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Jong Nam Oh
  Jong Nam Oh

Asia Business Conference Speaker Urges Students to "Understand Your Homeland"

1/26/2006 --

Explosive growth makes Asia a major pillar of global economy.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—With four countries among the top 10 economies of the world, Asia is emerging as a vital part of the global economic engine. To reflect this fact, Jong Nam Oh, director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), told students at the 16th annual Asia Business Conference that he is seeking reforms to include more Asian nations on the IMF governing board.

The Asia Business Conference at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is the longest-running conference of its kind in the nation.

In his address titled "Financial Issues Facing Asia," Oh listed Japan, China, India and Korea among the top economies of the world. He said that while the United States is the number one engine of the global economy, China ranks second.

"Until 15 years ago, Japan was a major pillar of the global economy," Oh said. "Now, we say that Asia is the major pillar with China, India and Korea emerging."

The IMF’s role is two-fold, he said. First, the agency helps nations resolve their financial crises by giving them breathing room to implement adjustment policies and reforms. Second, it provides emergency financing to nations in need. Currently, of the 24 director seats on the IMF board, only four are held by Asians—a discrepancy Oh said must be remedied to reflect more fair representation of the world’s economy.

He pointed out that the IMF assisted Korea in its financial crisis of 1997-98, but not without great commitment from the Korean people.

"Korea is an exemplary case, according to the IMF. First, the people took ownership of the problem and second, they implemented the advice of the IMF. The people actually donated gold jewelry—which amounted to $2 billion—to combat the crisis," said Oh, who held up his wedding band, recently purchased to replace the one he had donated.

Create a vision and hone unique skills
Oh offered students advice on standing out in a crowd of 400 MBA graduates: "The growth in Asia represents more opportunities for you, as business majors. Familiarize yourselves with the financial issues of your own country, as well as with international financial issues. Whatever your field of expertise, I recommend that you must relate it to your homeland. This will give you a competitive edge over others."

Asking two students to stand before the audience on one foot, first with eyes closed and then with eyes open, he sought to demonstrate that "vision" is what makes the difference.

"With vision, you are more stable," he said. "You must have a vision of where you will be in five, 10, 15 years. What will you be doing? With a vision, your life will be more comfortable.Whatever you do in life, try to share some of what you are with others. This will help improve your own happiness index."

Oh is the first Korean executive director of the IMF. Prior to joining the fund, he served the Korean government for 29 years, mostly with the Economic Planning Board, and later the Ministry of Finance and Economy.

Written by Nancy Davis

For more information, contact:
Mary Jo Frank
Phone: (734) 647-4626