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Op-Ed: Becoming a Kringo – What a Korean-American is Doing at a Hispanic Ad Agency

It’s been a minute but we’re back with another entry in our Day in the Life of an Intern series. This submission comes to us courtesy of a Justin Jahng, a biz dev intern at Grey Group agency Wing, which focuses on the U.S. Latino market. It’s really hard to top Jahng’s title for his entry so we’ll just let the Boston University grad have the floor and explain. Take it away, young man.

For the past four months, I have been the Business Development intern at Wing, a full-service advertising agency focused on the US Hispanic Market.  I have learned a lot during my time here from fellow coworkers and supervisors, but there is something about who I am that makes my experience slightly different from the rest.  I am Korean American.

When clients, vendors, and/or partners come into the office, they sometimes see me and tend to be a little confused as to what I could possibly be doing here. Is he the IT guy? The Chinese food delivery guy?  I admit I see the comedic value in an Asian guy interning at a Hispanic ad agency, but I’m at Wing for a reason. I have a strong interest, if not an outright obsession, with Latin America. In the past 6 years I visited Peru, Brazil, and Mexico, and lived in Argentina for five months. I have very close Brazilian friends that I met in college, and Latin American food ranks in my top three favorite cuisines.  All of this has led me to throw a spin on the term “gringo” and coin a new one: “Kringo,” which takes into account my Korean heritage.


My time at Wing has done nothing to break up this relationship I have with Latino culture.  I am surrounded by Latinos all day, have calls with colleagues, vendors, and clients that are Latino, and our Associate Creative Director refuses to speak to me in English.  I think Renata (our Chief Creative Officer) sees my inner Latino and relayed the message to him.  Even my weekly consumption of Latin American food has substantially increased.  (Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy a warm plate of rice and beans, but can someone throw me a bone and get some General Tso’s Chicken with me? Anyone?)

The past four months at Wing have opened my eyes to the many dimensions and facets of the advertising industry that you won’t find in any textbook or magazine article.  From learning how to prepare and execute pitches, to scrambling to find a meeting room large enough to fit 10 people. I’ve learned much in the short amount of time I have been here.  Being a Business Development intern allows me to work and interact with every department of the agency, and given the nature of the Business Development team, I have the opportunity to spend a bit more time working with the executives in comparison to the other interns.

This gives me incredible access and insight into the agency’s strategy and operations – not to mention a front row view of some of the Wing management team’s quirks and idiosyncrasies: from our managing director’s compulsive consumption of pistachios and string cheese, to our VP of client services’ relentless consumption of candy, to our director of business development’s (my boss) strange need to twist and twirl the hair above his forehead when he thinks about something.

And though I may not be Latino, I think my Korean heritage and my family’s recent immigration history has helped out when it comes to connecting and relating to many of my fellow coworkers.  This may be, because many of my colleagues are themselves immigrants or have parents who are, so we tend to find much common ground, if not familiarity with each other. I (hopefully) bring a perspective to the table that is not quite Latino, not quite GM, but something else.  A something else that resulted from being raised by Korean parents in America, studying international relations, and eventually coming to greatly enjoy and appreciate Latin culture.

Wing’s progressive approach to finding value in its human capital regardless of whether or not they are Latino is something I commend and appreciate given my particular situation.  Because of the opportunity they have granted me, I have had the chance to experience, learn, and partake in so many facets of the advertising industry that are made even more novel and interesting because Wing is a Hispanic agency.

Furthermore, I recognize how lucky I am to work in the United States alongside foreign co-workers from a region of the world where I would love to live and work in one day.  Since working abroad has always been a long-term goal of mine, interning at Wing has turned out to be an introduction of sorts to what working in Latin America may be like.  And trust me, if the past four months are any indication, then count me in!

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