A Glimpse of Working Life in KBS South Korea

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The iconic façade of KBS Headquarter in Yeouido, Seoul.

This month, our columnist (Alvin), shares his experience of working part-time at the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) World Radio Indonesia. Have you ever wondered how to get a part-time job while studying abroad, especially in South Korea? Then, this article is for you! Check it out! 

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It was started during the first semester of my study at the Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University, Republic of Korea.

There was an announcement that the Indonesian Language Service in Korean Broadcasting System World Radio (KBS World Radio) is looking for their new part-time student workers in several positions. These are including the Assistant News Editor and the Broadcasters positions.

As a former TV journalist with several years of experience in Indonesia, this opportunity quickly glazed my radar. It would be a huge opportunity to “continue” your career abroad along with your study. Especially in Korea, when you need adequate Korean language proficiency to have odds of doing part-time jobs during the study.

KBS World Radio is one of the KBS’ main branches specializing in providing news updates and Korea’s cultural program for a broad range of audiences worldwide.

It was already airing since 1953, started from its English language service. And currently, the services are available in eleven languages: Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Russian, German, French, Spanish, and Bahasa Indonesia.

KBS is entirely equivalent to TVRI and RRI in Indonesia, but it is managed under one roof. KBS is also a state-owned broadcasting company, with the Director and Boards directly appointed by the President of Korea under supervisory of Korea’s National Assembly.

After we passed the working test and interviews, we will be offered a contract that must be signed by several parties mentioned below.
After we passed the working test and interviews, we will be offered a contract that must be signed by several parties mentioned below.

How To Get A Part Time Job Opportunity in Korea?

As already mentioned above, looking for a part-time job in Korea is not that easy for the students. The first reason, the vacancy is not always there. Then the competition is quite fierce.

Secondly, preferably, you should have an adequate Korean language proficiency. So it would ensure that the language barrier will not be a hindrance for you to communicate properly in the workplace.

Thirdly, we need permission from our academic advisor, the office of international affairs on campus, scholarship provider (if any), and the part-time working permit from the Korean Immigration. The first three mentioned are always concerned about the effects from our side hustling to our academic performance at the campus.

Suppose you already have a well-equipped scholarship to fulfill the monthly living cost. In that case, the scholarship providers are supposed to oppose this part-time working idea.

But of course, it would be a loose exception for those who really need financial aids. Or those who got part-time work in a place that really suits the previous career or future career, as in the internship arrangement.

The permit from the Korean Immigration is also challenging, in the definition that the paperwork should be well-arranged and fully-completed. Actually, it is a good thing since the immigration can check whether our employer has a good track record on employing part-time working students. Scamming is not impossible for part-time working in Korea, especially when we lack Korean proficiency to check and recheck the contracts and other documents. Hence, it would be one of the best help that we can get. The immigrations will check whether our working time and hourly wages are reasonable or not, and whether it will be burdensome on affecting our study or not.

Situation during the recording in one of the KBS World Radio’s studio.
Situation during the recording in one of the KBS World Radio’s studio.

Part-Time Working Selection Process: The Personal Experience

Luckily for me, KBS World Radio Indonesia does not require me to have Korean proficiency. I am lucky because I am still far from fluent in my first-semester study.

Maybe it was my CV that helps me in getting this opportunity. Seven years working as a news reporter and producer is more than enough to be employed (again) in the newsroom. Especially when the language used in KBS World Radio Indonesia is, of course, Bahasa Indonesia.

Furthermore, every Program Director (PD) in the workplace has excellent fluency in Bahasa Indonesia. They were trained in the Indonesia’s campus and broadcasting company before they are back to the Seoul office.

When I was called for the interview in the KBS Headquarter in Yeouido, Central Seoul, it was actually not like an interview. It was a test.

I was assigned to editing the news in Bahasa Indonesia and translating a story from English to Bahasa Indonesia.  Of course, it was so smooth for me since it was a daily routine during my years in the newsroom in Jakarta.

Also, when I auditioned as a broadcaster through the voice test, it did not meet any difficulties. Since it was also my routines as voice over dubber back for television news.

And yes, finally, I got accepted as part of KBS World Radio Indonesia’s family. In the end, my previous working experience helped me that much to have an opportunity for working abroad.

The homepage of KBS World Radio Indonesia Website.
The homepage of KBS World Radio Indonesia Website.

KBS World Radio Indonesia: The Program

In KBS World Radio Indonesia, I was assigned as Assistant News Editor and Newscaster for the daily program “Warta Berita” (News Journal). This role was maintained under the substitution basis. I just only need to come to the office when the full-time editor is in the middle of ill or taking leave.

After a month, I was also offered a Broadcaster role for another daily show called “Annyeonghasimnikka, Inilah Seoul!” (Hello, This is Seoul). This program is quite unique since it was treated as a really light news feature program. Then, we can run a wide variety of contents from hard news, soft news to entertainment news.

In addition, I also maintained a weekly segment called  “Magazine Minggu Ini” (This Week’s Magazine) that provides a unique feature story on Korean history, figures, or lifestyle. I also helped cast for several occasions on “Sudut Sastra Korea” (Korean Literature Corner). A lovely program that translates well-known and famous Korean short stories for Indonesian audiences in a theatrical way.

In Bahasa Indonesia, KBS World Radio is aired every day for one hour from 19.00-20.00 WIB (09.00-10.00 PM KST) in several channels, from digital outlet to UHF relays. You can start surfing and enjoying the KBS World Radio Indonesia program from this link.

One of the Korean menu in the KBS Canteen.
One of the Korean menus at the KBS Canteen.

How does it feel working in Korea’s media company?

Firstly, it is undoubtedly a vast privilege that you may gain the first news in Korea, directly from the Ring 1 environment.

Second, the working environment is so meticulously having attention on detail. The newsroom atmosphere is like thin air when everybody is really serious upon their screen.

Third, wages are really reasonable and helpful for the student. Since the work does not consume much time and have heavy workload.

And fourth, if you have a full day working time, you will always have a lunch coupon in the company’s canteen. Something customary in a Korean company, and indeed the food is delicious.

Tips for those who plan to continue their study in Korea and expecting to have part-time jobs, the key to everything is learning the Korean Language right before you start your course. It will open a lot of doors, yeah, a lot of doors. ‘

If not, then just rely on your lucky charm, as in my case. Then, see you in Seoul!

*All photos are provided by the Author.

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Mochamad Alvin Dwiana Qobulsyah
Alvin Qobulsyah, is currently a Seoul-based full-time father and husband while accompanying her wife finishing doctoral studies at Seoul National University (SNU). During these times, he also got an opportunity to take a Master of International Studies degree program at SNU Graduate School of International Studies majoring in International Cooperation with a focus on Indonesian Migrant Workers. Completing his bachelor's degree at the Department of Political Science Universitas Indonesia, Alvin is a former news producer and video journalist at NET. Mediatama Televisi with six years of experience.