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Special interview with Prof. Cho Dongchul

01 Aug, 2016 News Center 1,940

Professor CHO Dongchul has been with KDI School since 2006, specializing in macroeconomics and international finance. Professor CHO received his BA and MA both in economics from Seoul National University and earned his Ph.D. also in economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Recently appointed as a member of the Monetary Policy Board at the Bank of Korea, The Globe sat down with Professor CHO for an exclusive interview.

Grace: I understand that you started working for the Bank of Korea as one of its Monetary Policy Board members on April 21, 2016. Can you tell us what your typical day looks like as a member of the Monetary Policy Board?
Dongchul: I spend a lot of my time reading reports on the Korean economy especially developments in the financial markets and real economy situations along with several analysis reports so that I can present my views on the current economic situation and views on which stance we should have in terms of monetary policy.
Also, as one of the members of the Monetary Policy Board, I have many internal meetings on major issues concerning the operations of the Bank of Korea. Monetary Policy Board meetings are held once a month on monetary policy decisions which are televised to the general public.

G: How does life at the BOK differ from your life at KDI School or KDI?
D: The biggest difference from KDI School is the fact that I no longer teach. And when compared to KDI, I am no longer expected to do my own research. Rather, I’m expected to read and digest many reports, and make critical political decisions and comments that come with a lot of responsibilities. More broadly speaking, I was a research supplier at KDI, however, I am now a research consumer at BOK.

G: On your perspective, what are the advantages and disadvantages of KDI School? And what do you think should change to maximize KDI School’s full potential?
D: First of all, I think one of the greatest advantages of KDI School is that all lectures are completely in English that enables to reach a wide range of learners. Also, the student body is drawn from a highly selective pool of government officials with actual policy making experiences. The School has a multicultural environment in which students can share different views over global development policies.
In terms of disadvantages, I wish KDI School had a much closer relationship with KDI so that students can be more actively involved and learn from the policy researches done by KDI. In doing so, I think KDI School can give students the opportunity to learn how to apply what they’ve learnt from class to actual policy researches done by KDI.

G: What was your favorite subject to teach? Is there a different course you would want to teach to KDI School students in the future?
D: Macroeconomics. That’s the subject where I emphasized critical thinking and real-world applications of the concepts and issues we studied from class. I enjoyed providing the fundamental knowledge and applicable tools to students and then enhancing students’ self-awareness of how important the theories they learnt from class is to the real world.
I want to possibly teach the Korean economy from a macroeconomics perspective. I want to pay more attention to enable my students to think logically and clearly of real-life examples so that the students can actually apply the theories to their own home countries and to the real world. 

G: What’s your own favorite research paper you would recommend for KDI School students to read?
D: My research papers come in many different types. I wrote more readable papers at KDI and more technical papers at Texas A&M University. So I would recommend “Aggregate Demand Gap: Based on a simple structural VAR model”, published in the Economics Letter, to students who want examples of real-life applications.
Additionally, I’d recommend “Overcoming the 1997-1998 Crisis; Macroeconomic Policy Adjustments” to those who are interested in Korea’s developmental experiences.

G: What is your long-term goal as an economist? Is there anything else you want to pursue/achieve?
D: Recently, so-called populist political parties are on the rise disrupting conventional wisdom and normal global trends. I believe that these populist policies can be misused by certain political contingents to pursue their own narrow interests instead of the national interest. So, to overcome populism, the general people should also be educated in economic issues, and ultimately understand that populism is indeed bad.
I think that the current trends prevailing across the globe are dangerous, and people seem to be forgetting the most important rationale of economics. I would like to remind the public how important economics is to making the right choices in life. In terms of teaching, my ultimate goal is to do what I can to help KDI School graduates, CEOs, financial market analysts, and news reporters, who are all opinion leaders, to help them make fundamentally sound decisions. In doing so, I hope to make some positive contributions to the development of Korea.

G: Last word of advice to KDI School students
D: Don’t stay only in the library.  See more, feel more, and experience more from Korea. Try to think critically, widely, and realistically. Textbooks are important, but linking what you learnt from class to the real world is more important. Ideas that cannot be found in books are what can change the world. Don’t just memorize. Keep asking the question “why?” I like to say, “Know how. Know what. Know why” and only at this level you can lead other people as policy makers and get to truly explore the better world.


Eun Hye (Grace) CHOI (2015 MPP, Republic of Korea)