The K.E.Y. Platform kicked off on Thursday, April 27th, with an introduction by Michael Traem, Managing Director of Avencore, and an epic video highlighting the theme of the 2017 conference: Pandemonium 2020. The theme of “Pandemonium” emphasizes the tense global geopolitical environment and the threat for crisis, alongside dramatic transformations in the way we interact with the world due to technological advances and environmental change. These global trends will critically shape the next 3 years as we move towards 2020.
In the opening Plenary Session, speakers Anthony Kim (Research Manager and Senior Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation), Sungjoo Hong (Research Fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Institute), and Younghun Jung (Adjunct Professor at Ajou University) gave targeted summaries of emerging global trends. Anthony Kim discussed the current geopolitical climate, including conflict on the Korean peninsula and in the South China Sea, continued unrest in the Middle East, changing political landscapes in Europe (e.g. Brexit), the aging population in developed countries, and the movement of U.S.-Korea trade towards bilateral agreements under Trump.
Sungjoo Hong gave a more hopeful talk on the growing digital economy, as new technologies like FinTech (financial technologies) and Artificial Intelligence advance rapidly. Her description of a future in IoT, or “Internet of Things”, gave an interesting, future-oriented outlook on the way digitalization will transform the way we interact with the world by connecting all of our everyday devices – a smart refrigerator that can automatically purchase and restock orange juice as a whimsical example.
Finally, Professor Jung closed the Plenary Reports with a discussion on environmental pressures and future outlooks. In energy, he predicted a global transition towards natural gas, accompanied by a stabilization in oil prices. However, he stressed that the biggest variable in global energy security is Trump, as the recent 2015 Paris Agreement becomes shaky under the threat of U.S. withdrawal. He also connected energy security with digitalization, indicating the importance of data and the Internet of Things to accurately forecast future energy demands.
The opening session was closed off with a Plenary Report Review panel consisting of experts – academic and corporate – from both Eastern and Western countries. Each gave a brief presentation on a topic in their expertise, and reviewed the reports presented by the 3 previous speakers. To name a few: Professor Flynt Leverett of the U.S. offered an interesting perspective on U.S. Middle East policy, with a criticism of conventional U.S. policies on intervention in the Middle East. Professor Han Xiandong of China discussed future directions for China in an era of uncertainty, including the commitment of the country in mediating tensions on the Korean peninsula. Jarl Frijs-Madsen of Denmark discussed the future of Europe as a region plagued by stalled growth and an aging population, yet rich with innovation.
Heenam Choi, Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund, closed the morning talks with a lecture on global economy prospects, including the increase in the U.S. interest rate, financial deregulation, increasing protectionist policies, risks for financial crisis following high growth and a market bubble in China, aging populations, and slow productivity.
The afternoon featured an MTN Talk Show where the panelists of the morning panel discussed the global economic outlook and the world’s responses in the Trump era. Topics of interest to the audience included the move towards bilateral trade agreements with the U.S. (Free Trade Agreements) under Trump, and the ingredients that would be necessary for reunification of the Korean peninsula.
A separate afternoon Breakout Session featured China’s digital economy. Interesting innovations in China include WeChat as an integrated platform for mobile services (unlike the spread across multiple apps in the U.S.), including social networking (like Facebook), payments (like Apple Wallet), ride-sharing (like Uber Pool), and more. Another interesting trend in China is the “WangHong” (Internet celebrities) economy, demonstrating how online platforms have enabled individuals to significantly influence consumer preferences for products.
Overall, all speakers emphasized the interconnectedness of the global economy. The conference was special in the range of perspectives at the conference, with representation from the U.S., Europe, China, and South Korea.
After a busy day, the S&S team spent the evening visiting Gangnam. Along the way, we were impressed by the sustainability and efficiency of Seoul’s subway system. With a network spanning almost 300 stations, we found Seoul’s subways packed even during late night hours – a sign of widespread and efficient usage of public transportation in the city. Single-use tickets were reusable (a deposit would be taken if not returned), and moving walkways activated only upon sensing motion. All in all, it was an interesting day for S&S, and we are very excited for Day 2 of the K.E.Y. conference!