If you are more into nightlife and the food scene, then consider finding accommodation in the vibrant and trendy neighbourhood of Hongdae.
If you are not on a budget and what to experience the “Beverly Hills” of South Korea then you should definitely stay in the Gangnam area. This is where the rich live in the city and you will notice that being surrounded by fancy restaurants and luxury designer shops.
Other worthy mentions include Insadong renowned for its food and culture, Itaewon for its convenience and nightlife as well as Jamsil for its entertainment and culture.
If you want to travel back in time or get the full Korean experience that will contribute to immersing yourself in Seoul, then we highly recommend staying in a Hanok. A hanok is a traditional Korean house that was first designed and built all the way back in the 14th century. To this day they continue to be an integral part of Korean culture and staying in one will definitely make your experience feel more authentic!
If you do decide to do an internship whether through an agency or yourself you want to make sure of the following:
With the pandemic pretty much over, a Seoul internship has become more accessible thanks to the Korean government reducing the restrictions on entering the country. As of 31 August 2022, there is quarantine-free travel to Korea for all travellers regardless of vaccination status. From 3 September 2022, all travellers entering Korea are exempted from presenting a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test.
Next on your to-do list to do your internship in Seoul, you must apply for K-ETA or a visa. Once you have sorted this out you have to register for Q-Code, a system that is used to shorten the time for quarantine inspection and ease the entry process for overseas entrants.
Lastly, all travellers must take an on-arrival PCR test within 1 day of arrival. These can be pre-booked online and can be taken at Incheon Airport, Gimhae Airport and Jeju Airport. It is recommended that travellers remain in their accommodations until they receive a negative PCR test result. Only if the on-arrival test shows a positive result, then a seven day quarantine is required.
Note: All information is subject to change and we advise you to closely follow the rules and regulations as provided by the Korean Embassies and consulates.
So there you have it! All the reasons why you need to do an internship in Seoul. If you are looking to do an internship in Seoul, then let us help you! AIP helps place students in various different industries in South Korea. Start by visiting our website and applying today!