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KAIST Aims To Be A Top MBA School in Northeast Asia2009-11-06Hit:2962

Will Seoul be able to achieve its goal of becoming a regional financial center like Hong Kong and Singapore? Some experts at home and abroad are doubtful about the city’s vision although President Lee Myung-bak, a former CEO of Hyundai, and his business-friendly administration have touted it as one of their top policy goals.

Hong Kong and Singapore have what Seoul doesn’t have as attractions for global financial companies. They are friendlier to global firms; they speak English better; they provide better living conditions for expatriates; they levy less corporate taxes; and they don’t have threats from North Korea. No one will argue that Seoul should eliminate such obstacles to realize its dream of becoming a financial hub. And to Jung Kooyul, dean of the Graduate School of Finance at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), there is one more issue.

“Most Koreans go abroad to get master’s degrees in business administration. But it is expensive to do so.” Jung said in an interview with The Korea Times. "As the country’s first graduate school to offer finance MBA programs, the KAIST Graduate School of Finance (KGSF) is seeking a bold change in the way that Koreans are learning about the industry. Despite a short history of finance MBA programs, Korea is becoming more enthusiastic about offering learning opportunities and the school is at the center of the progress.”

“My goal is to lay the groundwork for KGSF to be one of the top finance MBA’s school in Northeast Asia.” Dean Jung said. “We are trying to offer the best MBA programs not only to Koreans but also to foreigners who are seeking job opportunities at Korean firms. It is essential for Korea to have prominent MBA schools to become a financial powerhouse.”

The school is now offering lectures on financial derivatives, investment banking, risk management, asset management, and various tools used by financial experts to do their job well. KGSF has arguably earned the reputation as a best MBA school in Korea, but it needs more professors, more students, and a better teaching environment to reach a higher level, according to Dean Jung.

“In partnership with Citibank Korea, the South Korean unit of U.S. financial giant Citigroup, Korea Securities Dealers Association, Woori Financial Group, and other firms, KGSF is now developing programs to nurture highly skillful financial workers. As the industry evolves, firms will need more professionals equipped with practical knowledge and techniques to survive global completion and to find new growth engines,” Dean Jung reiterated.

Time To Move On

After years of in-house cleaning, Korean financial firms are setting their eyes on the huge growth potential of Asian markets. Banks and securities firms plan to set up more sales outlets and branches this year with most overseas networking centered in Asia. While banks are aggressively making inroads into overseas markets, the Korean government and regulators are revamping the legal framework to encourage firms to do businesses in foreign markets. The government has allowed banks to take over not only foreign banks, but also brokerage houses and insurers overseas as part of efforts to help them turn into globally competitive players.

“There is and will be a strong demand for financial experts,” remarked Dean Jung, who teaches accounting and corporate governance at the school. “Most people go to the United States to enroll in MBA programs. It is not long ago that KAIST started the programs, but it is able to develop more competitive programs.” For example, Korean students in the U.S. conduct case studies of foreign firms which they don’t really know about. However at KAIST, students cover a wide range of case studies including analysis of the successes and failures experienced by many Korean firms.

“We are now focusing on localizing MBA programs. Consolidating relationship with companies is also important to help graduates get ideal jobs,” Jung said. “The KGSF produced its first batch of graduates in February, most of whom are working at brokerages, banks, and asset management firms. Building a strong network of alumni and raising the school’s global reputation are the nuts and bolts for KGSF to join the ranks of top MBA schools in Asia. KGSF is modeled after the business school at New York University (NYU).”

“NYU has balanced its programs of theories with a strong training program and excellent faculty members,” Dean Jung said. “It is located close to Wall Street and jointly conducts lectures for students with financial firms. Students can learn about their experience through lectures. NYU provides a good example of academia-industry cooperation.” KGSF is now attracting professors from prestigious MBA schools around the world to offer better lectures to its students.

It is receiving applications for tenure-track and visiting faculty positions. The positions are open to candidates in all areas of finance at any rank and nationality, according to KGSF officials. The position entails teaching one or two sections per semester and engaging in curriculum developments. Courses are taught either in Korean or in English. The school has strengthened exchanges with prominent colleges abroad. Students participate in exchange programs during their third semester and take courses at foreign partner schools. The program is designed to help students build a global perspective.

Its partner schools include Lancaster University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of California at Irvine, Ohio State University, and the University of Maryland.

Contact : Lee, Sohyun ( sohyun.c.lee@kaist.ac.kr )

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