League of Geeky Athletes: E-Sports and League of Legends

“He’s gonna find Santorim right before the dragon. Looks like he’s gonna try to get over the wall. Not gonna work though. Oh chilling spikes and now Santorim is in a lot of trouble.. he’s lost and WOOOOOOOOOO DENIED! HEAD BUTTING AND BACK, OUT OF THE LANTERN!” Believe or not, this quote is from a sports caster. What kind of sports commentary involves a dragon and chilling spikes? You guessed it, the E-Sports. Back in Fall of 2013, there was an unusual event held in Galen Center and Staples Center. The League of Legends World Championship semi-finals and finals were held in those arenas. Those events attracted about 23,000 fans to spectate the video game matches in both event halls.  In case of the finals held in Staples Center, the tickets were sold out in an hour. Even for a professional basketball event held in Staples Center, it is very extraordinary. On top of the arena attendance, the final matches in Staples Center attracted about 32 million viewers worldwide according to Riot Games. In the end, South Korean team SK Telecom T1 won the prize of 1 million dollars. 

It may seem totally outrageous by traditional sports fans because these so-called “Professional Gamers” (or Pro-gamers) are earning millions of dollars by simply playing a video game in front of people. Yet, pro-gaming is more than that. Donghun Lee, scholar at Ball State University, wrote a journal article about how the E-Sports players need to train rigorously just as traditional athletes do. According to Lee, the Pro-gamers need to train their eyes to follow fast movements of pixeled characters and objects on the computer screen, train their hands to react faster for mouse clicking and keyboard button pressing, and train their hearing for reacting to gaming effect sounds. Some pro-gamers like SangHyuck “Faker” Lee plays practice games for over 12 hours a day to master his finesse in League of Legends.

League of Legends is vital to E-Sports because it showcased how serious the professional gaming can be through the outstanding number of viewers over the world. League of Legends is a free-to-play online competitive multiplayer game developed by Riot Games in 2009. Two teams of five players are required to play the game and one match lasts about 35-45 minuets. Since its release, League of Legends has been gathering monthly active users in a very fast pace. The monthly active users have increased from 15 million in 2009 to 100 million in 2016.

As mentioned earlier for the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship, the final matches attracted 23,000 physical fans and 32 million fans streaming online. Chad Millman, the editor in chief of ESPN.com and ESPN magazine, praised how E-Sports market is attractive on Fortune Magazine interview: “We saw how responsive the fan base was, how tremendous the storytelling opportunities were and, for those of us not already immersed in the industry, how similar it was from a competitive standpoint to what we already cover [. . .] It didn’t seem like that much of a stretch then to get aggressive about creating a digital destination.”It is very apparent that the E-Sports industry is growing. In the same article, Fortune states how the revenue from the E-Sports industry will grow from $278 million revenue in 2015 to $765 million revenue in 2018.

Essentially, League of Legends has made E-Sports big enough to attract investors to bring a significant change; once a niche industry is now becoming a profitable mainstream industry. As shown on the info-graph on the left, 2016 League of Legends World Championship had accumulative prize of 6.7 million U.S. dollars to distribute to the competing teams. Besides the prize money, the player salaries are pretty crazy as well. For example, aforementioned star gamer Faker earns $2.5 million per year from his contract with SK Telecom. While being this successful, the model of E-Sport industry actually comes from overseas despite the origin place of League of Legend being in the United States.

South Korea has had the strongest market environment for E-Sports since late 1990’s. According to New York Times Article, the Asian Financial Crisis triggered South Korea to have the best environment for E-Sports because the government allocated its funds in telecommunication and Internet infrastructure. By 2000s, the PC Bangs (PC방, it is directly translated as Personal Computer Rooms) were formed and the wide community of gamers was created. PC Bangs are the Internet cafes on steroids that provide the fastest Internet speed, computers with great CPUs, and superior graphic cards for  very cheap price like a dollar for an hour. With the introduction of StarCraft, a game released by Blizzard Entertainment in 1998, the PC Bangs became the proving ground for early gamers and multiple tournaments were held in different PC Bangs. In my personal experience, PC Bangs are like the neighborhood basketball courts. If someone in my class was good at either StarCraft or WarCraftIII, he would have the same popularity as a varsity football quarterback would have in the U.S. PC Bangs has made an E-Sports culture in South Korea and the market was meant to do well because of the infrastructures.

