This summer I participated in the internship program offered by the University of Tokyo. Three other students and I worked in the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) for one month. I worked in the overseas research department.
My job was to support the JETRO staff and to do a study on a topic related to current trade or investment matters. One of my tasks was to assist in the maintenance and update of databases. There were several changes in Korea this year because of the election of a new government which resulted with the merger or separation of various government departments. I collected the latest information related to Korean FTAs and translated them into Japanese.
Staff from the overseas research department and other divisions gave us lectures on their work and economic trends. One of the presentations from my supervisor covered the Japanese system of taxation. In addition to the history and structure of the Japanese tax system, we discussed and explored current challenges and problems. The most interesting part was the reason behind the comparative decline of the income tax. Related to this, my supervisor also went in depth on the consumption tax issue, pension issue and the pros and cons of Abenomics specifically concerning government purchase.
I was surprised by the effectiveness of JETRO’s J-file system, a database search tool for various statistics and other information. Unlike many other systems I have experienced before, J-file easily searches through an array of complicated resources. At the end of the internship, we were asked to give a presentation on our work. Specifically, my project dealt with the performance of small and medium Korean enterprises in the Chinese market. With the JETRO library and the J-file system, I was able to effectively use many sources for my project, in addition to the advice given to me by my supervisor. To make my project more practical, I also interviewed many people who are doing business in China. About 30 JETRO staff members came to see our presentations. I was anxious to share my results with so many experts but I learned very much from this experience.
The most enjoyable part of my internship was simply having the opportunity to interact with JETRO staff on a daily basis. We had many interesting conversations on current issues. One of my lecturers was the chief director of the Japan pavilion in the Yeosu expo. He stayed in Korea from the 1970s. Hearing a Japanese perspective about that time period was special and new to me. The opportunities to have such exchanges came frequently. For lunch, we always ate with the JETRO staff and sometimes we enjoyed after work nomikai.
Working at JETRO has not only enhanced my knowledge about economics, but also provided me with an insider’s view into the performance and structure of Japanese organizations. These are experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life.