Date: June 2001
Title: KIMEP - MyGift to the People of Kazakhstan
Interview conducted by Seynesh Seysenova
From the file: Chan Young Bang, Ph.D. Born in South Korea. First Foreign Economic Advisor to the President of Kazakhstan. Returned in 1992 to Kazakhstan in order to establish KIMEP, (the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research), an institution with no peers in the entire CIS. Tactful, subtly polite, democratic. Appreciates professionalism and punctuality.
Chan Young Bang, Ph.D.:
"KIMEP - My Gift to the People of Kazakhstan"
Corr: Dr. Bang, what were the factors which led to your decision to invest specifically in education? Why after establishing such a positive a reputation as a successful businessman, haven't you chosen another direction which is more profitable to you personally?
Dr. Bang: No nation can achieve economic stability and prosperity without the development of it's own human resources. Natural resources by themselves will not bring prosperity - a great need exists for qualified specialists in the fields of exploration, mining, processing and profit realization. Take Korea for example, a country with almost no natural resources, the economy is thriving at due to it's human resources, in particular to the advanced training of qualified personnel. As for Kazakhstan, during the transition period from a socialist economy toward macroeconomic stabilization, the most important factor - training specialists who are able to operate within the new economic framework - has been gently speaking, "forgotten", fortunately, the existing higher education institutions (from the former Soviet Union) in Kazakhstan turned out to be unable to provide qualitative - I would like to emphasize one more time, qualitative - services in the field of education on modern management theory, economics, political sciences... and then later the problem of improving the quality of education rose in importance for the country.
In 1992 with the support of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Mr. Nazarbayev, I have managed to establish an institute which is absolutely unique for Kazakhstan - the present day KIMEP. Today it is the only university in the CIS which produces specialists of such high caliber in such great numbers more than 2000 thus far) and with such diverse programs. All the best features have been taken from global practices in education. KIMEP's prestige is growing, the number of applicants is increasing. By the next academic year we are planning to increase the number of students substantially. In addition to the existing programs, such as Business Administration, Public Administration, Political Sciences, we are planning to launch a program in International Journalism. We currently have students from Pakistan, Russia. Korea, as well as most Central Asian countries.
Corr.: A large number of higher educational institutions have been founded to date in Kazakhstan. At the same time we have many unemployed people holding diplomas from these institutions. Does such a policy of extensive training of personnel lead to a situation where the market is saturated?
Dr. Bang: You are correct. There is such a possibility. Experts from abroad express the fear that in the nearest future we will not know what to do with all of the highly qualified people. This is why we are trying to modulate this process through decreasing the number of students enrolled in certain programs and increasing them in others according to demand. However, our graduates are not thus far threatened with unemployment.
Corr: What is such confidence based on? Is KIMEP dealing adequately with the issue of placement of its graduates?
Dr. Bang: We provide the best facilities as well as the highest quality of educational services to our students. KIMEP students also have some other advantages over other job applicants - English proficiency, as well as the most highly qualified faculty members who have been mostly trained abroad. A Career and Employment Center, which was created with the purpose of facilitating the gainful employment of KIMEP graduates, and finally, the irreproachable reputation of KIMEP itself. Sometimes large companies hire 25-30 KIMEP graduates at one time. KIMEP graduates have enjoyed a high rating among banks, oil and gas and audit companies. One day we decided to conduct an audit at KIMEP and invited experts from the famous audit company "PriceWaterhouseCoopers". Three representatives of that company came and all of them turned to be our graduates. I can bet that if our graduates leave all these companies, the latter will not be able to continue their business.
Corr: If I am not mistaken, this is your second time managing KIMEP?
Dr. Bang: Yes, I came back when the financial situation at KIMEP had become uncontrollable. Employees were not paid their salaries, and they did not feel confident in their future. I have invested almost one-half a million dollars into my brainchild, and in this coming year I am planning to invest an equal amount. We have conducted capital renovation of classrooms and offices. The quality of education is not determined exclusively by the academic program ability to compare to western standards. Living and studying conditions for students and faculties must be improved up to international norms as well. Ten world famous professors from different fields have agreed to come and teach at KIMEP next Autumn. Among them we received an outstanding professor recently for a very special visit, the founder of the Maastricht School of Management, Dr. El-Namaki.
