VANK Korean Interns

Yeontaek Woo

Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

I am currently a freshman at Kyonggi University majoring in Environmental Engineering. I am particularly interested in automotive engineering and water supply and treatment.

How did you first get involved with VANK? How did you start interning at VANK?

I have now been involved in VANK for around four years. In high school, my homeroom teacher recommended that I start a VANK club at our school. I was interested because I thought it would look great on my resume. However, I slowly became very active and really involved in the organization. As an active member, I was given a chance to speak about my personal dreams at a VANK event. I said that my dream was to be a VANK intern (laughs). The staff picked up the hint and suggested that I intern over the summer.

Describe your previous involvement and experiences as a VANK member.

I began as the Club Leader of the VANK at my high school. I received recognition as a club leader and completed my training in nearly all of VANK’s education programs. I interned at the office last summer and am interning this summer as well. During the first summer I interned, Da-Hae (the other intern) and I wrote a VANK guidebook for all student club leaders. The guidebook is meant for student club leaders to use as a reference in starting VANK chapters, hosting events, obtaining resources, and all other useful information.
In high school, we met about eight times a year in order to host events like club booths, student surveys, awareness events, and video clip screenings. I spent about 30 hours a week contacting my pen pals through Facebook, Kakao, and email. I even met up with friends who visited Korea and I still contact some of them to this day.

What are your current duties as an intern?

I’ve been rewriting and updating school manual as needed. Additionally, VANK currently hosts eleven different schools for fields such as culture, digital diplomacy, history, etc. I’ve been analyzing the trends and patterns of the students involved and their reflection pieces. My other duties involve helping out at events and assisting in judging member assignment pieces.

What have you gained from your VANK experiences?

I initially started being involved in VANK purely to boost my resume. But VANK helped me find my dreams and I continued to be active in order to find my path, not just get into college.
VANK is more known for its activities with Dokdo and the East Sea, and it may seem as though there isn’t a large connection between environmental studies and VANK. However, global issues are a large component of VANK’s World Changer program. When I participated in the VANK and KOICA Global Village Leader Program, the core topic was United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and one of the assignments was about water deficiency. We learned about transforming disinterest to interest, interest to action, and finally, action to fulfillment. It was around the time that I needed to decide my major for college and I decided to look further into environmental engineering. I became hooked .

What are some of the most rewarding/proudest moments of your time with VANK?

There are several moments that come to mind. When I first heard Mr. Park speak about the importance of thinking beyond qualifications on your resume or your personal life in order to pursue a greater purpose for yourself and your country, I was really moved. I felt a strong sense of responsibility, especially in regards to contributing to correcting factual errors about Korea. It changes my whole perspective on life and sparked a passion in me.
The second moment was when I was finally given the chance to intern at VANK. It was amazing to be able to work with the same people who helped me find my dreams. There are also so many passionate children involved in VANK. They will sit at lectures and literally write down every single word. I feel like I am a role model for these children and I still get requests to do interviews or speak at events.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

This summer break, I’m currently involved in two different things: interning at VANK and participating in a project for UNEP Korea (United Nations Environment Programme). I want to complete both duties successfully.
In the long run, I would like to get involved in professional volunteering with KOICA in Africa. I’m very interested in environment and development through appropriate technology. I’ve also considered grad school or eventually working for the Public Health and Environment Research Institute of Korea. But, who knows, I’m still young (laughs).
I want to stay involved in VANK for as all as VANK is still in existence. I think I show a new aspect of VANK that isn’t usually seen. I want to prove to people that you can achieve your goals while improving Korea and the global community.

DaeMyeong (Michael) Choi 

Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

I am currently a high school senior at Yettrang Academy. I was also an assemblyman in the 5th Youth National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. This is currently my fourth time interning at VANK.

How did you start interning at VANK?

I was interested in history and began thinking about how I could become more active in pursuing my dream. My friends and I became VANK members because we agreed and felt connected with the organization’s mission and beliefs. I felt that it was a great community where young students could express their passions and feel empowered about making a difference. My experiences with VANK were so meaningful that I began interning for short periods of time. I started interning full-time in December because I wanted to really devote my time to VANK in an opportunity where I felt I could really learn and grow before college.

What are your duties as an intern?

