How to Engage with Korea as an Australian in the Age of COVID-19

Are you looking to expand your network and participate in Korea-related opportunities in 2021? With Australia’s international borders looking to remain closed until later this year, the way Australians engage with Korea is likely to change. Students and professionals hoping to experience Korean business and study culture may need to refocus their attention domestically. The COVID-19 pandemic may have limited travel between Australia and Korea, but there still remains plenty of avenues for Korea-engagement within our own borders and beyond!

However, it can be overwhelming to know where to look first, so I’ve put together a list of resources and tips for those wanting to engage with Korea without leaving the confines of Australia.

Reaching out to professional and social networks:

The first step for anyone wanting to engage professionally and socially is to increase your network with groups aligned with your interests. Reaching-out, and establishing those links is key to building up your experience and leveraging any opportunities that come your way. Whether you’re looking for a job fair, casual Hoesik (회식/work drinks), or a public event, opportunities to meet people with similar Korea-interests occur year-round. Australia is home to a thriving Korean networking and language-exchange scene and in the current COVID-9 reality these Korea-engaged organizations have adapted well to the need to go virtual. This has in-turn increased the accessibility for people in regional cities and areas to participate.

AKYPA members supporting Chung Hyeon during the 2018 Australian Open

For example, The Australia Korea Young Professionals Association (AKYPA) is an organisational hub for people looking to connect professionally. With a professional development focus, the group aims to foster better understanding, knowledge and links between the two countries. However, the group regularly hold casual hoesiks, making it an excellent resource for developing connections through informal interactions.

Another Melbourne-based organisation that is important to have on your radar is the Australia Korea Business Council (AKBC), which is a private organisation dedicated to supporting bilateral trade and business. With close links to government, universities and industry leaders, the organisation is the premier source for Australian businesses wishing to tap into the Korean market. AKBC offers a more formal environment for active engagement. Throughout the year that was 2020, both AKYPA and AKBC have hosted numerous online networking and informational events, which has enabled the community in both Korea and Australia to stay connected and informed. Involvement to any degree with such organisations will allow you to further explore opportunities and networks within the Australia-Korea corridor.

If you’re after something a bit more socially-centred, then joining a Korean culture and language-exchange group could be more up your alley. Korean culture and language groups are based in several Australian state capitals and cities. A helpful resource for finding your local gathering is Several of these groups number in the thousands for members, so it’s a perfect opportunity to widen your international connections for when those borders finally start to open!

Australia based:

The Australia Korea Young Professionals Association (AKYPA) – AKYPA is a non-profit organisation, largely based in Melbourne. The group’s objective is to foster engagement and networking opportunities by connecting young professionals through Korea- related events and forums.

Australia Korea Business Council (AKBC) – The AKBC is the leading organisation committed to promoting further understanding between the Australian and Korean business community.

Australia Korea Business Council of WA (AKBCWA) -Based in Western Australia, the AKBCWA provides an avenue for social and business networking between the Korean and West Australian business communities.

Australia-Korea Foundation (AKF)- Established as an Australian government initiative in 1992, the AKF’s objective is to enhance mutual awareness of the importance of the Australia – Korea relationship.

Korea New Zealand Business Council (KNZBC) – New Zealand’s pre-eminent Korea-focused business organisation, the KNZBC is focused on helping to develop trade and commerce between the two countries.

Korea based:

Australian Chamber of Commerce (AustCham) in Korea – AustCham Korea is a membership-based organisation that aims to foster a vibrant Australia-Korea business community through networking, information-sharing, and representation. They organise a variety of offline (Seoul-based) and online events and initiatives.

Australia and New Zealand Association, Korea (ANZA, Korea) – ANZA Korea is a social organisation that provides networking opportunities and an information sharing platform for Australians and New Zealanders living in Korea.

Australia Global Alumni South Korea – If you’re a Korean who has has studied in Australia or vice versa, and wish to remain connected with like-minded people, this active LinkedIn account could be your tool for maintaining and building upon your experiences.

K-Aussie – K-Aussie is the older brother of the Australian Global Alumni South Korea, with links to the Australian Embassy in Seoul. The networking community continue to post advise and content for Koreans and Australians who have lived, studied or worked in their respective partner country.