As the competitive gaming became popular, the South Korean government created the Korean E-Sports Association to manage E-Sports. As a result, a TV station dedicated for broadcasting E-Sports and big companies such as Samsung, CJ, and SK started to organize, manage, and finance their own E-Sports teams. Those companies still act as major sponsors in South Korea. For League of Legends, those sponsoring companies put their players in a training houses so they can practice as a team at least 8 hours a day. This model of hardcore training has influenced other League of Legends teams in the world. According to New York Times, “the country’s success at League of Legends has led several Western teams [. . .] many foreign teams have also tried to emulate the group living and training approach used in South Korea.”

League of Legend’s popularity in global E-Sports market triggered the United States to take actions. The U.S. teams such as Team Solomid, and Cloud 9 are sponsored by HTC. Cer Wang, the chairman of HTC said in 2015, said that “E-Sports has seen significant growth in the past few years and we see synergy between people who are passionate about this sport and our own customer base. It was an easy decision for us to sponsor these talented teams and individuals.” Apart from HTC, many different companies like Red Bull or GEICO sponsor League of Legend Teams because they see the profitability. According to SuperData report, “Brands have taken notice of E-Sports’ popularity and many have become sponsors quicker than projected [. . .] By year’s end, sponsorship of tournaments, players, and esports-related sites will exceed $578 million, just 28 percent less than this year’s NBA sponsorship total.”

Just as Fantasy Sports exists for traditional sports fans in the U.S., the hype of E-Sports seem to extend its reach to the betting game as well. According to the Internet magazine Travelers Today, a casino in Las Vegas started to allow people to bet on the League of Legends. The magazine also mentions that XLIVE, an entertainment organization event, will have a betting panel for League of Legends this month in Las Vegas. Waco Hoover, founder of XLIVE says that “E-Sports  is a burgeoning industry that’s poised for significant growth in the coming years. Some estimates put the global sports betting industry over $1 trillion and with the growing popularity of E-Sports the industry is looking to capitalize on gambling. Unheard of in traditional sports – crowd sourced prize pools in excess of $20 million demonstrate the extraordinary fan bases that exist with E-Sports and their leagues.”

Moreover, there has been a deal going on between Major League Baseball Advanced Media and Riot Games recently. According to Los Angeles Times, Riot Games is finalizing a deal to sell streaming rights for League of Legend matches to MLB’s tech unit for $200 million over two years. This is quite significant because most of the E-Sports matches are broadcast on Twitch or YouTube. What this deal means is that the streaming of League of Legends can be done in MLB app. The LA Times suggests that there could be a synergy for MLB to purchase League of Legends streaming rights because Riot Games has proven the wide audience its game can reach. Both Riot Games and MLB could gain massive profit with advertisers. Yet, there are still concerns regarding E-Sports broadcasting because the profit generation in E-Sports broadcasting is still in early stages. Whereas South Korea has its own TV station dedicated for video games that the station can profit from advertisers, the American E-Sports are broadcast mostly online. In this regard, moving into a premium app may pose a danger to the League of Legends fan community because the matches may lose its audience and perhaps become unpopular.

Though the MLB deal is still not announced to be closed, the concern LA Times brought up is very significant. League of Legends is not the only E-Sports game. Until recently, the League of Legends has been the most popular online multiplayer video game for MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre. According to data on Statista, League of Legends hold 66.3% of the market share based on PC and console revenues in 2016. For the MOBA genre, League of Legends may still be secure in E-Sports arena; however, new competitive game was introduced in this year’s Summer to perhaps bring down League of Legends from its E-Sports throne. Overwatch, a competitive online first person shooter game developed by Blizzard Entertainment, recently gathered over 15 million users according to Forbes. Bringing the E-Sports to South Korea, the PC Bangs are now populated with more Overwatch players than League of Legends. Even though League of Legends matches are still broadcast on Korean TV station, Overwatch matches have been raising a great number of fans.

Does the emergence of Overwatch mean the downfall of League of Legends? According to major video game news outlet Polygon, the first Overwatch World Cup at Blizzcon 2016 had more than 100,000 viewers. According to Polygon, Overwatch definitely has a potential to be big in E-Sports scene. While League of Legends has been focusing on team construction in the beginning of each round, Overwatch provides more fluidity in game. This means that once players select their champion characters in the beginning of the game, the players are locked with the champions they selected; in other words, the strategy is already locked with the character choices in the beginning of the game. Meanwhile, players can switch their choice of characters at any time of the gameplay. Providing more fluidity in strategy, many hardcore gamers find Overwatch to be a great game in competitive setting. Yet, Polygon points out the flaw of Overwatch that may hinder it from entering the E-Sports market. Overwatch is not the best game for the spectators because it is a first person shooter and it confuses spectators on which characters are on the same team. For a fast pace gun-serking game such as Overwatch, it becomes very difficult for the spectators to see what is going on. For League of Legends, each teams’ health bars are color coded so it is intuitively easy to figure out what is happening in the battle field. In case of Overwatch, not so much.

