Sungwoo Chung’s first job offer was a music contract as a 15-year-old singer, but his parents made him turn it down so he could concentrate on his studies. The first job he accepted was as a Korean television host at age 17. He later gained experience on the other side of the camera with the U.S. Armed Forces Network as part of the Korean army. Now he’s in pursuit of an executive career in entertainment.
Working Both Sides of the Camera
After his teen TV host days, Sungwoo studied mass communication in college, then served in KATUSA, the Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army, as a military journalist with AFN. He began as a camera operator, but became frustrated when he couldn’t voice over his own news. He went through a voice qualification test and became the first KATUSA reporter on air for AFN. By the time he left the military, he’s taken every role for AFN — combat cameraman, studio director, web specialist. He knew the job he wanted — a major leadership role in the media industry.
To gain management experience, he joined the British American Tobacco company in a management rotation program and progressed in the organization before coming to Wharton to make a transition back to a media company.
“I have a passion for media, and I want to work in a global company, so I had to pursue my MBA here,” he says. “Wharton is perfect because it has a lot of network and brand power.”
Moving to Philadelphia
Sungwoo first visited Philadelphia eight years ago on a side trip as an exchange student studying at Berkeley. The second time was just a few months ago when he arrived for Wharton MBA preterm.
It felt like he’d never been here before, he says. He hadn’t visited prior to applying or after acceptance. “This time I was here to live, so everything seemed different. This was going to be where I was eating dinner, studying, walking.”
He felt at home right away because of the Veterans Club, which is mostly US service members. but also has a strong Korean and Israeli contingency. “It’s a default. You’re a veteran, you join. You’re a member when you get here, so they can kick off club activities sooner. It’s very easy to connect.”
He lives at 17th and Locust — Rittenhouse Square, the heart of MBA geography, but in a small hotel room. “I feel like I’m on a business trip,” he says, laughing. He makes himself at home in Huntsman and in 2401 Walnut after class and walks to campus most days. “It’s a medium city – not too busy, not too crowded, but there are a lot of restaurants, a lot to do. I’m from Seoul so I’m used to big cities.”
Making a Career Transition
Sungwoo spent much of first term concentrating on academics, since he has an outside fellowship, and recruiting through Career Management.
“It was hard to make a transition from tobacco to media,” he says. “After talking to career advisors and second years, I realized that the first step I have to do post Wharton is management consulting, working across a full range of industries.”
In long-term, he’s hoping to building his expertise in media sector as a consultant, while forging a personal network in media industry by working in Los Angeles.
“Consulting is like a certificate. If you do well in consulting for two or three years, the market will recognize you as a good candidate. Wharton plus consulting will take me where I need to go.”
He spends his free time as a member of the Welcome Committee to give back to the school and reach out to international students.
When asked if he is involved with Wharton performing arts clubs, he says he’s officially retired from music. “I’m super outgoing and easy, but my goal now is to get an internship and full-time offer after summer. Next year I’m going to be free and do the things I’ve never done or haven’t had time for — rugby, maybe performance again.”
Posted: February 17, 2016