My main project consists of contacting Korean Studies scholars and academics from around the world. I ask them for recommendations on research topics and ask for their perspectives on the research I’ve done on some relatively unknown topics. With the feedback from these scholars, I can get a clear understanding of how to approach certain topics as I continue with my research. The purpose of the project is partly for my own personal research but it is also in search of potential topics that may be worthy of sharing with the international community. All the scholars have agreed that history tends to have a western-centric bias since it has continuously been recorded by the victors. However, scholars differ in their methodology. Some believe that history should be interpreted at face value as it’s been recorded but others believe that it’s crucial to seek out the truth and its impact on the present. I personally believe that it’s very important to understand the truth behind historical events in order to understand its impact on people and any other resulting issues that must be addressed.

Is your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

This is my fourth time as an intern at VANK but it’s my first time interning full time. The organization has entrusted me with multiple responsibilities and freedoms. I’ve been given opportunities to make presentations and am encouraged to share my ideas. Overall, it’s been a great opportunity with very little pressure. What have you gained from your experience as an intern? I’ve been able to reflect about many issues that I was personally conflicted about. I wanted to study history but I always wondered what I could do personally do as a historian. I wondered why we were always required to follow the history of the victors. It’s been a time for me to grow and seek out my own answers. The best part is meeting the numerous VANK members and sharing our dreams for the future.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

I want to do well on my high school exam (laughs) and successfully complete all my projects here at VANK. In the long run, I want to learn multiple languages like French, Chinese, and Latin.

Ji Won Shin

Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

My name is Jiwon and I am 18 years old. I live in Gwangju, Gyeonggido.

What inspired you to get involved in VANK?

When I was in elementary school, I used to watch a lot of television trials and I thought about becoming a judge because I thought it was cool. However, I became interested in the issue of the Japanese government changing the labels on maps from Dokdo to Takeshima. I was interested in the process of how it was becoming a territorial dispute so I looked into the controversy and found out about VANK.

I knew about VANK for a while but I thought I couldn’t join until I paid the membership fee so I enrolled when I became a high school student.  I went through the education program as soon as I got the chance. I also participated in the joint event with KOICA and after I completed the World Changer education program, I started a VANK school club at my school in 11th grade.

How has your involvement in VANK changed you? 

I’ve definitely gained a larger perspective. Through VANK, particularly the World Changer program, I started thinking about and gaining interest in global issues like environmental issues and many other issues that people generally aren’t  aware of. Through the involvement in my school club, I was also given lots of opportunities to speak in front of large crowds. I used to be very nervous when talking in front of people but I am not able to express myself. My public speaking skills grew and I also learned how to interact well with others and big groups.

Most importantly, I learned the value of finding your dreams. Although others believed that I was involved in VANK as a resume-builder, I truly believed in the cause and was passionate about my activities. It became a bit stressful and competitive because career counselors would use me and new articles of me as examples of how to build your resume but I was purely interested in the movement.

How did you start interning at VANK?

I interned at VANK during January and February of 2012. I had always mentioned wanting to intern to the staff and one day, the timing worked out. President Park asked me to drop by the office and start right away.        

What were your duties as an intern?

I had always been interested in the issue of comfort women. I often participate in the Wednesday Strikes that take place in front of the Japanese Embassy. I used to volunteer at the House of Sharing, a home where comfort women live or meet together as a community. There, I would help clean, cook, and help around with the house while getting a chance to talk to the grandmothers and hear their stories. House of Sharing is very strict about who gets to meet the grandmothers. The grandmothers often struggle with having to relive difficult memories every time they share their stories. Additionally, they feel as they’ve sometimes become spectacles for curious visitors. They feel a certain pressure about having to live up to something or prove something when all they want is a closure and justice.

As an intern, I managed a social media project in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to raise awareness about the comfort women human rights issues. I also organized a flash mob in Gwanghwamun Square. Honestly, there are many Koreans who aren’t informed about the issue but that’s slowly changing.  Even international media and people in positions of power have picked up interest on the issue and the pressure for a formal apology has increased.

Was your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

The VANK office always had a great atmosphere and I just enjoyed the fact of just being there. I was slightly scared because for the first time, I had to have my own opinion and personal philosophy. I felt like I was growing up beyond my role as a student. Additionally people always say that nothing is ever as it seems but I didn’t feel that way about VANK at all. There were no pretentions, no fakeness. They were always great.

Describe your most meaningful experiences.

Through VANK, I’ve seen people change for the better. It’s fascinating but I’ve seen people without dreams become touched and motivated. Just the other day, my friend and I were completely depressed but the way that I talked about my own life was very different. She told me that she wished that she had something like VANK in her own life where she could gain encouragement and sense of purpose in difficult times.

