Summer Internship at Liberty in North Korea



By 전서영

For a while, I was hesitant about sharing my summer internship story. The reason being was that my internship seemed to have nothing to do with translation, interpretation, or localization management. So why spend the time and energy in spilling out the beans? That was my attitude going into this particular internship—such sass, no? Luckily, the negativity did not last long.

To give you a bit of background, let me explain where my negative attitude stemmed from. Prior to my time at MIIS, I’ve studied film and worked in the film and media industry. I took on the risky adventure to come to MIIS and learn something completely brand new: a world called the meticulous art and science of language translation. Right around when internship applications began to roll in and out, I promised myself that I would land a translation and/or localization internship to make sure that I have something under my belt outside of school that pertains to my current studies.

Lo and behold, I got rejected by all the translation and localization internships. I ended up getting a videography internship at an NGO in Southern California. I felt like taking a step backwards. I sighed heavily at the thought of yet another media credit on my resume. I committed to the internship anyway. An experience is an experience, I thought.

(With the 2017 summer intern class)


Turned out it was the best decision I made. Liberty in North Korea is an NGO in a league of its own. Serving for the betterment of the North Korean people’s lives, LiNK is changing the international narrative about North Korea to focus on people over politics. LiNK is also rescuing countless North Korean refugees from China across a 3,000 mile journey into Southeast Asia, while assisting them to resettle successfully in either the United States or South Korea. Bottom line, LiNK is a game changer.

As soon as I walked in those doors to the LiNK office, I was instantaneously drawn to the incredible staff and the friendly environment they had built for us. Our entire intern class became one of my closest group of friends and partners in crime. And it was only the beginning.

I had the chance to film and edit videos for LiNK’s website and social media presence, sharing our stories and, of course, those of our North Korean friends. It was certainly a privilege and an honor to hear and share their stories as well as the progress of our own work. In fact, our class was extremely lucky enough to meet as many as eight North Korean friends over the course of our internship. Hearing their stories firsthand was an invaluable experience. It inspired us to work harder for our end goal: to empower and stand alongside the North Korean people.

Personally, I was extremely fortunate in that I actually ended up working on not only film work but also translation, interpretation, and translation management work. And to think that I was skeptical about this internship because it did not pertain to my current major—yikes, that would have been a heavy blow on my part. You just need to stay open-minded because you seriously never know what hand you’re going to get dealt next. While filming and editing, I also managed the translation process for our hours-long interviews of North Korean refugees with translators at HQ and over at the Seoul office; I translated a short film screenplay as a part of LiNK’s new project with some creative liberty; and I interpreted for our North Korean friends while they were sharing their life journey to some of our non-Korean speakers. Essentially, I accomplished everything I wanted to do over this summer.

LiNK gave me two major lessons: 1) be open-minded and work hard in the circumstances thrown at you—you never know how you’ll find something new to be grateful for; 2) it is possible to work with like-minded and passionate people who truly care about their work, so it’s okay to dream about that ideal work environment—it’s definitely out there. Suffice it to say, LiNK has definitely spoiled me with its great people and great work. But boy, I would have missed out on so much if I did not take on this internship.


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