We spoke to Seung Chong (MSc Taxation, 2019) about his time at Oxford, his career since graduating and what advice he has for current students.
1) What inspired you to choose your degree programme?
I believe it is important to keep one’s mind busy outside of work. For example, some years ago, I wrote “The Law and Practice of Mergers & Acquisitions in The People’s Republic of China” which was published by the Oxford University Press. The MSc in Taxation degree appealed to me because it is close to Law yet offers a different dimension. Whilst the degree undoubtedly has its technical and black letter law aspects, it is underpinned by a strong sense of redistributive justice. I suppose that is the allure of Oxford: nothing ever presents itself in a straightforward way.
2) What prompted you to choose Kellogg?
I could not make a conscious decision to choose any of the Colleges available on my degree. Having been fortunate to attend a school described by the late Sir Hugh Casson RA as containing the most complete and compact example of Victorian architecture (though not necessarily the finest examples!), I was moved neither by beauty nor grandeur. When I was allocated Kellogg College, the theme of lifelong education, and the idea of access to the highest quality education or research, and even then on a part-time basis if required, resonated with me because that was exactly the path I wanted to trod. I had found my College without knowing it was there.
3) What is your best memory from your time at Kellogg?
As a part-time student, an early morning run in the Parks followed by breakfast at The Hub is still a moveable feast, as are the delicious vegetarian and vegan lunches in the Dining Hall. The cheeseboard however seems to have disappeared: “Rendez le cheeseboard, s’il vous plait!”
4) What have you been doing since graduation?
I have continued my law practice of providing complex corporate and commercial law advice to sophisticated clients. I am also transitioning to be an Arbitrator and have been focusing on building a profile in that field. Finally, I have continued to pursue lifelong education and have been accepted to do a PhD at Maastricht University focusing on the arbitration of tax disputes involving one or more sovereign States.
5) How do you feel your time at Kellogg has helped you after graduation?
Although I like to think I performed at a very high level prior to Kellogg, the opportunity to study at Oxford has enabled me to read, think and analyze even faster and more efficiently. I feel I have had a mental oil change. Nary a few weeks after I submitted my last 3,000 word essay, I took the exam for membership of The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. I received a score of 94% which was certainly helped by my recent degree.
6) What does the future hold for you?
Professionally, I hope to be a full-time Arbitrator involving one or more of the following areas: corporate and commercial law; China-related investments; international law; and international tax. In parallel, consonant with the theme of redistributive justice, I would like to advise, on a non-profit basis, trade associations, NGOs and non-profits from developing States or low-income States themselves on their most complex matters requiring dispute resolution. Anyone interested in collaborating should please contact me through the alumni office.
7) Tell us something surprising about yourself that other people might not know?
It is probably foolhardy to say this but here goes. I am writing over a long arc of time a quadriptych biography of Churchill, Leo Amery, Alexander of Tunis and Nehru. There are more than one common thread.
8) Any advice for current students?
I would not presume to dispense advice, but would ask each one of us to consider: what does it mean to be a Kellogg person? Over time, certain Colleges have evolved their type. The “Balliol man” — now outdated– would be an example (sorry, President). Whilst we definitely should not and do not have a type, and whilst we do not have any dreaming spires and domes of Wren and Gibbs in our College, are there some values and aspirations that unite us as a body or a tribe so that others seeing us will know immediately what sets us apart? The pursuit of lifelong learning, the opportunity to do so whilst juggling work, family and other caring responsibilities, and an appreciation of second or third chances in life, must surely make for themselves a strong case.