Column: A Story about Financial Economics
Column: A Story about Financial Economics
  • Assistant Professor Keeyoung Rhee (HSS)
  • 승인 2023.03.01 21:08
  • 댓글 0
이 기사를 공유합니다

Assistant Professor Keeyoung Rhee (HSS)
Assistant Professor
Keeyoung Rhee (HSS)

 Introducing My Research
 I am majoring in financial economics. It studies how a financial deal is made, and how the specificity of financial trades, where general goods and services are distinguished, affects the efficiency of resource allocation. The most important function of financial markets is to promote the efficient allocation of funds and the attainment of added value by connecting creditors and debtors.
 I study policy designs that minimize the side effects of policy while preventing the financial crises that can occur due to uncertainties, so-called "information asymmetry," in which creditors do not know the debtor's ability. I also study policies minimizing economic losses by restoring the order of financial markets early when a financial crisis occurs. As well, I focus on the possibility that financial innovations such as ESG, Fintech, and Defi can have unexpected ripple effects on the market and study policies that can minimize side effects.

 Motivation for Choosing this Area
 I majored in mathematics as an undergraduate. Since then, I have been interested in social, and economic issues, and I took economics to study them deeply rather than superficial and unproductive arguments. I learned that the mathematical and statistical methods were actively utilized and made a goal of analyzing various economic and social issues scientifically based on the knowledge from mathematics, which made me enter a doctorate in economics. I heard the news of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. I agonized over how to recover the order of the financial market and minimize the crisis while seeing the collapse of U.S. financial markets, which seemed to be booming forever, and the global economic downturn. This naturally led to an interest in financial economics and became my current research field.

 Research Experience
 It is probably the most devoted doctoral thesis. During the financial crisis, as private investment decreased, funding was provided through the emergency bailout program. But it was less effective as companies refused it. This is because they were concerned about being recognized as high-risk when the government's help was revealed to financial markets. I studied how to maximize the effect of a policy covering this “stigmatization” with my advisor. However, it was hard to input the characteristics of the bailout policy and corporate interests into a theoretical model for analysis. As the model became more complex, it became difficult to derive results. When I talked to Jean Tirole, a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, he said he was interested, but gave up due to difficulty. In the end, it took six years to finish the analysis and publish the draft, but it was rejected from the journal review. As I discussed fixing the model, I concluded it needed to be redesigned and rewrote the thesis. As a result, I had to endure 10 years of hard work. But the result was sweet. Currently, this thesis is about to be confirmed for publication in the Journal of Finance, the most authoritative journal in financial economics and finance.
 In the process, I realized the heavy meaning of the ordinary proverb, "Patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet." I keenly learned the lesson that only working hard without being bound by small achievements leads to results.

 Relation between Economics and Science
 Modern economists actively introduce a mathematical methodology to various problems. As a result, they identified the causes and mechanisms of various economic and social phenomena. In addition, the truth of the results is verified with a mathematical model, and the theory is advanced by supplementing the model. Considering this process alone, the research method of economics is very similar to that of natural science.
 For example, there is a study on resolving bank monopolies. It would be looked good to increase competition among banks for consumer benefits, but that also increases the risk of bank failure. However, banks can be rescued from the government, so they excessively increase high-risk loans. Considering the various effects of promoting competition like this, policy authorities must decide whether this method is good or whether it is better to pursue stability rather than competition.
 To solve it, theoretical economists mathematically design and analyze models that consider the interests of various factors and establish theories. Empirical researchers test the statistical significance of the theory through various stats, and the theory is supplemented based on the results. Using these settled results, they present the desirable policy direction. The process of 'phenomenon occurrence - theory establishment - statistical test - theory supplementation' is like scientific methodology.

 The Application of Economics to everyday life
 We numerously encounter the application of economics to reality, while doing various economic and social activities including everyday life and hobby.
 For example, the test and GPA policy. The institutes make diverse measures for students’ education. The most primeval way is to supervise the learning process and to impose the penalty for underachievement. But it is problematic that it is too expensive for the benefit since it needs enormous effort. It is also difficult to objectively assess the ardor for study by the student's behavior.
 Therefore, educational institutions provide incentives to students to learn harder. They are allowed to take classes freely, but the level of academic achievement is evaluated through regular tests, and rewards or penalties are given on the results. From the educator's view, inefficient constant monitoring is not required, and students have the incentive to actively focus on classes to obtain rewards. In this way, economic methodology greatly contributes to improving the system to derive optimal results according to individual interests.

 Advice for Postechians
 I saw cases of seeing the situation superficially and judging it hastly when people hear the media or opinion. You should consider that social structures and different interests are complicated. I recommend having a habit of summing up the factors of the issue if you want to analyze economic and social phenomena. It is important to sort out the noticeable factors among them, ask how this will affect pending issues, and think about it logically. If the question is vague, the answer is superficial. For instance, you need to ask specific questions like “Amid the recent increase in employment in the U.S., is there a factor for the US central bank to continuously raise interest rates, and how will it affect the Bank of Korea's interest rate policy?” rather than “What would be the interest rate?”
 It should also be reminded that economics cannot explain all social phenomena. Economics assumes human rational thinking and studies interactions, but we must keep in mind that there are structural limitations because humans do not rely only on rational thinking.