The Asia Business Conference of the Ross School of Business hosted its annual conference connecting Business students to business executives all day Friday and Saturday. The conference included keynote speakers, panel discussions and networking lunches. 

Chull-joo Park, United Nations ambassador for the Republic of Korea, delivered the keynote Saturday morning. After joking about having a career as old as the 29-year-old conference, Park discussed income inequality and climate change in Korea and highlighted the U.N.’s plan for a more sustainable society. 

When discussing income inequality, Park brought up the critically acclaimed Korean movie Parasite. He said the movie was so popular because it said something meaningful about class distinction.

“What do you think is the reason for the popularity of these black comedies?” Park said. “There’s a message embedded in the movie and I think it would be unequal issues between the social classes.” 

Korea had some of its lowest numbers of income inequality in 2018. Park credited this to government policies such as pensions and unemployment benefits for younger generations. Park said helping the lower tax bracket is closing the inequality gap. 

“Inequality must be dealt with small bridges,” Park said. “This is why my government is actively pursuing inclusive economic and social policies. Minimum wage in Korea was increased by 60 percent in 2018 and by 10 percent last year.” 

Park then addressed climate change, saying the private and public sector have been making progress together. One area of progress he noted was the creation of a climate change fund.

“For the first time in Asia, Korea adopted a nationwide system to lower carbon emissions,” Park said. “Korea is moving towards a greener economy promoting the expansion and use of renewable sources.” 

Additionally, Park mentioned the urgency of the U.N.’s sustainable development goals , which includes a variety of goals to solve climate change and social issues. The U.N. adopted the goals in 2015 with the hopes of completely implementing them by 2030. Park said these goals require a global effort to be achieved. 

“Global efforts must step up to implement SDGs,” Park said. “This will only be possible by a partnership with the state (and) the private sector. SDGs are about increasing the social institution which aims to be more just and peaceful.”

Park wrapped up his speech with a message for collective social action.  

“If you take just one message from my speech today,” Park said. “It would be that in order to ensure a bright future for Asia, everyone needs to be on board and everyone must work together.” 

After the address, students headed to a panel discussion titled “The Power of Mobile Technology and E-Commerce in China.” When the panelists were asked where they saw technology influencing finance the most, Peter Sim, HSBC’s head of procurement in China, said he noticed it most in daily monetary transactions.  

“It’s been a while since I decided not to carry cash,” Sim said. “Everywhere I go, whether it’s for lunch … or a taxi, they all have something that says ‘insert money or iPay.’ This means that people are changing how they’re doing banking.”

Panelists noted the internet has changed the global economy drastically, with many exclusively using online services to pay for bills. However, Incorp China CEO Robert Fisch said the instantaneous nature of the internet has not changed Chinese tradition.

“I think what’s very important from my point of view is that while technology has exploded in a very short period of time, you cannot undo tradition,” Fisch said. “Even though they’re using technology that quick, you still go through the ritual of sitting and drinking tea, and there’s no one in a hurry.” 

Business sophomore Cynthia Zhang, a member of ABC, said she found the panel interesting, though she knew much of the information prior to the event. 

“I think the discussion was pretty good,” Zhang said. “I’m also from China, there’s not too much new information, but it’s great to see our speakers’ perspectives regarding the e-commerce in China.” 

Reporter Alyssa McMurtry can be reached at

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