Does an introduction of new exciting competitive game threaten League of Legends? Not so much. It is just like traditional sports. Basketball getting more popular than baseball does not mean that baseball is not relevant at all. Just like how League of Legends have been treated as sport, it will not have the same decline. Older games can still be relevant and profitable in E-Sports. For example, StarCraft I is still relevant in South Korea even though the competitive market started since 1990s. There are still StarCraft I matches in South Korea and they are broadcast, although StarCraft II came out and the tournament of its own has been getting popular. For this regard, I think the emergence of new games is not a threat to the E-Sports community or League of Legends. It just means that more sport genres are added and the fans will have more options to watch the pro-gamers competing with their passion. As E-Sports get popular just like League of Legends, maybe people will see E-Sports being part of Olympics.

FDA stopping innovation? Vaping Industry and FDA Ruling

blog-fdavsvapeThroughout the 4 years I have been walking on the USC campus, I have observed that the number of e-cigarette smokers (or vapers) has increased. This is interesting because there have been multiple anti-vaping campaign on public billboards, bus advertisements, and TV advertisements. The campaign Stillblowingsmoke has been around in California since 2015 and it was funded by Food and Drugs Administration. Yet, the vaping industry have been growing its sales revenue from $20 million in 2008 to $3 billion in 2015. Most consumers like myself vape to quit smoking and there has been successful data found in the United Kingdom. The researchers in the University of London found out that the chance of quitting smoking cigarettes rises up to 50% with vaping devices compare to the traditional anti-smoking aids like nicotine gum or patches. It seems good and all, but the recent regulation put by FDA has put a huge hinge on the vaping industry.91506-14288673495081792-devon-shire

In this year’s May, FDA finalized regulations on tobacco products and e-cigarettes. According to Washington Post article regarding this regulation, the regulation does not affect tobacco products but affects significantly on vaping products. The article states that there is a “part of the rule that ‘deems’ e-cigarettes to be tobacco products and subjects them to extensive regulatory requirement is likely to harm public health than to help it”.

E-cigarettes are fairly young product and the extent of its harm is still in needs of further long-term research; however, the recent findings in Public Health of England in 2015 stated that the use of vaping products are about 95% safer than smoking tobacco AND they can help smokers to quit. public-health-england-e-cigarette-safetyWhy is the regulation necessary, then? The mission statement of the FDA is “responsible for protecting the public healthy by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation”. With that in mind, it does not make much sense why the FDA would put regulations on them. However, the vaping industry associates speculate the Big Tobacco being involved with the FDA because the regulation helps the Big Tobacco to lessen its competition.

The regulation stated above has more dreadful effect on the vaping industry than just deeming its products as tobacco products. According to article in The Fiscal Times, the vaping products needs to apply for tobacco product acknowledgement by the FDA. For that FDA acknowledgement application, it costs between $3 million to $20 million and will take average of 1,713 hours to complete. For the industry that is composed of small business owners, the new regulation sets a huge burden on them to continue the businesses.

For Big Tobacco, this regulation is hugely beneficial because it can decrease the size of vaping industry and the consumers will not have much option other than cigarettes. Considering how this regulation is set up by the FDA, this seems wrong because the Big Tobacco should be the least industry the FDA should help. The speculations go on about how Big Tobacco lobbies the FDA so much to secure its market. Though this speculation sounds ironic, the consumers of vaping industry and the store owners can only think how the innovative vaping industry is becoming the victim of capitalism.

The fall of Hanjin and Soon-sil Gate


On August 31st, South Korea’s largest container carrier declared bankruptcy.  LA Times reported on September that Hanjin’s unfortunate bankruptcy has to do with over supply of ships, low demand for capacity, and slow trade growth. The revenue from trade has been decreasing over the years but the demand for mega-ships has made it difficult for Hanjin to maintain its business as shipping company.hanjin-bankruptcy-is-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-for-flailing-shippers-la-times Using Bloomberg’s words on September 16, Hanjin “and its customers are being asked to pay more than usual to bring freight into U.S. ports, creating backlog that could keep goods off shelves during the holiday shopping season.”

