2022 World Affairs Council of the Year
Network of Independent World Affairs Councils of America

Town Hall | US-Korea Relations in a New Era | Jan 28

Global Town Hall

The Future of Korea Project

United States-Republic of Korea Relations

Join us for a conversation with distinguished speakers from

United States Department of State

Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the United States

Korean Economic Institute

Keynote Remarks

Hon. Bob Rolfe

Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development


Marc Knapper, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Korea and Japan, U.S. State Department

Hon. YoungJae Kim, Economic Minister, Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the U.S.

Troy Stangarone, Korea Economic Institute

Thursday, January 28, 2021

5:30-7:00pm CT

This program is presented by the Tennessee World Affairs Council, the World Affairs Councils of America and the Korea Economic Institute in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the Belmont University Center for International Business and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Bob Rolfe – Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

Bob Rolfe was sworn in on January 19, 2019 by Governor Bill Lee to serve as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The department is responsible for recruiting business and industry to the state, supporting existing companies, expanding economic opportunities across rural Tennessee and boosting the state’s overall economic prosperity.

Rolfe has served as TNECD commissioner since March 2017. Under his leadership, TNECD has increased Tennessee’s global footprint. During Rolfe’s tenure, he has led Tennessee’s efforts in the recruitment and expansion of over 130 international projects, which represent an investment of $6.5 billion and 21,000 job commitments.

TNECD has placed a major focus on job creation and community development in rural Tennessee. Since 2017, the department has provided more than $380 million in funding to rural communities throughout the state. In addition, companies have invested $7 billion and committed to create 27,500 new jobs in rural communities.

Rolfe has more than three decades of experience in business and investment banking in Tennessee. Before joining TNECD, he held the position of CEO of Medical Reimbursements of America, Inc., a company that provides specialty reimbursement solutions to improve financial performance for hospitals and health systems nationwide. Prior to his time at MRA, Rolfe co-founded West End Holdings in 2011, a Nashville-based private equity partnership. He spent the first 18 years of his career as an investment banker at J.C. Bradford and Co.

Rolfe received his E.M.B.A. from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University and his B.S. from the University of Alabama’s School of Commerce and Business Administration. He and his wife, Kathy, have been married for over 37 years and have three grown children and one grandchild. He is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, where he has served as an elder for two decades.

Marc Tapper – US State Department

Marc Knapper, a member of the Senior Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State, has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Korea and Japan since August 2018. Prior to assuming this position, Marc was in Seoul as Chargé d’Affaires from 2017 to 2018 and Deputy Chief of Mission from 2015 to 2016.  Earlier assignments include Director for India Affairs, Director for Japanese Affairs, and multiple postings in Tokyo, Seoul, Hanoi, and Baghdad.

Marc has twice worked in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: in 1997 as the State Department representative to the Spent Fuel Team at the Yongbyon nuclear facility and in 2000 as a member of the advance team for then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s visit to Pyongyang.

Marc is a recipient of the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the nation’s highest diplomatic honor. Marc has also received a Presidential Meritorious Service Award and the Department of State’s Linguist of the Year Award. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, and also studied at the University of Tokyo, Middlebury College’s intensive Japanese program, the Army War College, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Seminar XXI program.  Mr. Knapper speaks Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese.

YoungJae Kim – Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the U.S.

Youngjae Kim is a Korean government official and diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since December 2020, he serves as Economic Minister at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Washington, DC. Prior to this post, he was Director-General for International Economic Affairs (2019-2020) in Seoul, in which capacity he oversaw Korea’s participation in multilateral fora such as G20, APEC, OECD, and WEF (World Economic Forum) including summit meetings, and supervised the negotiation, conclusion and implementation of economic treaties on the avoidance of double taxation and investment protection, as well as on trade. Before that, he was Deputy Director-General for Bilateral Economic Affairs (2018) managing economic relations with Korea’s major economic partners.

He was Minister-Counselor at the Korean Embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2016-2018), where he worked on the bilateral Korea-Saudi political relationship and regional Middle Eastern affairs. Before that, he was the Economic Counselor in the Embassy in Washington, DC (2013-2016), where he focused on the Korea-U.S. bilateral trade relationship, including the implementation of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), Korea’s possible participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and global trade issues including negotiations and dispute settlement at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He has also served in the headquarters of the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as Director of the Trade Dispute Settlement Division (2012-2013), Director of the WTO Division (2010-2012), and Director of the FTA Implementation Division (2009-2010).

He has 27 years’ experience in international trade policy and negotiations, beginning with antidumping investigations with the Korea Trade Commission (1994-1996). He has experience in a number of injury investigations in antidumping and safeguards cases and was involved in changing the bifurcated (dumping and injury) system to the unitary system in 1996. He was the lead negotiator on trade remedies during the KORUS FTA negotiations (2006-2007) and also played a key role in follow-up processes including legal scrubbing and additional negotiations, as well as political ratification process in both the Korean National Assembly and the United States Congress (2008-2011). Before his work on the KORUS FTA, a major portion of his career involved implementation of WTO agreements, WTO dispute settlements, preparations for new WTO rounds, and the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations (1998-2004).

His earlier overseas assignments include the Korean Mission in Geneva (2004-2007) and the Embassy in Cote d’Ivoire (2007-2009).

He received his Master’s degree (LLM) from Harvard Law School (2001) and Bachelor’s degree (LLB) from Seoul National University (1992).

He is a member of the New York Bar, and is married with three children.

Troy Stangarone – Korea Economic Institute

Troy Stangarone is Senior Director and Fellow at the Korea Economic Institute (KEI). He oversees KEI’s trade and economic related initiatives, as well as the Institute’s relations with Capitol Hill and the Washington, DC trade community. As part of his broader portfolio, he serves as the editor for KEI’s flagship publication, Korea’s Economy, and oversees KEI’s blog, The Peninsula.

Mr. Stangarone has written extensively and has been widely quoted on U.S.-Korea relations, South Korean trade and foreign policy, and North Korea. His work has appeared in publications such as Foreign Policy, CNBC, CNN, the South China Morning Post, East Asia Forum, China-US Focus, the JoongAng Ilbo, and the Korea Herald. His comments have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, CNN, Politico, Chosun Ilbo, Donga Ilbo, JoongAng Daily, and Yonhap News Service. He has also appeared on TV and radio for outlets such as Bloomberg News, CNBC Asia, and BBC Radio.

In addition to his work at KEI, Mr. Stangarone is a member of the International Council of Korean Studies Board and the Korea-America Student Conference’s National Advisory Committee. He is a columnist for the Korea Times and a regular contributor to The Diplomat. He was also a 2012-2013 Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in South Korea, sponsored by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

Prior to joining KEI, Mr. Stangarone worked on Capitol Hill for Senator Robert Torricelli on issues relating to foreign affairs and trade. He also served as an aide to Governor James McGreevey of New Jersey. He holds a MSc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Memphis.


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