When the South Korean government prepares its annual financial statements, it relies on accountants with knowledge and experience in both public policy and accounting. This includes Kelley Graduate Accounting Programs alum Sung-Jin Park, MSA ’08, MST ’11, who serves as the executive director of Government Accounting and Finance Statistics Center at Korea Institute of Public Finance.
Sung-Jin studied both accounting and taxation while in the Graduate Accounting Program. This combination of education with his degrees in public budgeting and finance made Sung-Jin a unique job candidate.
“When people talk about accounting, you think about business accounting or capital markets. People who study public finance think about government affairs. My role is to be a sort of ambassador between those two different areas,” Sung-Jin said. “It adds a unique challenge when I talk to accounting people because I need to bring their attention to the logic behind public affairs and the way bureaucrats work and think. When I work with people from government, oftentimes I need to focus on accounting issues.”
Sung-Jin earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in public affairs at Yonsei University in Korea, where he grew up. He was interested in expanding his business capabilities and wanted to learn more about accounting. His advisor was an IU graduate who recommended graduate school at IU. Sung-Jin began working with Associate Professor Emeritus of Accounting Bill Kulsrud, who offered Sung-Jin a research assistant position while he studied accounting at the Kelley School of Business.
“The MSA is a no-brainer for students like me who have no accounting background. If you do not know where to begin, the MSA gives you a basic understanding of accounting and you build specialized knowledge through the elective courses. Plus, it was fun to study tax in Indianapolis, right in the middle of the job market,” Sung-Jin said. “The structured curriculum prepares you well for an accounting career.”
After earning the MSA, Sung-Jin took the CPA exam and worked at the BCBG Partners, LLC, accounting firm in Indianapolis, where he focused on tax. A family emergency brought him back home to Korea, but he returned to the United States to dig deeper into the tax field.
“Without what I learned at Kelley, I could not do even one day’s worth of work,” Sung-Jin said. “It provided me a solid foundation on which I can add multiple layers.”
Students like Sung-Jin are supported throughout the Graduate Accounting Programs by faculty with deep experience in both the accounting industry as well as academic research into the field. Accounting Professor John Hassell encouraged Sung-Jin to pursue a doctorate in accounting.
“John (Hassell) was instrumental. He gave me the idea of pursuing a PhD in accounting, and helped me a lot,” Sung-Jin said. “I wanted to know how theoretical analysis is done on all those accounting practices. I had a vague idea about that, but John ignited the fires.”
After earning the doctorate, Sung-Jin returned to IU, where he began working as an assistant professor in accounting at IU South Bend. He enjoyed teaching students at a regional campus, where he feels like he could have the most impact.
“The most rewarding part about teaching is interacting with the students because I know I can do something to change their lives,” said Sung-Jin, who was inspired by his own professors throughout school. “The role of faculty is so important to encourage students and support them academically as well as mentally. We can see how their life is going to be changed by education, and that’s a really rewarding experience.”
Eventually, Sung-Jin was recruited for the role at the Korea Institute of Public Finance (KIPF) in 2022.
“One of my colleagues at Bloomington works here KIPF, and he told me about this job opening,” Sung-Jin said. “He said, ‘You studied public budgeting and have accounting degree, you’re the perfect candidate for this position.’ I applied and got a job.”
As Sung-Jin heads into his second year in this role, he reflects on a career greatly influenced by not one—but two—Kelley graduate accounting degrees.
“The Kelley Graduate Accounting Programs are ready made for you: you don’t have to worry about choosing one course or another one, or whether you don’t have enough accounting background,” Sung-Jin said. “The program’s structure gives you the core knowledge all accountants have to know. Beyond that, you can add the flavors you want to create the degree and career you want to pursue.”