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Professor of international business, banking expert dies at 81

Photo Illustration by Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor
Faculty who knew Park said he was a kind person who looked to the positive side of all situations throughout his decadeslong tenure in the School of Business.

Yoon Park, a professor of international business, died last month. He was 81.

Park served as a professor at GW for more than 40 years after arriving at the University as a a master’s student in 1970. He spent his career working in international business as a board member at the Samsung Corporation, the senior financial economist for World Bank and a board of directors member for the Korea Economic Institute for America.

Faculty who knew Park said he was a kind, respectful and open person who enjoyed focusing on the positive aspects of life.

He was born in the southern province of Jeonnam, Korea in 1940 to a family of farmers. Growing up in a tent city under difficult circumstances, he sold newspapers, polished shoes and worked other odd jobs to fund his education.

Park graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Kyung Hee University in 1963 before moving to the United States to complete a master’s of business administration at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey in 1967 and earn a doctorate in business administration at Harvard University in 1970.

Park started his career at GW as a student when he earned a master’s in economics in 1973 and then went on to graduate with a doctorate in economics from GW in 1976. Park returned to GW as a professor in 1981 and spent the rest of his life teaching at the University.

Young-Key Kim-Renaud, a professor emeritus of Korean language and culture and international affairs, said she became close friends with Park at GW, and the two developed a “solidarity” stemming from their experiences as immigrants.

“To live as immigrants here we don’t feel we abandoned the one country for another,” she said. “We feel we got married into another country, so you never really forget your home.”

Kim-Renaud said they were always inviting each other to their respective professional activities, like lectures and speaking events, and they “bonded” through their different academic specialties.

She said they were also close friends outside of the professional setting – Park attended her granddaughter’s first birthday party, while she attended his children’s weddings.

Danny Leipziger, a professor of international business, said Park was “instrumental” in convincing Leipziger to join GW after leaving the World Bank. He said Park was an asset to GWSB who connected the school to Korea.

“When you mentioned his name to any Korean academic or government official or people in the business world, they immediately knew who he was,” he said.

He said Park was a “loved” professor who connected with all the international business students – particularly the Korean students, who all knew Park by the time they left the school.

“He was instrumental in attracting Korean students to come to our programs,” he said.

Scheherazade Rehman – a former student of Park, a professor of international finance and business and the director of the European Union Research Center – said she was lucky to be both a student and colleague of Park. She said he is the primary reason she chose to become a professor.

Rehman said he lived an honorable, well-lived life and offered time to everyone he knew.

“He always had time, respect and a smile for anyone who knocked on his door, always reminding them, no matter the problem, that they should be grateful for all that has gone right, solutions are at hand, and how lucky they are rather than focus on the lack off or the negative,” she said in an email.

She said he was the “reigning expert” of international banking in the international business department, GWSB and the University.

Park had experience consulting for international organizations like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the U.S. Federal Reserve and the U.S. State Department.

“He will be missed well beyond his own humble sense of self,” she said in an email. “It is a loss that is incalculable to the rest of us all… especially to his family, his students and to me personally.”

Park will be survived by his wife Heawon Park, his older brother, two sons, daughter and four grandchildren.

There will be a celebration of life service for Park on April 29, followed by his burial in Fairfax Memorial Park on April 30.

Editor’s Note: If any family members, friends or colleagues of Professor Yoon Park would like to provide further comment for the story, email The Hatchet at [email protected].

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