Familiarize yourself with Australia – Korea government organisations:

I encourage anyone, wishing to explore volunteering opportunities to introduce themselves to their their local consulate. Cultural Affairs teams, work all-year round organising Korea-related content and events, and are always on the lookout for volunteers. My first introduction to Korea in Australia, was through an internship at the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Melbourne. During my time as an intern, I was able to gain professional experience in a Korean working environment. I left having made not only valuable connections but also friends. Establishing links and correspondence with your nearest consulate could also be your way of finding that dream scholarship to Korea. This includes, but is not limited to the Hamer Scholarship Program and the Global Korea Scholarship, formerly known as the Korean Government Scholarship Program.

There are usually several events running throughout the year including the Korean Film Festival and the Korea Week Festival in Melbourne. For interested in participating or following consulate-run events, head over to their Facebook pages. An active social media presence is maintained by the two consulates in Sydney and Melbourne and the embassy in Canberra, so you’ll be well-informed for any potential volunteering roles or events. As COVID-19 continues to create uncertainty in Australia and around the globe, the consulates are uncertain which events could run this year, or if they will again be pushed online. However, considering their passion for empowering an interest in Korean culture, there is every chance these roles and events will remain and adapt, and new opportunities introduced.

Korea Film Festival in Melbourne c. 2018

For a better glimpse into what it is like to volunteer at a Korean-run event head over to this previous Asia Options video story.

Australia Based:

Korean Cultural Centre in Australia -The Korean Cultural Centre act as a cultural ambassador and gateway to all things Korean and we invite you to be a part of its classes, art exhibitions, food festivals and Korean cultural contests.

Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) – The KTO has an office in Sydney which offers travel inspiration and events for Australians wishing to travel to South Korea.

Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) – The Korean Film Festival is annual events, showcasing the best of Korean cinema. The event are run by the Consulates and in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney, and the Embassy in Canberra. Organisers are always on the look-out for new Korean film enthusiasts hoping to volunteer.

KOTRA in Melbourne – A global job search assistance service to help Koreans overseas find employment via posting job opportunities in both Korea and Australia.

KOTRA in Sydney

Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Melbourne

Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Sydney

Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Canberra

Australian Embassy, Republic of Korea

Look towards Australian universities and language schools:

Throughout Australia, Korean Studies programs are available from seven Australian universities. Students can undertake Korean-related undergraduate subjects including Korean-language, politics, and culture, as well as Korean-focused research and an honours year. Extracurricular activities and clubs are also a major drawcard for students wanting to pursue social or learning opportunities within universities. For an in-depth review of Korea Studies programs available throughout Australia check out Asia Options’ Comprehensive Guide to Korean Studies in Australia

However, it is not only students who can benefit and learn from Australia’s Korean Studies programs. These departments routinely host public events and conferences which attract esteemed guests from both the academic and diplomatic sphere. In 2019, the University of Melbourne welcomed such engaging figures as Thae Yong-ho, the highest-ranking North Korean defector. In 2021, these types of academic events are likely to continue and grow. These university events are likely to remain a virtual affair. In saying this, with a little confidence and enthusiasm, online conferences and seminars can be an insightful way to learn and stay connected.

Monash Korea Studies

The University of Melbourne, Korean Studies Program

University of Western Australia Korea Studies

Australia National University , Korea Institute

The University Sydney, Department of Korea Studies

University of Queensland, Korean Studies Centre

Final tip….

Lastly, subscribing to every Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook account with anything to do with Korea in Australia is a must. Surround yourself with content and inspiration everyday. You never know when an event, volunteering, or scholastic opportunity will appear via these channels.

While there are many challenges ahead for Korea- engagement in Australia, opportunities for building-up your Korea experience remain – be it through study, volunteering or attending virtual public events. Stay connected, reach out and I’m sure when time allows those hoesik opportunities will only increase!

Classic Hoesik gags c. 2019

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Liz Mulqueeny

Liz has recently graduated with a Master in Public Policy and Management from he University of Melbourne. Having also completed a B.A. majoring in Asian Studies, she is passionate about empowering students to pursue academic interests in or about Asia. She is particularly drawn to the culture and politics of Korea and channeled her interest in the country into tutoring Korean Studies subjects at the University of Melbourne. During a mid-degree break, Liz studied the Korean language in Seoul as a Hamer Scholar, an opportunity she identifies as having solidified her enthusiasm and appreciation for Korea. In her everyday life, Liz works in migrant support at the Australian Red Cross.

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