Executive Director Sohn Wook
Recently appointed as Executive Director of the Economic Research Institute at the Bank of Korea (BOK ERI), Dr. Sohn taught at KDI School since 2005. The Globe interviewed Dr. Sohn to learn about his experience at KDI School and his plans at BOK ERI.
Grace Choi: What abilities or personal qualities do you believe contributed to your career and success?
Sohn Wook: I think the ability to manage my emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to my performance and is the foremost important trait that contributed to my success. I believe that peace can improve the efficiency of our studies and help us sustain healthy relationships with friends and coworkers.
Choi: What were your core responsibilities when you were with the KDI School?
Sohn: My core responsibilities were mainly teaching and researching but I was also actively involved with KDI School’s administration responsibilities as an Associated Dean for three years. Teaching close to 1,000 KDI School students (including foreign public officials, public sector employees, and general students) over a decade has been one of my most rewarding experiences. My experience at KDI School has been a special one because I believe that I was able to have an impact on students by helping them develop skills they’ll need in the future or skills required when they’re trying to make the right policymaking decisions in their home country.
Choi: Is there a particular research area you are working on at the Bank of Korea?
Sohn: Bank of Korea is largely divided into two sectors. One of them is stabilizing the financial sector via monetary policies. Here, I provide BoK with insightful policy reports and make projects on what challenges are likely to occur in the market. With these analyses, hopefully, the BoK will make preemptive decisions to steer the economy in the right direction. In that sense, my work at BoK aligns well with the field I worked in at KDI School.
Choi: Can you recommend a book for KDI School students?
Sohn: I would like to introduce two of my favorite books. One is “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck. I recommend students to read this book in a calm frame of mind and take the time for self-discipline. Another is “Cushion” by Jo Shinyoung. This book is about dealing with conflicts and learning how to manage conflicts effectively.
Choi: Please give our students a final word of advice.
Sohn: Students should remember to simplify their arguments when writing their thesis. I have seen students with good content and great ideas enough to write a good thesis only to give up later on without finishing their work because of the complexity. So, students should always remember to simplify their assertions and think from the readers’ point of view. Also, share positive ideas and feelings with others. I think we need to be positive with ourselves but we need to be positive with others. Be encouraging and supportive to others around you. In short, try to treat others as you would like to be treated. I think that everyone appreciates a “positive Pete”, and the more you share it with others, the better the outcome will be.
MPP Program Chair Professor Choi Changyong
The Globe caught up with new MPP program Chair, Professor Choi Changyong to gain some insight into his expectations and vision for the program.
Sojeong Lisa Jeong: What do you think are the strengths of KDI School’s MPP program?
Choi Changyong: Designed for the present as well as future policymakers, the MPP program offers a comprehensive study curriculum with four detailed tracks: Finance and Macroeconomic Policy, Trade and Industry Policy, Regional Development and Environment, and Public Finance and Social Policy. Having close ties with the Korea Development Institute (KDI), the School can take advantage of KDI’s research on policies.
Jeong: What changes have been made to KDI School’s MPP program after it was accredited by NASPAA?
Choi: NASPAA is the highest standard that a program in the field of public policy can obtain and KDI School is the first graduate school in Korea to receive accreditation. In order to maintain our status, we are regularly monitoring and evaluating the program to control the quality of education. For instance, we keep close tabs on class sizes, lecture quality, library, and other facilities.
Jeong: How would you define the role of a program Chair and what may students expect from Chair?
Choi: The role of program Chair is to listen to the students and direct them to appropriate divisions, faculty members, or staff members depending on their needs. Also, the Chair consults students to help them with their academic and personal lives. Especially, for students who are not yet employed or planning a career change can consult with the Chair about their future career paths.
Jeong: What do you expect from the MPP students during their studies in KDI School and after graduation?
Choi: The moment students enter KDI School, we expect them be honorable and professional. I hope students would share their knowledge with one another without any bias. I also want them to be global leaders after graduation and take leading positions in the organizations they belong to. For those who work for the public sector, I expect them to be best policymakers.
Jeong: Can you recommend a book for KDI School students?
Choi: I can recommend quite a few: “Bureaucracy” by James Q. “Wilson, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies” by John W. Kingdon, “Understanding the Process of Economic Change” by Douglas C. North, “One Economics Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth” by Dani Rodrik, and “Globalization, Economic Development and the Role of the State” by Ha-Joon Chang.
The Globe thanks Executive Director Sohn Wook and Professor Choi Changyong for the interview.