How did this happen? Since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the shipping industry lost a great amount of money. For Hanjin’s case, it lost $1.1 billion in 2009. In 2010, China’s GDP growth slowed down and it affected the globe.  China’s slowed economy definitely dampened growth of Hanjin as well because China has been one of the major trading partner with Korea; South Korea makes $142 billion from export to China.  Ever since then, Hanjin has been going through a rough phase in its business. According to Journal of Commerce, Hanjin’s profit has been decreasing to the point where it had more than $5 billion in debt, and spot rates decreased significantly for Asia-Europe and Trans-Pacific.

On this year’s Spring, Hanjin attempted to get financial support from Korea Development Bank but the deal was pulled off in the middle. On April, Hanjin lost its control of operations to KDB and the company filed for court receivership in Seoul 3 days ago. Though it has been very gloomy for South Korea for having its major shipper declaring bankruptcy, there are some rumors rising recently that makes the country even more depressing. Recently, there has been a scandal involving South Korea’s president, Geun-Hye Park. Although the investigation is still on going, Korea Times published an article that there may have been connection between Geun-Hye Park’s scandal and KDB’s rejection to bail out Hanjin in Spring.

7301842751474883086The entire story of this newly found scandal is very complex because it dates back all the way from 1970s. To summarize the scandal, the recent , investigation conducted by South Korean intelligence agency found out that president Geun-Hye Park has been controlled by her mentor Soon-Sil Choi. According to LA Times, Choi has been using president to “pressure corporations to cough up millions in donations to dubious foundations [. . .to use] like a personal ATM.” Further, a vast number of government’s classified documents were found in Choi’s personal computer with no encryption.

In other words, South Korean president has been a puppet to a wealthy civilian. Back to the Hanjin’s bankruptcy, Korea Times suspects if the fund that was planned to be used for bailing out Hanjin was used for Choi’s personal use instead. According to Korea Times article, there has been statements that the decision-makers in Korean government was positive about cash injection to Hanjin through KDB until March. The article quoted from Joongang Ilbo daily (Korean Newspaper) that there was “invisible hand” cut in and suddenly stopped the process of attempt to save Hanjin from bankruptcy. Joongang Ilbo suspects that Choi disrupted the bail out because Hanjin’s support on Mir and K-Sports (the dubious foundations Choi has been using as her personal ATMs) was not satisfying to her. Whereas LS Group, CJ group, and Doosan Group made donations more than a billion won each, Hanjin was only able to donate a lot less than each of those organizations.

Though the government strongly denies this allegation, the Korean people are losing their confidence in Korea’s economy and politics. On November 1st, Choi was detained in Korea and the scandal is going under further investigations. It is very unknown if the allegation on Choi-gate resulted a failure of saving Hanjin from bankruptcy; however, one thing is clear. With Hanjin fallen and Choi-gate on going, Korea is facing a gloomy era.

South Korean Brain Drain and Its Potential Impact on Economy

Teamwork and Leadership with education symbol represented by two human heads shaped with gears with red and gold brain idea made of cogs representing the concept of intellectual communication through technology exchange.

When I first came to the United States with a student visa eight years ago, I dreamed of working in the states because my friends and family members had been talking to me about how America is the land of opportunity. Yet, it is very interesting for Koreans to view how the United States has more opportunities than Korea because South Korea has had lower unemployment rate than the United States has had by having the unemployment rate of 3.2% in 2008.

Just looking at data on 2005, South Korea was ranked as the number one country to have the largest population of students studying abroad in the states. According to an article in Radio Korea in 2006, the U.S. had 117,755 Korean international students. Furthermore, the article states how most of South Koreans wanted to live and work in America between 2005 to 2006.  This sentiment indicates how many Koreans (either students or workers) regarded the United States as the economic powerhouse where it was very desirable to leave their homes.

Though South Korean youths dreamed about immigrating to the United States, there was a problem. For countries with low birth rates, it is advantageous to attract intelligent and talented foreigners to expedite countries’ development. In case of South Korea, the foreign workforce in the country has been concentrated in manual labor, which does not require high education background. Does the allocation of foreign workers in manual labor mean that South Korea has a high birth rate? No, the World Bank Statistics in 2014 indicates that South Korea has  suffered from low birth rate of 1.21 children born per women.

With low birth rate and less welcoming of educated workers, South Korea should have a great education to promote R&D. However, there is an indication where the  intelligent and talented Koreans are avoiding to work in their homeland when they are getting PhD through studying abroad. According to the Korean Institute for International Trade report on 2006, South Korea had brain drain of 1.4% from 1990 to 2000 and it has not been getting better at all.

