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Monday marked the official start of my month-long fellowship with The Korea Herald. But before I dive into exposing top-level secrets and helping to bring down powerful, corrupt figures (just a bit of bantering here to help with de-stressing before the first day), I must first navigate my way through the maze that is the Seoul Metro.

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The network map of Seoul Metro (Aaron Yip)

The Seoul Metro is a complex, interlinked web of stunning human achievement. But despite studying the network map multiple times the night before, reality strayed from theory. A tsunami of peak hour crowd on auto-pilot mode, darting around a tight space and confusing direction signs (admittedly they are rather clear once you become familiar with it) was the perfect recipe for panicking and getting lost. I waited on the wrong platform for a good five minutes before realising my mistake. I paced up and down several flights of stairs to the correct concourse, at this point worried about committing the cardinal sin of being late on the first day of work. Luckily, services in Seoul run every three minutes during peak hour (looking slyly at Sydney Trains). This efficiency combined with a half-jog, half-walk had me at the office at 8:54.

Six minutes to spare. Perfect timing.

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This is it. The office of The Korea Herald. (Aaron Yip)

The English edition team is based on the ground floor. There are four small clusters of desks – each occupied by staff of a different section of the paper – in an open plan office space bathed in a clinical, white light. My supervisor, Paul Kerry – the chief copyeditor, soon appeared from the start-of-week editors meeting. Quick greetings and pleasantries were exchanged and then real work began.

There was no time to waste. I presented the news pitches that Paul had asked me to prepare beforehand. A sense of unease swept over me as he sat silently listening. This fellowship is my first experience working for a professional publication. But the overthinking and worry about quality were unjustified, because replicating the style of pitches I did in MECO courses such as Advanced Media Writing and Online Media were sufficient for him to get a fair judgement of whether to go ahead.

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Comments from my supervisor on the pitches (Aaron Yip)

Three pitches out of ten were approved. The remaining stories weren’t necessarily bad, but I underestimated the language barrier – whether it be finding interview subjects who speak proficient English or accessing materials that often don’t have English translations. I naively and incorrectly assumed that English is well-circulated in the city given its international status and strong emphasis on learning English in the country’s education system (there are English tuition advertisements everywhere).

The rest of the working week flew by quickly. I was either researching and formulating more pitches or contacting interview candidates for the accepted news stories (I discovered KakaoTalk is the preferred communication app in Korea. Colleagues in the office use it for internal communication and you get much quicker replies using this app than with email - a lesson I learnt after waiting two days in growing despair, willing emails to appear in my inbox).

I signed off the first week with the publication of my first story! It was a preview of an upcoming musical film festival. The piece was relatively straightforward, but it still brought immense sense of achievement and joy (my mum asked for a copy of that day’s paper. I kept two copies for her). The adrenaline of seeing my own work being published will fuel my appetite to produce more quality stories.

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First of many more articles to come (Aaron Yip)

For those who are worried that working at The Korea Herald is basically just hunching over a laptop - there’s also another side – conversation with the amazing staff who have incredible stories to tell, exploring restaurants in the nearby neighbourhood, and so much more.

But let’s leave stories from that part of work for next week, because teahouses in Insadong and buskers in Yeouido Hangang Park are waiting for me.

So long for now. Till next week.

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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