Being born in Korea and raised in emerging market countries for eight years, I recognize and appreciate the mechanisms societies employ to safeguard themselves from global systemic instabilities that may arise from split-second decisions. Fearing that it could be a simple push of a button that dictates the fate of a country in a nuclear crisis, or some typing on a keyboard that instigates a national currency crisis, I, “a Third Culture Kid” (TCK) who has identified with and benefitted from globalization, feel a responsibility to understand how governments have countervailed the risks associated with the worldwide integration of military alliances and financial systems.
I moved to Washington D.C. during my senior year of university to assist with professional research on American and international safeguards against Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) for the Stimson Center. My department conducted research on the application of policies that manage nuclear waste and prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Upon graduation, I was hired as a Corporate Communication Assistant at the Institute of International Finance (IIF), a global association of financial institutions that represented the banks and institutional investors during the Greek debt restructuring negotiations of 2012. My role involved promoting the institute’s economic research on topics such as country risk analysis to print and broadcast media in order to shape discussions in line with the institute’s policy platform.
As I identified major stakeholders in the international economy and their policy priorities in this position, I saw a new potential career opportunity and felt the need to further educate myself to fulfill that role. As I pitched hundreds of stories, I learned that the global financial system is still very much vulnerable to sudden swings of capital flight. Although regulators have been enacting cross-border finance regulations to minimize market volatility, sudden movements of trillions of dollars’ worth of bank loans, stocks, and bonds can still destabilize emerging market economies and destroy their abilities to secure their citizens’ welfare overnight. Through headline after headline, I watched how speculators and foreign exchange traders depleted Argentina, a country that opened its capital account according to the dictates of the Washington Consensus, and how its crisis reverberated across Turkey, South Africa, and other emerging market economies. I realized during those moments that I could no longer be an idle observer.
To become a key player who shapes and advances these decisions, I need more education. I need to learn how regulators negotiate and create investment treaties, and how the U.S., the major exporter of non-resident investment and the regulator of many global financial institutions, implements and applies its regulations to prevent instabilities. I also need to know more about the tools and strategies that policy makers are equipped with to mitigate risks from new concepts such as crypto assets and FinTech. A legal education will enable me to promote fairness between parties separated by borders during the drafting and negotiations of debt funding arrangements. It will equip me the ability to partake in the global effort to reduce fragmentation of financial regulations across borders that delay prompt responses to currency crisis; and I will be able to assist the formulation of guidelines for sovereigns and private investors during debt restructuring processes.
Financial regulators stand before a pivotal moment: capital across emerging markets are quickly repatriating to the United States as the U.S. interest rates normalize after the 2008 financial crisis, geopolitical tensions are propping up sanctions and trade tensions, and technology is enabling avenues for unregulated capital flow. I want to be a part of the regulators’ effort that prepares and protects the livelihood of individuals across countries, and I believe that a legal education will help me get there.
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