Why would the students be hesitant to go back to their country? Is it economically bad to go back to Korea? To answer this, it is important to compare Korean economic history between 1990s and today because the change in economy and social consciousness may be the reason for the brain drain.

Until the Asian financial crisis in 2007, South Korea was having the prime time of its economic prosper. According to the article Finance and Growth of Korean Economy from 1960 to 2004 in Seoul Journal of Economics by Shin-Haing Kim, the political shift from military despotism to democracy made better environment for Korean economy to grow. The democratization of politics in 1987 fostered economic liberalization and brought higher wages. In 1996, South Korea became the member of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) by meeting the requirement of having enough income per capita.

Despite the increase in wages ensured Koreans to have high hopes for further economic growth, Chaebol economimfiredy ultimately triggered South Korea to fall into Asian financial crisis of 1997. Chaebol (재벌) is a unique economic faction in Korea that is equivalent to family owned conglomerate. In the 90s, the government favored Chaebols and started to implicitly guarantee loans for them. In the essence, the government guided the fund allocations towards Chaebols by favoring them; the process of non-biased surveillance and evaluation of risks was skipped. Where the loans should have been granted equally to small business owners and firms, the loans were concentrated to Chaebols. In turn, the Chaebols became too big for the government to bailout when they were in debt. Consecutively, the foreign investors lost confidence in the ability of Korean economy to protect loans and many loans were withdrawn. As a result, big Chaebol corporations such as Hanbo, Sammi, Jinro, and Kia defaulted and the government had no power to bail them out. With the Chaebols fallen, South Korea faced a great amount of debt and South Korean government reached out to International Monetary Fund for financial remediation.

In 1998, South Korea had a record low GDP growth rate of -7% and it seemed that all hope was lost. However, Korean people rose up together and voluntarily accumulated 227t of gold to recover from financial crisis. According to an article in Korea Daily, the Koreans at the time submitted their luxury assets like gold bracelet and wedding rings to support their homeland to get out of the crisis. Though this campaign was not the main source of Koreans to escape from crisis, South Korea was able to pay the debt and interests to IMF  one year earlier than it was expected to.

Entering 2000s with free of IMF debts, South Korea has emerged as one of strongest Asian economic hubs alongside of China and Japan. From 1998 to 1999, the GDP growth had a miraculous increase from -5.7% to 10.73% according to data listed on The World Bank. From 2000 to 2015, South Korea’s GDP growth in 2000s is recorded to be 4.25% in average, which is bigger than the average United States’ GDP growth in 2000s (1.929%). Though the export heavy economy of South Korea has been showing slow growth, the unemployment rate has been low as 3.5% in 2016. However, the surviving Chaebols still assume a great power in economy and politics in Korea.

Economy definitely has gotten better for South Korea. However, the students who received doctorate degrees overseas state that they prefer staying outside Korea due to the disadvantageous circumstance they face as they get back. Mostly, the brain drain (phenomenon of talents emigrating into other countries) in South Korea is shown by the engineering and science talents migrating into the United States. According to Meil Business Newspaper’s analysis from the 2016 report of American National Science Foundation, 65.1% of Korean international students with doctorate degrees in engineering and science favored to stay in the states.  MBN also interviewed one of the international students who recently received a doctorate degree in engineering from Stanford. He said, “If I return to Korea, I may have to say permanent good-bye to my family. There are no universities offer me to be a professor and the jobs offered by corporate labs are all far away from the main city. I rather try to get a job at the U.S. defense company so I may get a citizenship. I know I may face racism, but I think being a second citizen is better than having no place in Korea”.

According to Radio Korea, international students with doctorate degrees in engineering/science leaving South Korea has increased from 2006 to 2016 by 170%. Yet, staying in the United States can often pose more problems for the Korean talents.rate-of-visa-sponsorship In order to work in the U.S., the international graduates need to apply for jobs that sponsor working visas, and it is not an easy task. According to myvisajobs.com, the rate of U.S. companies granting visa sponsorship to foreigners in 2013 was roughly 55%. In other words, only the half of total international graduates may work in the states legally. In addition,  obtaining employment as a foreigner in the U.S. is a very painstaking process. First, the foreigner needs  Permanent Labor Certification(ETA Form 9089). Then the foreigner needs an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker(Form I-140). And finally, the foreigner needs an Adjust of Status to a permanent resident of the United States(Form I485). It is definitely not an easy process to go through. image_readtop_2016_661638_14743718132619564

