In this second in a series of three videos on Korea at Grinnell, Byung-Il Choi, visiting professor of economics at Grinnell and professor of international trade and negotiations at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, talks about economics, politics, his International Trade Negotiations class, and what it’s like to come from Seoul to Grinnell.
Even if you have different motivations and differences, we have a civilized way of working through and ironing out our differences. Of course you cannot satisfy 100 percent; I can’t satisfy myself 100 percent, but there is a middle ground to find a civilized way of resolving our differences. That, I think, is the beauty of negotiations.
My name is Choi Byung-Il. Family name, “cheh”. Quite often, my American friends call me “choy” but I joke with them that as long as you call me “choy” you will never be my true friend. I’m a professor of international trade and negotiations at Ewha Women’s University.
This is sort of [an] interdisciplinary [focus] in social sciences. It touches on international trade policy on one side and trade negotiations. Because with many important trade issues, they have certain outstanding issues, making new rules or conflict between countries. You need to have to have both countries sit down to talk with each other. Eventually, it will either result in an agreement or a disagreement, which should be implemented.
I had chances to meet with several Grinnell students, who are interested in studying economics or some different version of economics. So my first question is, “Well, why do you feel attracted by economics?” I’m an economist, but I thought it was a very boring subject in the beginning. So I told the students, “You have a long life. Don’t try to be an economist, period.” At the same time, I told them the significance of studying economics.
Economics is called the “king” of social sciences, which is a bit of an empiricist statement to any other person. One thing that’s good about being a student of economics is that you tend to see some very essential characteristics of personal life. You will consider cost and benefit. Nothing like black and white, plain and simple. You try to appreciate different shades and nuances of your life.
In my class, as I mentioned to you, we teach economics and politics. Quite often, you see those are two worlds—There’s no bridge between them. Unless there is a bridge between the political arena and the economic arena, society is going to repeat its own cycles, and eventually there is the danger and possibility of falling apart and breaking down.
I had my certain image of Grinnell by the stories and my search of Google, but the town is much more romantic, peaceful, and quiet than I expected. There is a certain charm in the rural prairie and Iowa, because this is an important heartland of agricultural products, which is very important to my study of international trade negotiations. Agriculture is a very political, but it should carry an economic dimension.
This is totally a different part of the world, but I’m becoming very reflective and also I see some new light in the future.