Video Interview: Gi-Wook Shin Discusses the Economic and Geopolitical Implications of Mobile Talent

APARC and Korea Program Director Gi-Wook Shin joins Gita Wirjawan, a visiting scholar at the Center and host of the “Endgame” video podcast, to share his work on the ways in which countries in Asia and elsewhere can address brain drain, discuss the influence of soft power on South Korea's evolution, and consider the threats posed by demographic and democratic crises to the country’s future.
Gi-Wook Shin seated in his office during an interview

The international movement of skilled workers represents brain gain for their host countries and brain drain for their countries of origin. In an era of accelerated global talent flows, the negative impacts of brain drain can be especially problematic for less-developed countries. Yet Stanford sociologist Gi-Wook Shin, the director of APARC and the Korea Program, believes that these countries should not fear the initial losses to their talent pools but focus on converting brain drain into forms of brain circulation and linkage, he tells APARC Visiting Scholar Gita Wirjawan, host of the popular 'Endgame" video podcast.

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According to Shin, losses in human capital often result in later gains through the productive capacity embodied in ties and networks that span geographic and cultural distance linking organizations and individuals. Such transnational social capital, he explains, is critical in today’s global market economy. On the latest “Endgame” episode, Shin sits down with Wirjawan to discuss his research into global talent flows.

Shin points to South Korea and India as two countries that have experienced brain drain but have also been able to learn from their experiences and implement policies to address the challenge. In India, for example, robust government development initiatives and active, highly skilled diaspora have been instrumental in promoting brain circulation. In South Korea, the government invested heavily in education and research, creating a solid foundation for the country's economy and reducing the outflow of talent.

South Korea, however, is now facing multiple perils, from rapid demographic crisis to democratic recession, North Korean security threats, and rising tensions in the shadow of the U.S.-China strategic competition. Worse still, extreme political polarization and social divisions in the country are undermining its ability to confront the challenges ahead and might upend its successful modern history, Shin cautions, urging the Yoon administration to promote a culture of inclusivity, diversity, and tolerance.

This conversation with Shin is part of an "Endgame" interview series Wirjawan is recording with Stanford experts during his residency at APARC.

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