Despite this not-so-favorable employment condition in the United States, the South Korean engineering/science talents desire to stay in the U.S. after getting doctorate degrees because the Korean academia does not socially welcome them . As stated in the interview above, becoming a professor in Seoul is extremely difficult for Korean international graduates. To begin with, the Korean work space culture often repel the international graduates. According to the book The Korean Mind by De Mente and Boye Lafayette, Korean workers inside Korea value the concept of “Anshim” or 안심. Mente and Lafayette describe “Anshim” as a “peaceful heart” state of mind that is developed from Buddhism and Confucianism. Though this concept is about finding peace in mundane, it also reflects how close-minded the Korean people are. Mente and Lafayette further comments on this state of mind in their book that “Anshim” dictates Korean language, etiquette, ethics, personal relations, and even business relations. For “Anshim” state of mind, irregularity is a very negative force. For the case of talents returning with doctorate degrees overseas, those talents are the irregular force that will invade the safe space of academia to the professors in Korean universities; the degree earners come back with American demeanor and suggest ideas that are not common in Korean academia. In turn, the Korean professors will outcast the foreign doctorate degree earners; this creates the similar discrimination as racism in the United States.

Furthermore, becoming a researcher in Korea is not profitable to the U.S. graduates due to poor wages. For example, the U.S. offers $80,000~$90,000 as the first annual income but Korea offers about $35,707 (converted from 40,000,000 Korean Won). For the less wages and cultural discrimination, Radio Korea criticizes Korea for not providing solution to these returning doctorate degree earners.

Interestingly, the amount of Korean international students in the U.S. has decreased over the years, contrary to the concern of the brain drain and falling demand in international students’ willingness to return to Korea. I compared the statistics of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement report on 2014 and 2016. Between those years, the percentage of Korean students studying abroad in the U.S. drops year by year. The Financial News (Korean news agency) also has reported that the amount of U.S. dollars Koreans spent on studying abroad in the U.S. decreased from $1,920,000,000 on 2013 to 1,570,000,000, which is 18.1% decrease over the three-years period. According to its statistics, the Korean international students fell by 20% from 2011 (262,465) to 2015 (214,595)  because there are no longer additional merits the international degrees offer to students who strive to get jobs in Korea. According to the Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor, the labor market is not favorable to the student population. In 2013, the ministry stated on an article in Ulsan Daily that the total unemployment rate was 4% but the youth unemployment rate (15 to 29 years old) was 9.1%. The ministry sees the rate of achieving higher education as the problem. By 2011, 72.5% of youth work force had university degrees; thus, the youth work force became overqualified for most of jobs offered. This was the same for the returning studying abroad students as well. Since there has been an increasing trend of students who studied abroad from 2006 to 2011, the international degrees lost its values; the supply increased but demand fell down.


Besides the increasing supply of international degrees losing its value, the United States’ sentiment on foreign workers affect the decrease in value of degrees outside Korea. According to the interview Dong-A Daily (Korean News Outlet) had with a Korean employer in the states, he said: “The U.S. government demanded answers for my decision to hire a Korean international student. They came to the office very frequently to find any wrongdoing of my company just because I hired non-U.S. citizen.” According to Dong-A, there are similar cases in which the employers made a policy within the company to only hire U.S. citizens because they want to avoid any trouble. This sentiment is also clearly shown in this presidential election. The policies regarding international students have been tweeted and stated by both candidates.

As introduced in Little Book of Economics by Greg Ip, ideas, population, and capital are crucial for economic growth. On this issue of global talents immigrating and emigrating, ideas and population are directly influenced by those talents. As mentioned above, it is a great strategy for developed country with low birth rate to welcome more global talents and acquire jobs to make up for the low birth rate and further innovation. Yet, a recent phenomenon of global talents returning to their native countries after acquiring degrees and doctrine makes Korean problem bizarre. According to an article in the Huffington Post, the “People born in developing countries move to well-developed ones . . . but with the passing of time, some of them are willing to go back to their native country ‘to breed in the area where they were born'”. Just as Huffington Post describes with many international students from China, Kenya, and Italy, Korean students should also feel more confident to use the knowledge they have acquired from the U.S. universities in their own native countries.