Corr.: Why is he interested in a position at KIMEP? As the Director of a school in Holland, this famous professor could have remained in the West living a much more comfortable life. What leads such people to make a choice to work here?
Dr. Bang: You see, there are approximately 100 famous business schools in Europe. MSM is one of the best, but it is only one out of one hundred. KIMEP is the only institute meeting western standards and style in the entire CIS. In 5 years it will have become better known than the Austrian institution mentioned above. I am certain that KIMEP will become the finest educational institution not only in the CIS, but also in a larger part of the world, and Dr. El-Namaki shares this view with me. And as a distinguished professor he naturally is anxious to participate in this process.
Corr.: I assume that he will join KIMEP according to an agreed upon compensation package. Returning to yourself however, you are making investments without expecting any remuneration in return. You are working in the field of education without taking a salary, since you are donating your time as part of your investment into KIMEP. You are a businessmen, who has been known in the past as someone who is skilled at making money, why do you not simply continue concentrate your time on doing business?
Dr. Bang: No one is able to take his money or possessions to the other world. Yes, so far I am not accepting remuneration for my position as President of KIMEP. However, people live with different values. Some people would like to leave a house, or a capital, or a book as a legacy. I have chosen another option. It is an honor for me to bestow such a gift, a modern western style higher educational institution, to the people of Kazakhstan. The people of Kazakhstan have been kind to me and in case I leave this country KIMEP will stay here.
Reporter: A great deal of negative publicity exists about private universities. Do you agree with the criticism?
Dr. Bang: KIMEP cannot be compared to any other university. It is owned by the state however last year the management of the university was entrusted to me for a three year period, after which it will be privatized. I expect there will be some objections but... Your apartment is your private property. Having privatized it, you have put your whole soul into its renovation. The state cannot support such a university. A private initiative is necessary to maintain its integrity.
Until KIMEP is privatized, no sponsor will invest funds into its development. And we definitely need this financial support! In the USA the 5 most world-renowned schools of management are in private ownership - and they are flourishing!
Reporter: We would like to know your opinion on some economic issues. At the present moment a great deal of financial and industrial capital is flowing into the Central Asian region. In your view, what benefit will this yield for Kazakhstan? Is there a danger that the advanced investing countries will swallow up the still weak economy of the young country?
Dr. Bang: The Kazakhstani economy can be viewed from two perspectives - relativity and absoluteness. Kazakhstan has advanced much further than Turkmenistan, Tadjikistan, Kirgizstan. Right now we are witnessing a relative liberalization of the society. However, in 1999 - 2000 Kazakhstan underwent an economic crisis. At the beginning of this year the economy has begun to recover. The recovery was facilitated by an increase in oil prices and other factors. Many experts predict that the upsurge of the Kazakhstani economy will be continuous for 2 -3 years. Regarding investment I would like to say that it is indispensable as donor's blood to a sick person. This means the inflow of capital, new technologies, providing additional jobs. For instance, in my company "USKO", there are approximately 600 employees. I invest in different know-how projects, in constructing luxury houses, production of furniture. My company pays a huge amount of taxes to the state. And this is not enough yet. During every meeting we have, the President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Nazarbayev, emphasizes the need for more investments into this country.
Corr: There is a suspicious attitude to certain investors in Kazakhstan...
Dr. Bang: This is wrong. Investments assist in the positive welfare of the recipient state. For example, the Zheskazgan NPO had been processing only 70 000 tones of it's product per year. Currently, after transfer under the management of a Korean company, the volume has increased up to 450 000 tons annually. Can you see the difference?
Corr.: Dr. Bang the formula of success is composed of many factors. One of them being human resources. What is your vision of the ideal government official of the new generation?
Dr. Bang: First of all he must be a leader capable of moving people and the nation along the path of economic modernization. To raise leaders is the priority task of higher education institutions of the modern day. I would like to assure you that almost every graduate of our institution has attained this quality of leadership. This is because KIMEP is their alma mater.