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Summer in Seoul

Jenny Na ’24 and Shin Myohan, the mascot of the tvN reality series “New Journey to the West.”

By Mary Cate Connors, Office of International Programs

Jenny Na ’24, an international student from South Korea, never set foot on Princeton’s campus during her first year as an undergraduate. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced another summer of limited opportunity for international travel, Na knew she would be staying home with her family in Seoul, where she had been for the entirety of the academic year.

Despite her virtual start, Na was still able to take advantage of the summer opportunities available to her through the University — including the chance to apply to the International Internship Program (IIP), an eight-week internship experience designed especially for Princeton students.

“The IIP experience allows students to gain both pre-professional experience and personal growth in a work setting,” says Shahreen Rahman, director of the program, which is housed in the Office of International Programs. According to Rahman, the program was able to support close to 200 — mostly virtual — interns for summer 2021 across various academic disciplines. While almost all of the internships were virtual, this year the program allowed international students to apply for a limited number of in-person and hybrid placements in their home countries, if available.

Na applied for both in-person and virtual internships, and was able to secure an internship at CJ ENM, one of Asia’s largest media and entertainment firms, located in the heart of Seoul. Maybe best known in the United States as the main investor and distributor of the Oscar-winning movie “Parasite,” the company is a major producer of TV, film, music and other new media.

“I wanted to work somewhere where I could stay close to my family and where I felt safe; CJ ENM was the first one that popped onto my screen,” Na says. “I’d always enjoyed watching [the company’s] shows and programs.”

CJ ENM, a first-time IIP host organization, offered a comprehensive internship in corporate development. Students join a small team responsible for examining merger and acquisitions (M&A), as well as divestiture and investment deals for the company.  Because she was living at home and not traveling, Na was able participate in much of her internship in-person, as local regulations allowed.

“The internship I was offered in corporate development is intricately linked to finance and investing, which are fields [I’d like to pursue],” explains Na. “My interest in the entertainment industry, in the company itself and in the role they were offering really added up.”

As the only corporate development intern for the company, Na was paired with a full-time colleague. In collaboration with her teammate, she reviewed investment opportunity teasers and memos, and gathered research to assess valuation of companies. She compiled public information books for potential investments that were assessed by her supervisors.

Na, a native Korean speaker, was also tasked with reviewing financial documents in both English and Korean. “Academically, I tend to be more well-versed in English and socially, I tend to be more well-versed in Korean,” says Na. “One of the challenges this summer was that when I was dealing with a lot of research documents in Korean, it took a moment for me to adjust to all the [new terminology].”

Na also collaborated on a project tasked with mapping the U.S. entertainment industry value chain and how it evolved due to the pandemic. “I’m fascinated by how the transition to [streaming] platforms has caused theatrical windows to shorten tremendously and transformed how different media stakeholders distribute profits from entertainment content,” she says. “This change is also sparking much controversy in the media industry, and I'm curious to see how it will affect the production and distribution of future entertainment content.”

Overall, Na says she felt like she made a meaningful impact in the office, even during the short time she was there. While at CJ ENM, Na worked on a transaction comparable for a potential investment. “My colleague told me that because of this transaction comparable, they decided not to invest in the company,” she says. “I felt like I was making a genuine contribution to my team.”

Not only did Na gain valuable work experience, but she also learned a lot of “soft skills” during her summer internship, she says. “I’d never worked in an office space where I had a lot of teammates,” she says. “I learned a lot in terms of communicating with coworkers, how to [navigate] a business office environment, and how to ask questions when I feel like I need help or when I want to know more.”

The eight-week internship was Na’s first time acclimating to a daily office routine. She took public transportation to work each morning, where she spent about an hour and a half on the subway from her home to Digital Media City, in the Sangam-dong district of Seoul, where most major Korean broadcast and entertainment firms are located.

While the office had modifications to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19, such as extra spacing between tables and chairs, Na was still able to work comfortably with her small team, and contribute to regular in-person meetings. When COVID-19 cases spiked briefly in Korea over the summer and country regulations required non-essential workers to stay at home, she worked remotely without issue until her office re-opened.

Working in the center of the entertainment industry was new and exciting for Na, and she was able to see the connections she didn’t know existed. “I've realized how interconnected the media industry is,” she says. “Before, I would have never thought that one company could have so many different channels and so many different productions, and on top of that have so many different subsidiaries and affiliates.”

Another highlight of her experience? Celebrity sightings. “Because I was located in such a media hub, I got to see a lot of productions in action — just by accident,” she says. She often saw TV and reality shows filming on the streets, and caught glimpses of major celebrities  — like Kai from the K-pop group EXO.

As part of an experiential program run by the company, Na also visited CJ ENM Center Studio, the filming location of “M COUNTDOWN,” a weekly music show on Thursdays where pop stars debut their new music. She saw a performance by Soyeon, another K-pop singer, and even said “hi” after the show.

Na says her IIP was a “super fun experience” where she learned so much, and that she hopes to build on it in the future. “Channeling the courage to dive into something new helped me expand horizons and develop new skillsets,” she says. “If I have the chance, I’d definitely love to work in a similar field.”

Na says her IIP was a “super fun experience” where she learned so much, and that she hopes to build on it in the future.