The highly intelligent Korean international students not returning to their homeland can be damaging to Korean economy because the innovation may slow down. %ea%b8%80%eb%a1%9c%eb%b2%8c-%ec%9d%b8%ec%9e%ac%ed%8f%ac%eb%9f%bc-2016-%ec%9c%b5%ed%95%a9%ed%95%99%eb%ac%b8-%ed%91%9c%ec%a4%80%eb%b6%84%eb%a5%98%ed%91%9c%ec%97%90-%ec%97%86%eb%8b%a4%ea%b3%a0In any market competition, research and development are very crucial. Yet, the phenomenon of South Korean students who have potential to advance the R&D in their homeland getting discouraged by the work environment is definitely an issue Korea needs to solve in the future. The prime reason for the bad environment is the Korean university boards. According to the Hanguk-Kyungjae (Korean economics newspaper), Korean universities lack interdisciplinary system. Even though the Korean board of education publicly promoted interdisciplinary education, the professors in academia thought otherwise. The article describes that the professors think if professor A in one field of study tries to fuse his or her field of study with professor B’s field of study, they think of this phenomenon as an invasion instead of innovation. This view clearly has to do with aforementioned Korean state of mind, “anshim”. Due to the fact that “anshim” culture makes the academia to be very close minded, interdisciplinary education only exists as a noun. This problem is what repels the foreign doctorate degree earners as well. The students who earned their doctorate degrees in the United States are very used to interdisciplinary studies that they may want to research further when they become professors in Korea. However, the cultural state of mind hinders their motivation to come back and contribute to the close-minded academia.

The Hanguk-Kyungjae further sees this exclusivity problem in Korean academia as the main factor of not-returning intellectual talents who have acquired degrees overseas. Although South Korea has experienced tremendous of economic prosperity ever since the end of the Cold War due to innovative technologies in electronics and automobiles, the experts see that innovation is slowed down because of the exclusive culture in academia and it will slow economic growth even further. Though the number of Korean international students are declining, the brain drain issue is critical in South Korea because it will eventually slow down the competitiveness of Korean products. Though those are my worries, the future is still unknown because of the youths in Korea. Every year, the youth population are moving in the direction of becoming more open-minded than the generation before them. If Koreans continue to try, the struggle for returning foreign degree earners might meet its end. Culturally, Korea has definitely become more progressive compare to its very conservative past. Just as it is a remedy for everything, time may be the answer for the perception Korean academia has on foreign degree earners; thus, the problem of brain drain may be over in the future.

Uber: Win for the riders, loss for the drivers



Uber just completed 2 billion rides on July of 2016 internationally, proving as consumers’ best friend when it comes to transportation.

To the majority of the Trojans, Uber is an excellent app.

Thanks to the recent program between USC and Uber, the Trojans have been saving money and going home safely after late excursions.

Proving how Uber is the students’ beloved smartphone app, the recent findings in Uber demand curve shows how Uber service is more beneficial to the customers than the drivers and the company itself.


Uber, Steven Levitte (author of Freakonomics), and other researchers mapped out Uber demand curve to investigate the impact Uber has brought to the consumer welfare. If the researchers were to map demand curve for regular transportation service, it could have been harder because there is more than one factor. For the transportation service like Taxi, the price may be affected by not only the supply of the drivers but also by the weather, time of the day and other competing services. Different from aforementioned factors affecting transportation demands, Uber’s metrics are unique in two folds: 1. Uber records every occasion where a customer declines the offered price with regular factors such as the time, place, price, and a surge factor; 2. Uber rounds up or down to one decimal place the surge factor it generates to determine how much to charge customers for a given trip.

The Study looked into 48 million ride interactions over the first 24 weeks of last year from Uber’s four biggest U.S. markets: New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles. According to the data, the customers follow through 62% of the time without surge pricing (which is almost 80% of the time), and 39% when the surge is above 2 (3.5% of the time). The demand did not match the price. In simple economics, the demand should be high as the supply is scarce; however, the Uber data shows the opposite. As shown in the graph, the demand decreased by 40% as the price doubled.

On the conclusion of the study, the authors stated that Uber demand curve is highly inelastic and made $6.8 billion consumer surplus last year alone. This surplus is twice greater than how much the drivers were paid and six times what Uber itself earned last year. This may be a good news for the college students whose goal is always to save money, but it is clearly not a great news for Uber which has lost $1.2 billion in the first half of 2016.

Marine Advertisement Intensity Index

blog 1.2It’s a bad economy. Job searches have not been successful. Young people are running out of options.

What can they do?

Perhaps joining the military is not a bad idea.

