Student Panelist: James H. Bisbee

James H. Bisbee

Korea Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Panel I: Economic Development

Paper: “Government Intervention and Labor Productivity: The South Korean Experience”

1. Please briefly introduce yourself.

My name is Jim. I’m a first-year Korea Studies student at SAIS and have been having a gas thus far working and playing as hard as I know how. Before SAIS, I lived in Seoul for 3 years, New York City for 2 years, and San Francisco for 1 year. I have driven a motorcycle across the United States, played in altogether too many bands, and danced with the Devil by the pale moonlight.

2. How did you get interested in your paper topic?

Even before coming to SAIS, I daresay most of us have been instilled with the idea that capitalism is good, socialism is bad, and economic development is fundamentally dependent on a country’s ability to liberalize their markets. However, economic theory and economic reality are poor bedfellows, a fact strikingly apparent in South Korea from 1960 through 2000. During this time it managed to achieve double-digit growth rates despite operating under a set of government regulations, policies, and controls that would make a socialist country blush. Clearly this is an interesting case study and one whose research proved to be both challenging and rewarding.

3. What was your research process? Do you have a tip that you would like to share?

I took a two-pronged approach to research. On the one hand I was gathering raw data anywhere I could find it and crunching regressions in STATA. On the other, I was reading up on stateist arguments and theories that attempted to undergird the South Korean experience with a conceptual framework. As far as tips go, I would recommend that anyone with even a passing interest in quantifying levels of government intervention make sure that they have a clear list of interesting metrics before looking for data. I spent altogether too much time trying to figure out how to get a metric representing Seoul’s level of capital-direction.

4. Do you have any advice for other students who may be interested in submitting a paper for next year’s SAIS Asia Conference?

Do it. The committee has been great to work with and I’m looking forward to presenting.

5. What is your plan after graduation?

I’m hoping to find some poor unsuspecting professor to buddy-up with on research and continue working in the academic field.

6. If you can ask a question to someone – either dead or alive – what would you ask to whom?

I’d like to ask Park Chung Hee, were he alive now, who his favorite Girls’ Generation member is.


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