By James Gorman, Communications Manager, The Walkley Foundation
Six Australian journalists returned to Australia last week after an 11-day exchange program across the Republic of Korea (ROK) that included visits to Hyundai Motors, Korea Zinc, Hanwha Aerospace, hydrogen sector industries and POSCO, one of the world’s largest steelmakers.
Clare Armstrong, The Daily Telegraph, Edward Boyd, Sky News Australia, Sarah Dingle, ABC RN, Tansy Harcourt, The Australian, Peter Ker, Australian Financial Review, Rachel Pupazzoni, ABC News and I arrived at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport on Sunday April 23 to take part in the Australia-Korea Media Exchange program. The cultural program supported by the Australia-Korea Foundation (AKF), the Korea Press Foundation (KPF) and the Walkley Foundation was focused on economics, trade and security relationships between Australia and the ROK.
The program’s hosts, the KPF arranged a comprehensive program that took the journalists across the ROK where they had the opportunity to meet and interview South Korean businesses, key national stakeholders, defence personnel and international economic partners.
The program officially commenced with a background briefing at the Australian Embassy in Seoul by Defence Attaché, Captain Chris Smith RAN; Trade Commissioner, Austrade, Helen Oh; Political Counsellor, Ben Davey; Minister and Deputy Head of Mission, Dr Alexandra Siddall; Economic Counsellor, Russell Wild; and Australian Ambassador to the ROK, Catherine Raper.
The journalists then travelled north to Cheorwon where they met with the Operation Linesmen consisting of three Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel positioned on the South Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) as part of Australia’s contribution to the Inter-Korean peace process.
As Australia and New Zealand marked ANZAC Day, the media exchange was invited to a dawn service at the War Memorial of Korea with representatives from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey in attendance before an official meeting with our KPF hosts and interviews with the Korea National Diplomatic Academy (KNDA) and the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).
The journalists boarded a KTX bullet train where we travelled three hours south to Changwon to meet with Hanwha Aerospace – which is presently vying for an armoured vehicle contract with Australia.
The journalists travelled to the ROK’s north-western city of Ulsan for interviews with Korean Zinc and a tour of Hyundai Motors.
We met with the General Manager of Energy at Ulsan Technopark to discuss production and advancements in the hydrogen sector before travelling north to Pohang for a tour of POSCO – one of the largest steel makers in the world. The day ended with dinner and an official tour of the coastal Gyeongju City, one of the most historical sites in the ROK.
After a long week of meetings, interviews and site visits, the Australian journalists spent Saturday touring Gyeongju and Andong before travelling back to Seoul on Sunday.
The journalists navigated their way through Seoul as thousands of people lined the streets to take part in the country’s annual May Day labour protests. They then met with the ROK’s Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs where they discussed military cooperation and trade between Australia and South Korea.
We travelled two hours south-west to Cheongju, to meet with Korean Strategic Materials before touring the region’s hydrogen pump facilities.
On our final day in the ROK, we travelled north to Paju where we visited the heavily fortified DMZ observatory and explored the third incursion tunnel into the ROK – burrowed by North Korean forces and discovered in 1978.
With a plethora of interviews, meetings, sights and experiences behind us, it was time for us to make our way home to Australia. The exchange was a learning experience for all and a unique opportunity to foster a deeper understanding of the strong diplomatic, defensive and economic ties our two countries maintain and rely upon. It was humbling to watch the cohort of journalists from rival publications work together to build their stories, share quotes, set embargoes, create friendships and support each other. Their camaraderie, teamwork and dedication to their craft throughout the program highlighted the values the Walkley Foundation strives to uphold for Australia’s media sector and it was a privilege to be a part of the journey.
About the Australia-Korea Media Exchange
In 2022 the Walkley Foundation announced its continued partnership with the AKF and KPF for media exchange programs over the next three years.
The Walkley Foundation was awarded a $120,000 grant by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to support the media exchanges between Australia and the ROK. In November 2022, the Foundation escorted a cohort of six journalists from South Korea to Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Sydney where participants met business and government stakeholders, cultural experts and Australian media counterparts with a focus on critical minerals, energy and the environment.
Clare Armstrong, The Daily Telegraph
“The media exchange program by the Walkley Foundation and the Korean Press Foundation offered a rare and in depth insight into a complex country through high-level access to business leaders and government officials.
Spending time with some of the best Australian journalists in their respective fields over the course of the 11 days was a professional joy, with lots of collaboration and even more fun.
Our Korean hosts were welcoming and constantly provided invaluable information to bridge cultural gaps during our travels.
The schedule was jam-packed with interesting briefings and interviews as we traversed large swathes of the country from the metropolitan hub of Seoul to the industrial bases in the south and historic tourist sites in the east.
A visit to the Demilitarized Zone to observe the work of Australian Defence Force personnel deployed to support the UNC Military Armistice Commission aiming to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula was a major highlight of the trip.
I highly recommend this program to any journalist with an interest in expanding their knowledge of the region and Australia’s place in the world economically, politically and culturally.”
Edward Boyd, Sky News Australia
“The media exchange to Korea was a highly enjoyable and beneficial experience. It was a great way to understand how business works in Korea, meet senior business executives and high-ranking government officials. We visited some of the world’s largest factories, refineries and steel mills; spent time in government offices with Vice Ministers; and spoke with Australian military personnel at the Demilitarised Zone.
The program was well organised and has resulted in me being able to produce a number of stories for Sky News Australia, which will be relevant to an Aussie audience.
Throughout the 11 day trip, our group slowly formed a close bond, spending time together at official dinners, on long bus journeys and at cultural sites.
I would highly recommend the Korea media exchange to anyone looking to broaden their understanding of the Republic of Korea and its links to Australia, international trade, economics, defence and politics.”
Rachel Pupazzoni, ABC News
“The Walkley Foundation Korea Press Foundation media exchange is an extremely valuable experience. I found it very beneficial to learn about the differences in the two nation’s media landscapes, how reporters get their job done and how our two countries already are and can continue to work together. Business operates differently in the two nations, and experiencing that was a very valuable lesson.
Our hosts clearly worked very hard to accommodate a lot of our wishes, and that is appreciated. The travel was very comfortable and the accommodations were too. The food and general hospitality were outstanding. Having a dedicated interpreter for the entire trip was great.
I found the exchange a truly wonderful experience and am so grateful to have been selected. It has undoubtedly broadened my ability, knowledge, skills as a journalist. Thank you for selecting me for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Sarah Dingle, ABC RN
“The Walkley Foundation’s Korea Media Exchange was a fantastic horizons-expanding exercise. There were many individual meetings with important figures in business, security and trade, but I also think what I gained from this exchange is much deeper and broader than any single meeting, and will be of benefit for many months – and years – to come. I highly recommend this program.”
Tansy Harcourt, The Australian
“The exchange was a great way to absorb the importance of trade between Australia and South Korea and then be able to back this up with onsite visits to the global giants in zinc, steel and automobiles.
It was an experience that had an immediate impact from Day 1 back in the newsroom at Holt St, Sydney. The trip was both educational and a great way to meet and spend time with fellow journalists from across different mediums of print, TV and radio.”