One year, we had an international exchange program at our high school where several Japanese students attended our school. I learned that most Japanese people don’t care or don’t know about historical conflicts. It’s very much played up by the media and select politicians in Japan so it’s quite unfair to the rest of the Japanese population, especially those who are interested in Korea. It’s also unfortunate because the extremist statements and actions heavily impact our perspective here in Korea. In the end, I realized that we’re all just high school students with similar interests.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

I want to ace my exams and go to a school where I’ll be happy. I want to earn enough money where I can donate and give endlessly without worries. I want to give enough to make a difference and the change the world for the better. I want to always think beyond myself.

Hyunsoo (Marco) Kim

Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

I’m a sophomore majoring in International Studies at Kyung Hee University. I recently completed my military service in the Korean army this January. My hobbies include meeting new people and constantly learning new information.

How did you start interning at VANK?

After I returned from the army, I wanted to become more active in my passion for international history. A friend of mine mentioned VANK in one of our conversations so I looked into the organization. After some research, I came up with ideas on how I felt I could contribute and contacted VANK. However, when I asked them to meet with me, they turned me down (laughs). Afterwards, I went through the Cyber Diplomat process and began reflecting on how much I really knew about Korean history. I also thought about what I could offer VANK through the perspective as a student. I re-drafted a report on each of VANK’s websites and how I felt they could be improved. VANK contacted me and ask me to go ahead and take charge of fulfilling my suggested improvements.

What are your duties as an intern?

I’ve mainly been working on VANK’s YouTube channel. I felt that the titles of the videos clips were too vague and wasn’t drawing all of the potential viewership. I noticed that out of all of VANK’s educational clips, the ones with the most specific titles had the most view counts. I’ve been changing the names of some of the clips in order to see if that will increase viewership and improve visibility in related search functions. I also just recently started a PR project meant to attract interest for our educational Dokdo program.

Is your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

My only regret is that I’m unable to completely devote all my time and energy to my internship because of my responsibilities with school and schoolwork. I enjoy how much VANK trusts me to makes a positive contribution and that trust motivates to work even harder.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

I want to continue to provide my perspective as a student to VANK. And I want to keep doing my best and absorb as much knowledge and information as I can. For long term, I want to become a professional in this field and work as a bridge between different countries in the global community.

Jinseon (Selena) Kim

Please give me a brief introduction of yourself.
I’m Jinseon Kim (Selena), a rising senior at Cornell University. I have been studying in the states for seven years now. I’m a biology major with a nutrition minor. I’m planning to work for a bit at a biotech company (hopefully) before I eventually go to grad school, work on my Ph.D and continue research in the bio/molecular bio sectors of cancer research.

How did you start interning at VANK?
I found out about VANK in my sophomore year of high school. My mom saw information about VANK’s Gwangaeto project on the news encouraged me to apply for it. As a high school student in the states, I was aware of historical issues involving Dokdo and East Sea, and I thought it was a good opportunity to apply. After participating in the Gwangaeto project, I wanted to be more involved and became an official member of VANK. After the cyber training, I was more aware of lots of historical conflicts in Korea, and I wanted to contribute more. In the spring of my sophomore year, I contacted Mr. Gi Tae Park and asked him if I could intern for the summer. After a short interview in the beginning of summer, I became an intern. It lasted for about two months but I continued to help throughout the school year as well as some summers afterwards when my brother also became an intern.

What were your duties as an intern?
As an intern, I drafted a report on the various maps on internet that didn’t mark Dokdo or marked East Sea as Sea of Japan. I gathered more than 100 maps and organized them. I also translated various materials and documents from Korean to English.

What the internship just as you expected? Why or why not? 
What have you gained from your experience as an intern?
The experience was far better than expected. The staff was very nice and I learned so much more about the historical evidence that weaken many claims of the Japanese government. I also learned to think critically about how to solve this problem. It was my very first internship so I also got to experience working in a structured environment other than school. Finally, my translating skills improved a lot.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.
As a Korean who is most likely going to stay in the States even after college, I really wish people knew more about Korea and its culture. Although the situation has improved quite a bit, people still know East Sea as Sea of Japan and regard the issue over Dokdo as a minor, pointless fight. My goal is to somehow contribute to raising awareness about Korea in other countries and fix the trends distorted historical information that occur around the world.

-VANK Story 2013-