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The Rise of Environmental, Social, and Governance in South Korea: Greenwashing or Generational Opportunity?

Event: Thursday, Oct 20, 2022, Washington, DC

South Korea is transitioning to the era of living with Covid under a new South Korean administration, with moderate growth expected in 2022 led by semiconductors exports. While some larger firms are doing relatively well, there is a persistent perception that many in South Korea are being left behind, including non-export sectors, young people with fewer prospects for upward mobility, lower productivity of small and medium businesses, as well as inadequate safety nets for the elderly and other vulnerable groups. While many policy announcements have been made, Koreans continue to live with unhealthy air and greenhouse emissions per capita well above the OECD average.

The recent rise of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards in South Korea could be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address social and environmental challenges, but “greenwashing” (using ESG more for marketing rather than real social impact) and lack of regulatory clarity remain as key barriers. Compounding the confusion is the proliferation of ESG standards, with more than 600 practiced in Korea. To address systemic ESG challenges and opportunities for South Korea, leaders from the public, private, and academic sectors gathered to formulate ESG policy reform recommendations, including a presentation at the National Assembly this year. The ESG report showcases a case study in East Asia for private investors interested in the mobilization of responsible capital in the region as well as the substance and process of policy reforms.


Jinho Chung, Chairman and CEO, The Wells Investment
Kwang Kim, Country Representative, Korea, The Asia Foundation
Danny Leipziger, Managing Director of The Growth Dialogue and Professor of Practice of International Business, George Washington University
Randall S. Jones, Non-resident Distinguished Fellow and Professional Fellow, Korea Economic Institute and Columbia University’s Center on Japanese Economy and Business
Troy Stangarone, Senior Director and Fellow, Korea Economic Institute
John Brandon, Senior Director, International Relations Programs Associate Director, The Asia Foundation

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Related locations: Korea
Related programs: Good Governance

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