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Korean Alumni Highlight: An Interview with Chaewook Im

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Matthew Farrell

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Seoul Central Business District
Seoul Central Business District

Editor’s note: In December of 2016, the Baker Program will be taking its second annual international (1st intercontinental trip) real estate trek. This year’s destination is Seoul, Korea. This post is part of a series intended to introduce our readers to several of the incredible Baker Program alumni currently working in Korea. This interview was conducted by Baker Program student Junghwan Kang.

It is truly an honor to introduce Chaewook Im (Baker ’05) before the upcoming Baker Program International Trek to Korea. Mr. Im will present an overview of Korea’s commercial property market on the 19th of December at Yonsei University during the trip.

Mr. Im has actively contributed to invigorating the real estate market in Korea, as Executive Vice President at Genstar. He is also head of the Cornell Real Estate Alumni Association in Korea, and has led and managed the broader Cornell Korean Alumni Association for several years.

Career in the Real Estate Industry

Please tell us about your company.

Genstar Co., Ltd is a Seoul-based real estate service provider for commercial properties – office, retail, multifamily residential and mixed-use. As a local Korean firm, Genstar has been focused on local corporate clients and investors to deliver quality services of property management, facility management, research, investment advisory, consulting, due diligence, project and program management, etc. In the local market, Genstar competes with many of global service firms such as CBRE, Jones Lang LsSalle, and Savills as well as with other local companies.

What is your role in the company? Please tell us about your career path before joining your current company.

Since joining Genstar as Executive Vice President in 2013, I have been responsible for overseeing day-to-day client services for projects across all asset classes throughout the country, including office, retail, and multifamily residential. I oversee research, investment advisory, property management, transaction and real estate development for corporate, investors, and asset managers. In addition, I am responsible for Genstar’s growth in various business sectors within real estate, including alliances and partnerships with leading global property companies. Thanks to my team’s effort, in 2016 Genstar has opened an office in New York to help Korean corporate clients in the U.S. and has begun in managing facilities in China to help Korean corporate clients who have more than 100 assets across China. So yes! We are beginning to take on the global market!

Regarding the Cornell Real Estate Alumni Association in Korea

It is well known that the Cornell real estate alumni network in Korea is powerful and broad. As head of the Cornell real estate alumni association in Korea, please tell us how you have made and managed the close-knit alumni network.

Covering only about 12% of the country’s area, the Seoul Metropolitan Area is home to more than 48% of the national population, and generates more than 50% of the country’s total GDP. It is the fourth largest urban economy in the world after Tokyo, New York City, and Los Angeles.

Due to Seoul’s unique characteristics, most of the Korean alumni live in, went to universities, and work at firms in the Seoul Metropolitan Area. That being said, we often meet at work, do deals as a team, and meet regularly to play and have fun. Most of us can reach out to each other within an hour and lots of small group meetings occur to play golf or to dine. This geographical concentration has enabled us to be closer to each other and to build a strong relationship.

Life at Cornell

Why did you choose Cornell? What is the most essential value that you brought from Cornell?

It was simple – the two-year program and family. I believed one year is too short to learn, build relationships and experience the culture. It was also a plus I could choose various subjects from diversified schools such as the Hotel School and Johnson. More importantly, the town of Ithaca was the best among others, since no other place could be better to raise my children – eight and six years old respectively at that time. They are now twenty-one and nineteen years old respectively and they always tell me the time in Ithaca was the greatest moments in their lives so far.

Please share your best memory at Cornell.

One of the best memories that I can’t forget was an internship in Atlanta, Georgia during the summer. One of my classmates, Ted Terry, introduced me to his father, who owned a mortgage bank as well as a residential development company in Atlanta. Mr. and Mrs. Terry gave me a great chance to experience a true southern lifestyle as well as an internship. Our family stayed at their guest house which is a part of the charming luxury residence of Mr. and Mrs. Terry. Also, I used to fly with Mr. Terry to make development site visits to South Carolina from Atlanta with his private jet. It was an unforgettable memory and experience as an intern, and I finally got a permanent offer from him after the internship.

Regarding Seoul Trip

Any advice or message to Baker students for the trek?

There are so many things you shouldn’t miss in Seoul, but due to your tight schedule, I would recommend for you all to navigate the night life of Seoul. Especially to those of you from the U.S., do not miss to buy a can of beer at any convenience store and drink it on the street. You are not allowed to do so in the U.S., but it is legal in Seoul.


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