Is ESG a Viable Investment in South Korea in 2021?

DateFebruary 01, 2021



January 27, 2021 - The Asia Foundation hosted an inspiring discussion on whether 2021 is the year to mainstream ESG and impact investment in Korea. The discussion was led by Robert Kim (Client Advisor, CapRock, Hyunjoo Joo (Managing Director, Yellow Dog), and Jay Lipman (Co-Founder and President, Ethics Investment).


Interest in ESG has increased exponentially in the past years, reaching over $40 trillion globally in 2020. Covid-19 has accelerated the performance gap between market benchmarks and ESG, generating even more interest from the global investment community. However, South Korea remains behind: our Asia Foundation research on sustainable finance in Korea indicates that East Asia (and Korea in particular) ranks at the bottom of impact investment flows compared to other regions, as well as in total share of socially responsible investment to total assets. This is also an opportunity to grow and expand this growing investment market.


While there has been a growing interest in ESG investments in Korea, many asset owners and investment professionals are wondering how to improve their current strategies in rapidly changing market conditions through a practical application of ESG in their portfolios. Potential opportunities for improved performance include ESG allocation strategies between different asset classes, opportunities in public fixed income and private equity markets, alternative credits, real assets, venture capital and private equity, and new innovations in impact investing.


In the IFB this month, Jay Lipman, Hyunjoo Je and Robert Kim presented on practical ESG and impact investment strategies for asset owners and investment professionals.





Jay Lipman (Co-Founder and President, Ethic Investing)

Jay Lipman is Cofounder and President of Ethic Investing, a tech-driven sustainable asset manager. Jay works closely with advisors and their clients to help them define a sustainable investing strategy, personalized to reflect client’s unique impact priorities and financial goals. Jay has been ranked among the InvestmentNews 40under40, Forbes 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs, and Ethic was described by Inc. Magazine as one of the six leading companies making the world a better place. Ethic is venture backed, with funding from a breadth of investors including Fidelity Investments, NYCA Partners and Justin Rockefeller. Jay is based in San Francisco and New York City.



Hyunjoo Je (CEO, Yellowdog)

Hyunjoo Je is the CEO and managing partner of Yellowdog, an impact investing venture capital in Korea. Established in 2016,  Yellowdog has been actively investing in startups with potential to address important environmental and social problems of our time with innovative solutions, particularly in the areas of (1) climate-tech and sustainable food, (2) health and wellness (3) ed-tech and (4) solutions for the future of work. Yellowdog so far invested in 27 startups in Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and the US. Among the four main impact domains, Yellowdog considers climate change the critical agenda defining the next 20 years and plans to aggressively increase resource commitment for climate-tech investments. Prior to Yellowdog, Hyunjoo used to work in Carlyle Asia Buyout Fund, Credit Suisse Hong Kong, and McKinsey & Company Seoul. Hyunjoo is based in Seoul.



Robert Kim (Client Advisor, Caprock)

As a Senior Lead Advisor at Caprock, Robert serves as an outsourced Chief Investment Officer for (U)HNW families and foundations (private family foundations, private operating foundations, institutional foundations). As an outsourced CIO, Robert is responsible for managing the entire investment portfolios process from design to execution.  Robert is an experienced impact investor and advises families and institutions to incorporate ESG & impact investing strategies into portfolio construction process.  Robert also serves on the firm’s investment committee and leads diligence on select impact investing opportunities across asset classes, geographies, and impact themes.  Robert is also the chief architect of the firm’s FDI practice.  Prior to joining Caprock, Robert was a venture capitalist investing in social entrepreneurs across education, foods, and financial services sectors.  Robert started his career as a Strategy Consultant at Accenture.  Robert holds a MBA from University of Michigan and an undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University. Robert is based in San Francisco.





IFB is an informal global network of 1,700+ members from family offices, foundations, funds, venture philanthropy and intermediary organizations with a shared interest in social enterprise, entrepreneurship and impact investing. IFB members seek to learn from one another and to collaborate more effectively to increase their individual and collective impact. The Asia Foundation Korea is the Chapter Manager for IFB Seoul. For more information, please see:



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