Sung Jae Kim (Ph.D. in International Trade Policy, ’06), Head of Overseas Market Information at KOTRA

Sung Jae Kim (Ph.D. in International Trade Policy, ’06), Head of Overseas Market Information at KOTRA

Tell us about your career journey.

I completed my Ph.D. program in 2006 at the School of Public Policy (now known as the Schar School of Policy and Government) with a concentration in International Trade Policy. Fortunately, I was able to secure a position at KOTRA, the South Korean government's international trade and investment promotion agency. My career leans more toward practical work than academia. While residing in Korea, my primary focus was conducting research on trade barriers in overseas markets and assisting small and medium-sized Korean enterprises in overcoming these hurdles.

Throughout more than two-thirds of my career at KOTRA, I was stationed in emerging markets, including India, Pakistan and Iraq. In these roles, I acted as a country representative of KOTRA to promote business ties between these countries and South Korea. While my primary role as a country chief at KOTRA was to assist Korean small and medium-sized enterprises in conducting business in my assigned countries, I also had opportunities to collaborate with the host country's government in developing private sectors and manufacturing industries.

One particularly memorable moment was when I assisted Iraq's Central Organization for Standardization and Quality Control in introducing an energy labeling system for consumer electronics. This involved providing technical assistance in collaboration with the Korean Embassy and a South Korean consumer electronics manufacturer. Currently, I am in charge of the Overseas Market Information Team at KOTRA HQ in Seoul.

What was the highlight of your Mason experience?

During my time in the Ph.D. program, I had the privilege of benefiting from the programs offered by both the Fairfax and Arlington campuses. While most of the core courses were conducted at the Fairfax campus, the Arlington campus hosted various captivating seminars related to international trade, commerce, and law programs.

Engaging in courses taught by renowned professors such as Francis Fukuyama, Jack High, and Jack Goldstone, in addition to esteemed professors from the School of Public Policy and other university departments, provided me with invaluable experiences. In particular, professor Reinert's teachings significantly broadened my perspective on international trade as a means of fostering capabilities. His classes extended beyond the quantitative aspects of international trade, embracing the human development side of international trade.

Any advice for our students who look for jobs in Korea?

Korea offers unique and dynamic opportunities for potential job seekers in today's rapidly changing globalized world. Korea is well known not only for its global giants like Samsung, Hyundai, and LG but also for new industry innovators such as Naver in IT, HYBE in Entertainment and leading venture companies in industries like gaming, biotechnology, and services. Quite a few foreign companies now have presence in Korea too. I believe students from George Mason Korea, with their education in English from a university with roots in the US, enjoy a competitive advantage over other job seekers in Korea. KOTRA hosts an annual job fair called 'The Job Fair for Foreign-Invested Companies.' This could be an excellent starting point for our students, even during their early years at the university.

What does the future hold for you?

I am passionate about my work at KOTRA, assisting Korean small and medium-sized companies in expanding into overseas markets and creating quality jobs for the younger generation. However, if opportunities arise after my retirement in the future, I would be delighted to find myself working or volunteering to support the export sectors of developing countries in the area of export-related capacity building activities. This reflects my commitment to promoting international trade and economic development.