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Day 1 began with a visit to the Australian Embassy, easing our transition to Seoul and providing us with a thought-provoking insight into Australia-Korea relations and a framework to guide our experience as Australian Interns in Korea.

The Embassy is located in Jongno-gu, the city centre where all government offices, embassies, banks, art galleries and museums are located. Amidst the skyscrapers on a wide, long and traffic-ridden Jongno street, the district is surrounded by four palaces from the Joseon Dynasty: Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace, Changgyeong Palace and Unhyeon Palace and the green, mountainous terrain in the far distance provides a striking backdrop to the city.

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Jongno Street

Upon our arrival, the Embassy greeted us with a warm welcome and plenty of handy advice. We had the privilege to meet the Deputy Head of Mission to the Republic Of Korea, Mr Brendan Berne and within half an hour, we had gotten an impressive summary of Australian–Korean relations and their significance.

Mr Berne explained that trade, education and cultural initiatives were highlighted in Australia's Asia Century White Paper, and remained vital to an ongoing relationship embedded in a historical context as war allies, and in more contemporary times, trading partners. Particularly at a time where the two countries are working towards forming a strong alliance as two middle powers in the Asia- Pacific region, next week will see a highly anticipated "two plus two" meeting between the Australian and South Korean Foreign and Defense Ministers to further cement this relationship.

One thing that stood out for me was the Embassy's ongoing efforts to create a conscious image of what Korean culture is, somewhat lacking in the imaginations of Australians back home, and something that I can personally attest to. To know that our role as Interns helps in further exposing the array of opportunities for Australians in Korea really made me appreciate the value of the Australia-Korea Foundation Fellowship, and I'm excited to take away my own unique experience of Korea back home.

We also had the opportunity to meet Juhee Hong, a representative from the Education portfolio, who explained the complex tertiary education system of South Korea and the need to diversify the Korean student demography by bringing in a larger number of foreign students to study locally.

Further meetings with the Departments of Diplomacy and Media Relations gave us the opportunity to ask more questions and understand how we can contribute to these initiatives. We were grateful to the Embassy for imparting us with valuable information and support.

Following our meetings, we were invited to attend a Press Conference for Australian artist David Hart, whose exhibition will be held in Seoul in September. It was interesting to see how the Korean press interacted with the event’s aims to promote Australia-Korea relations through arts and culture. Though it was hard to understand everything that was said, we later found out that their questions revolved around Hart’s focus on Indigenous communities and how this correlated with contemporary Australia, which was certainly unexpected.

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Korean media at the David Hart Press Conference

Afterwards, we attended the monthly ‘Sundowners' event for Australian expats. Apart from Australian beer and meat pies, meeting so many Australians involved in a variety of exciting projects and achievements was an encouraging way to start our time in Seoul.

With the weekend coming up, hopefully I’ll get a chance to explore and discover the cultural quirks underlying this big city.

About the Blog

Parallax records the experiences of final year students of the B.A. (Media & Communications) degree who have won competitive overseas internships to work in Asian, Indian and Latin American media organisations.
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