New UUCePP-PhD Jihwan Ryu on behavioral economics, climate change and her favorite book

What kind of mind-set is needed to carry out ground-breaking research as we do at UUCePP? PhD researcher Jihwan Ryu, who started in 2023, introduces herself.

'Who' and 'what' are you?

I am Jihwan Ryu, originally from South Korea. I completed my economics degree at the University of Amsterdam for my bachelor's and then delved into game theory and behavioral economics for my master's at the same institution. The driving force behind my academic path was my keen interest in understanding human behavior, which not only led me to study abroad but also shaped my academic focus on behavioral economics.

Fueled by curiosity, I am drawn to uncovering the motivations behind people's actions and untangling the origins of various institutions and customs. This curiosity also drives me to seek out connections with new people from diverse backgrounds, to exchange ideas, and mutually expand our knowledge. Pursuing this Ph.D. position is a natural fit, as it aligns perfectly with my goal of exploring questions that have intrigued me and engaging with a diverse group of experts.

While I enjoy the excitement of exploring new places and connecting with others, I equally value my personal time. Engaging in regular workouts and immersing myself in books are some of my favorite pastimes. Occasionally, I find myself deeply engrossed in jigsaw puzzles. Additionally, one of my favorite things to do in the Netherlands is to gather up with friends at cozy cafes for coffee and desserts.

What are you working on, and why?

My primary research objective revolves around investigating the impact of introducing voluntary sustainability certifications, including the CO2-performance ladder, within government procurement processes on overall welfare.

Given the voluntary nature of these certifications, their introduction prompts varying responses from both buyers and suppliers, thereby influencing their decision-making strategies. My goal is to grasp how stakeholders engaged in government procurement react to these certifications and to evaluate their effectiveness in enhancing welfare in society. My study acknowledges the necessity of involving all interested parties to accurately gauge the welfare effect, recognizing the potential for conflicting interests.

My dedication to this research is rooted in my academic background, having majored in Game Theory and Behavioral Economics. I am particularly intrigued by decision-making processes involving multiple entities with varied interests and how these processes can contribute to advancing societal welfare. Moreover, the pressing concern of sustainability greatly motivates my research.

Moreover, I'm excited about the potential practical applications of these findings. I'm eager to explore if these insights can be extrapolated to different countries or contexts, including the corporate domain. Ultimately, my aspiration extends beyond academic discourse to making contributions to real-world problem-solving and practical discussions.

What do you get out of bed for every morning? And is that different now that we have started working hybrid?

Every night before I go to sleep, I take a moment to think about the upcoming day and its tasks. Whether it's as simple as planning coffee chats or dinners or getting ready for work-related responsibilities, I mentally prepare for what lies ahead. Interestingly, my internal clock often wakes me up at the right time, even as early as 5 AM for flights, without needing an alarm.

What gets me up and going in the morning is a mix of excitement for the new day and a strong determination to accomplish things. While I don't plan out every detail, once I have a task in mind, I'm fully committed to seeing it through. This inner drive pushes me out of bed each morning, ready to embrace new experiences and take on whatever needs to be done.

With the hybrid work setup, there's more flexibility. Some days don't require me to be physically present at work or institute. Even though I could work from home, I've found that changing my environment actually boosts my productivity. I like to keep a clear boundary between my workspace and my personal space.

Our world seems to be in a continuous state of various crises (environment, COVID19, Ukraine): Can you indicate for one (or possibly several) of these crises how this affects your field?

Climate change has indeed made a significant impact on our field. The increasing frequency of natural disasters and the resulting challenges, such as impaired crop growth, diminished seafood stocks, and habitat degradation, have become prevalent. This pressing scenario necessitates immediate attention. Nevertheless, significant corporations seem to resist adopting eco-friendly practices, I think primarily due to apprehensions about profitability and continuity of the firm.

This emphasizes the pivotal role economists play in navigating these environmental challenges while mitigating potential financial setbacks. Investigating the potential effects of voluntary sustainability certifications within the government procurement process offers a potential path forward. My hope is that my research can offer meaningful contributions that bridge the gap between academia and practical solutions in this critical realm.

“This is a picture of a mountain in Gangwon. I find great joy in observing the mountain's naturally formed curves. The enduring nature of mountains never fails to astonish and humble me.”

Which person inspires you and what would you like to ask her/him?

The individuals who have consistently inspired me the most are my parents. They've weathered shifts from a dictatorial government to rapid economic growth, and navigated through crises like the 1997 IMF financial crisis and the global financial turmoil in 2008. Living in a country accustomed to frequent changes, their ability to adapt to new systems, developments, and customs astonishes me.

My father's embrace of change has left a profound impact on me. He has stressed the importance of staying informed about our world, including international relationships like those with North Korea and the United States, along with financial and technological advancements. On the other hand, my mother has been a powerful teacher of authentic human interaction. She has taught me the significance of sincerity when engaging with others. Her immense love and empathy make her a remarkable role model.

Given the substantial changes and increased opportunities in today's world, I often ponder what path my parents might have chosen if they were born today. Both brilliant and passionate individuals, I'm curious to know what direction they'd have pursued with more resources and opportunities at hand.

Name the book/movie/thinker that impressed and shaped you the most; and why?

The book that has impressed me and that I am eager to revisit countless times is "The Art of Loving" by Erich Fromm. I've read this book multiple times in both English and Korean. Its core lesson is that genuine love extends to everything around us, including ourselves. Love is not exclusive; it encompasses all aspects of life. Just as you nurture flowers instead of plucking them, true love involves cherishing and caring for things and people. This perspective has significantly transformed how I approach life. I've adopted a mindset of caring for people and things, reflecting the principles of this book. Moreover, it has taught me self-acceptance, a valuable trait I used to struggle with. This perspective resonates in my work and studies as well, as I approach them with dedication and a genuine passion for the subjects.