This may have been a thinking process for the youth during recession in the U.S.. In 2011, non-profit research organization National Priority Project (NPP) has published a military recruitment research for 2010. According to the NPP research, there was not enough data to prove a correlation between unemployment rate and recruitment rate. However, it does infer how the poor economy may drive youths to think of military as a career option.

According to NPP, the accession rate increased from FY2009 to FY2010, which indicates how more people wanted to join the military. By the FY2011 recruitment period, the US military already fulfilled the whole year’s recruitment demand and the half of FY2012’s recruitment goal. Comparing NPP’s analysis and the U.S. unemployment rate from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the correlation between the unemployment rate and demand for youth to join the military seems to make more sense. Looking at the unemployment rate trend from the end of 2009 to the beginning of 2011, the unemployment rate fluctuate between 10% and 9%. Considering the recruitment dates starting on September-October period, the unemployed youth may have felt hopelessness on looking for jobs; consecutively, they thought of enlisting.



As mentioned above, the recruitment goal for FY2011 overfilled the government’s demand. Consecutively, the government would want less recruits on next recruitment period. Of course, there the other factors influencing the military recruitment. For instance, 9/11 incident inspired many young Americans due to the rising patriotism. Yet, the recruitment goals by the year of 2005 supports correlation between unemployment rate and enlisting rate because the goal “had fallen short of its 80,000-person” according to New York Times.

To meet the recruitment goal, the U.S. military needs either inspire or scare to influence the American youth so the recruitment goal is met. There is a myriad ways to influence the public, but Business Insider and New York times theorized how Marine Corps advertisements may be the economic indicator that speaks about the correlation between unemployment rate and enlisting rate.

Business Insider and New York Times suggest that the intensity of Marine recruitment advertisements can be a measure of economy. The general concept goes something like this: when people cannot find suitable jobs due to bad economy, the Marine Corps terrifies the potential recruits with intense imagery in the advertisements because the Marine Corps does not want too many recruits. Though there is no easy to measure the intensity of the advertisements due to its qualitative nature, it is certainly interesting to look at in the light of communication.

Marine Corps The Climb YouTube3

“The Climb”

The proof Business Insider and New York Times provides is the comparison of advertisements after and before the year of 2002. In 2002, the Marine Corps released an advertisement called “The Climb”. The advertisement showcased a man rock-climbing on a cliff. As the man ascends, the imagery of deployment, courageous Marines, American flag, troops helping people in needs, and many patriotic symbols appear on the cliff. At the end of the climbing, the man sees himself in the Marine uniform. The man gets picked up by himself in the uniform and they emerge into a proud Marine with a halo his back. Watching “The Climb”, being a Marine does not seem to be a bad idea. After watching the advertisement, it does not seem to matter how hard the training is because being a Marine looks like the most worthwhile occupation in the world. This advertisement highlights the slogan of Marine Corps “The Few, The Proud” because the advertisement sends powerful imagery to state how every recruit can become a proud Marine after a rigorous training and self-development.

The advertisement on the 2002 definitely seems to attract many recruits. On the year of 2008, however, the advertisement changed the look of military. Preparing the next fiscal year, the Marine Corps released “America’s Few” advertisement. The advertisement starts with young men from different backgrounds. They rally at the same location and the scene shifts to the series of hardcore training the cadets go through. The commercial shows the images of very intense training such as rope climbing, diving into the water with full battle gears , getting exposed to tear gas, training in the mud, getting thrown into the hand to hand combat with no protective gears, war simulations, and rigorous combat practices.

United States Marine Corps America s Few YouTube

“America’s Few”

Towards the end of the commercial, the narrator says that only a few can earn the title of proud Marines. Compare to the 2002 commercial, the advertisement on 2008 highlights how selective the Marine Corps is on picking its candidates. The images of trainees in pain from the training were repeating throughout the commercial. If the 2002 commercial was about the glory of becoming a Marine to attract many candidates, the 2008 commercial was definitely about influencing potential candidates to be hesitant on enlisting. On the year of 2009, the unemployment rate was 9.8% on September. In other words, there may have been a need to reduce the number of candidates to the Marine Corps as the unemployment rate rose; hence, “The Few” was more emphasized in the commercial than “The Proud”.


Of course it is not an accurate measure because the intensity can be subjective; however, the Marine Corps advertisement intensity index certainly has a value of studying. It definitely reflect on how the government communicates with people for the supply and demand. Just as other economic indicators influence how people feel about economy, Marine Corps advertisement intensity index influence how people feel about the government’s demand and supply.