Professor YOU Jong-Il was teaching abroad when he was told that Seoul’s premier thinks tank, Korea Development Institute (KDI), would be creating an international graduate school for public policy. In 1998, he flew back home to join the faculty and became one of the founding members of KDI School of Public Policy and Management.
A Macroeconomics and Development Policy expert, YOU taught a long list of courses in KDI School. These include Korean Economic Development, Political Economy of Development, Policy Reform in the Global Economy and Issues in Macroeconomic Policy, to name a few. He also handled doctoral-level courses such as Mathematical Economics and Microeconomics.
YOU also has done a number of other works aside from teaching in different parts of the globe. He has conducted researches focusing on Macroeconomic Implications of Income Distribution, Economic Democracy, Economics of Cooperation and Cooperatives, and Global Imbalance and Related Capital Outflows. Not only is he a prolific researcher, but he is also a well-recognized author. His most recent books, titled “Economic Democracy is Our Hope” and “Progressive Economics” respectively, were both published in 2012.
He also worked as a consultant for several international bodies like the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the World Institute for Development Economics Research, and the International Labor Organization.
For 30 years, YOU has established a stellar career record of varied experiences. However, out of all the things he has done, teaching was the profession he has cherished the most.
“I have done all kinds of things. But teaching was the most enjoyable part of my work. It gives me a lot of energy to interact with the students. I have always believed that learning is for everybody – not only for professors and students. Learning is one of the most joyful things in life God has given us,” he said in an interview with The Globe.
“It is in the interaction with students where learning is taking place. Students learn, of course, but I also learn in the process, and this interaction gives me a lot of energy, and even if I am physically very, very tired, once I’m in the classroom, I get all the energy in the world.”
Appointment as Dean
No matter how much he loves the vibrant atmosphere of a classroom with a room full of enthusiastic students, YOU has to take a step back from teaching for now.
Last June 20, he embarked on another major professional breakthrough as he officially assumed the position of being the 8th Dean of KDI School. It was indeed unexpected for him, but not something he was hesitant to do.
“I was involved in the very first beginning of the school and I played a key role in running the KDI School. Taking the school to its promised land, realizing its vision and carrying out its mission is something that is not just part of my job but also something that’s in my heart,” he said.
“I do not think I will ever enjoy being Dean as much as I enjoy teaching. But I hope there is a consolation in terms of knowing that I am playing an instrumental role in enabling KDI School to realize its vision. It should give me some satisfaction. It is a different kind of satisfaction.”
In the next three years, YOU will spearhead KDI School’s journey to where he envisions it to be – gaining more recognition in the international arena.
“Right now, KDI School is doing a fine job but is not recognized enough as other top institutions, probably because we are not such a big university. But I guess even small institutions can get more visibility and recognition if we do our job properly,” he said.
To make this happen, YOU plans to focus on three things – curriculum, research and enhancing foreign partnerships. He sees the need for innovating the curriculum because of the rapid changes happening in this century of fusion and multi-disciplinary learning. “We need to meet the changing needs of society, we have to constantly update our curriculum and what are the core skills our students should be acquiring.”
Research is also a core part of the institution that needs recognition, according to YOU. While the faculty produces exemplary research outputs, his administration would have to work on increasing the visibility of these materials.
In relation to reaching out to a wider audience, YOU is currently working on enhancing KDI School’s presence in the global stage. This entails strengthening the school’s relationship with its existing global network by going beyond non-binding memoranda of understanding, by building a “substantial cooperation” with these partners.
YOU has seen the school overcome obstacles and face changes in the past decades. Now, he is at the helm of yet another chapter of KDI School’s development.
Despite the changes he plans to implement, there are things about the school he would like to remain the same – its culturally diverse body, its students’ and faculty’s dedication to education, and most importantly, the practicality of the knowledge the students learn from the courses offered. The coming years would be difficult, but he believes it will be no impossible feat.
While it is a challenge – in this is a time of dramatic changes and tremendous challenges – I am pretty comfortable and confident that I can help KDI School become a great institution
Patricia Anne PASION (2018 MDP, Philippines)