While it may seem like an obvious advantage have youth on staff as interns at the Seoul Metropolitan Government Youth Center, this was far from the case when I was brought on as the first and only high school student intern. While this would not be my first government internship, this would be my first opportunity to make an impact at the municipal level. The fact that I would be the Program Manager Intern at a facility specifically designated for youth added fuel to my flame.
Some of my tasks Included:
• Creating and coordinating online and offline youth programs, including a counseling center and digital
platforms, that raised awareness of political issues and career opportunities among youth.
• Researching issues such as cybersecurity, parental pressure, and sexual harassment, to design a program
allowing youth to express their challenges and experiences to the government in a supportive environment.
As a Korean youth myself, I already had awareness of the Issues facing youth from my personal experiences and from those of my friends and peers. I also had some background knowledge of those issues and their affects based on personal research I had done on statistics and other government data. What was most illuminating about this role, however, was how it completed changed my idea of what "research" could be. In order to ensure that the Youth Center was creating programs that directly addressed pressing youth needs, we conducted focus groups and interviews with young Koreans like myself. Even though my friends and I discuss some of these issues to an extent, listening to others share in a setting that is specifically for that purpose opened my eyes more than I could have imagined.
This is the kind of qualitative research that I realize is just as necessary as what the numbers show as I continue to move towards a future in government work. Statistics are only one part of the story, and the story is best heard from the people.