Living and working in Korea

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I was invited to be a panelist at the Korea Symposium at the Hogeschool of Amsterdam. Since there were mostly students in the auditorium, curious about doing an intern in South Korea, I’ve elaborated a little bit about my time there, even though it’s almost four years ago already.

Getting started

At the time we were studying in Sweden, we were offered to pick an exchange study in another country. For me that was a chance to experience the culture of my wife, Suna. When we flew to Korea in the spring of 2008, I was excited to start studying at the Korean Development Institute (KDI). This university is known for both business and political studies. I still wonder if KDI expected two blonde Scandinavians or if they were okay with us flying over.

After the study, I was fortunate enough to extend my stay with an internship at ING Korea before I had to go back to Sweden.

Finding a job or internship

Some students showed some interest in finding a intern or job in the country. When walking around in Seoul a lot of people will inquire if you are a English teacher, as most foreigners are. If you really want to work there, don’t be picky. But frankly, if you have a skill which can work for big companies you have a bigger chance. It also helps to speak the language, although this is less of an issue in international companies. Be aware that you have to work longer hours and have less days off compared to Europe.

It’s recommended to study some Korean as there aren’t many company that would hire a non fluent speaker. There is a small chance at an international company but studying a little bit will help you tremendously. There is a school in Amsterdam which has a class every saturday where you can learn, visit their website for more information.

Culture

During my internship at ING I experienced a lot of interesting events. In a company of 500 locals, I was one of 10 foreigners. Unfortunately, this also caused some friction with some. One particular colleague wasn’t shy of showing discontent, all until we ended up talking friendly over soju (Korean liquor). He then spoke friendly to me about his feelings and we became great colleagues afterwards. I learned there and then that solving problems are easier in a beer-hof opposed to the work-floor. (A theory that I wasn’t able to bring to China afterwards)

I was really sad ending the internship at the time and threw a party for my dear colleagues.

Business clubs

Once established, my wife shook hands with a former president of Korea, I met the Dutch minister of foreign affairs at the time.
We made it a habit to network and visit business and political events. This also helped me find a job. For one, we joined the Dutch business club in Korea and joined them on many occasions. Since there weren’t a lot of Dutch people at the time (likely about 200), it was easy becoming close with most of them. We joined the club to the BA cigarette factory and to the DHL hub. They also organize a Dutch Orange ball event every year. There are many business groups these days, including the Amcham Korea.

Watch the full video here

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