Since 2013, journalists from Australia and Korea have been given the opportunity to visit each other’s countries and meet with professionals across a range of industries as part of the Walkley Foundation’s Korean Media Exchange Program.
Knowing journalism to be at the forefront of international diplomacy, the exchange program took shape after the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) approached the Walkley Foundation to develop initiatives that would further Australia’s interests in countries where they were seeking to develop Free Trade Agreements.
‘In 2013, when this program began, the Australia Korea Free Trade Agreement had been in negotiations for some time before being finalised in 2014, so it’s been a fascinating time to explore and develop the links between our countries,’ explains Louisa Graham from the Walkley Foundation.
A major part of the Walkleys’ mission is to help Australian journalists do their best work and to promote connections with their colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region.
‘There’s no better way to report on a country than to go there, see the sights, meet people from all walks of life and ask all the questions you can,’ says Louisa.
Each year, Korean and Australian journalists trade places as part of the program, getting the opportunity to develop new contacts and networks for their careers, while also getting a hands on education about the country they are visiting.
For Korean participants, the program focus is twofold, focusing on education about Australia and its issues, and connecting them with Australian journalists, sources and stories.
During the most recent trip to Korea, Australian journalists met with officials that are leading efforts to modernise Seoul’s public education system, toured the country’s giant educational broadcasting system, EBS, and met two investigative reporters who cover education.
Participants also travelled to the Demilitarized Zone, donning hard hats for an official tunnel tour, and got to enjoy a home-style meal.
Other activities included visiting the tourist destination of Jeju Island and the fascinating museum dedicated to Jeju’s famous women divers, trying real Korean black pork and proper green tea in a ceremony, and sampling every kind of kimchi they could get their hands on.
The most recent group of Korean participants spent a full day in Canberra visiting Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial.
In Melbourne, the group met people from the infrastructure, banking, science and technology sectors.
Previous years’ participants have visited Dubbo in regional New South Wales, where they met young Koreans undergoing vocational training at an RSL club and the Royal Flying Doctors, and also toured a dairy farm.
The Sydney itinerary included an ABC tour, a visit to a university innovation centre, and meetings with global banking, retail and infrastructure experts, and trips to Taronga Zoo and the Sydney Fish Market.
‘Journalists who go on these trips come back with a far deeper perspective of a country — and all the many contradictions that are inherent but specific to every country,’ says Louisa.
‘They also come back with a stack of business cards from real experts, and friends, who they can go to when a story pops up, whether to verify it, add context or find more sources.’
According to Louisa, Australians can also learn important lessons from how Koreans are tackling similar challenges in their country.
‘Journalists can help share lessons learned and illustrate the relationships, whether in trade or tourism, security or education, that connect our two countries, people in both countries benefit from the better reporting that results,’ says Louisa.
The project was supported by the Australia-Korea Foundation (AKF).
The Australia-Korea Foundation was established by the Australian Government in 1992 to promote bilateral relations between Korea and Australia.
The next grant round open in February 2018 for projects deepening connections between Australia and Korea.