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Inauguration Speech

the 15th President of KAIST

Honorable Guests, Chairman Myung Oh; Trustees Gil-Saeng Chung and Sam-Soo Pyo; Former Presidents Soon-Dal Choi and Chang-Sun Hong; former member of the National Assembly, Mr. Yong-Kyung Lee; Chairman Dae-Im Kang of the Association of the Heads of S&T Organizations and its member presidents - President Young-Myung Choi of Korea Institute of Nuclear Nonproliferation and Control, President Young-Joon Kim of Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology; and Ms. Soo-Young Lee, the Chairperson of KAIST Development Foundation, who does not spare her energy in working for KAIST alongside Mr. Eung-Sun Lee, the Vice Chair of the Foundation, Vice President Hang-Ku Chung of KAIST School Supporting Association, President Kwi-Roh Lee of the National Nano Fabrication Center, President Doo-Chul Kim of Korea Institute of Advanced Sciences, Professor Jang-Hyuk Kwon, the principal of Korea Science Academy, distinguished faculty and staff, the class of 2017, returning students, alumni, parents, my relatives and friends, and lastly my wife Myoung A (Mia) Kang, I most sincerely thank you for being here for the beginning of the 15th KAIST presidency.

For me to be standing here today is uniquely meaningful and brings up many memories from the past. Exactly fifty years ago, in January of 1963, I was in military training as a new enlistee of the 111th class (111 kih) of the Korean Air Force here in Yuseong. I spent two months there for basic military training, and 9 months for technical training in electronic communications equipment service. The month of January was severely cold with a temperature of -20 degrees Celsius – it was so cold in fact that the Incheon bay was frozen. In November I was then transferred to the Air Force base in Kangneung, Kangwon-Do. I recall that as I was waiting in Osan for an airplane to Kangneung, I heard the sad news that President John F. Kennedy was shot to death in Dallas, Texas, which was quite shocking.

In 2002, I was a visiting professor of KAIST and during that summer I had the pleasure of watching the Korean National soccer team come from behind to overtake the powerful Italian team 2:1. To this day, I remember vividly those two dramatic goals scored by the Korean team, and the sense of national pride and optimism.

Today, I return to Yuseong to serve as the new KAIST president. It is a great honor, but the task to carry on is of national importance and challenging in many ways.

KAIST was established in 1971 with its founding goals, as stated in the KAIST constitution article 1, first, to educate and foster top-flight future scientists equipped with rigorous basic theories and capability for practical applications; second, to carry out both long-term and short-term basic and applied research that enables the nation’s strategic technological advancements; and third, to provide research collaborations with a diverse pool of research institutions and industry

Under such a banner KAIST has led the growth of the science and technology industry in Korea for the past 40 years since its establishment and, has become a globally recognized distinctive research university, thanks to the outstanding faculty and staff dedicated to excellent research and the education of our future leaders. Deep gratitude is also due to my predecessors, Dr. Nam Pyo Suh and other former presidents and their administrative team members, who have worked alongside them.

Today, many KAIST graduates are making notable contributions as distinguished professors in higher education and pioneering researchers in science and engineering fields.

Just a week ago, my wife and I were invited to a KAIST alumni reception at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco, which was attended by many KAIST alumni, current students and their professors, and guests. I learned that this year once again, KAIST presented the most papers at ISSCC where the standard bar of acceptance is quite high. This is just one more indication of how KAIST is reaching new heights. The KAIST faculty and students have published many papers in various globally-respected journals such as Nature and Science.

KAIST must continue to go above and beyond these initial accomplishments, and KAIST must be a powerful engine for the economic and industrial advancement of Korea. As a nation lacking a deep pool of natural resources, Korea must find innovative ways to compete globally to ensure the prosperity and well-being of its people. KAIST must do its best to lead the nation towards the frontiers of science and technology with fervor and responsibility.

In coming days, KAIST should grow into a big fruit tree in the field of research and education, trusted and respected not only in Korea, but throughout the world. Starting from the Korean peninsula, its roots should span beyond national boundaries, crossing over the five oceans to many continents to draw in a rich and diverse set of world-class ideas and innovations to produce its fruit – well-prepared graduates who will be respected leaders and contributors to society.

A globally-connected education is essential in this age of increasing trade enabled by advanced internet, supersonic aviation, and supersize ships. KAIST graduates must be valued as innovators with in-depth knowledge, creativity, capability for strong teamwork and clear communication with fluency in languages. And wherever they go, they can continue to spread their ethics, values, skills and knowledge, and from that we can all watch as KAIST trees blossom worldwide.

The ultimate goal of science, technology and management lies in the well-being of our society. And this well-being must be secured in universities as learning houses, neighboring regions, the nation and the world.

In its efforts to secure this well-being of the society, KAIST has suffered growing pains amidst its remarkable growth. We must ease the pain through trust and consideration for one another, and join in unity to take the steps toward the brighter tomorrow of KAIST. I humbly seek your help, and pledge to put forth my utmost effort as a servant leader.

You may know of a movie called “The Mission”. In this film, the mercenary and slave trader played by Robert De Niro moves on from a troubled life to follow a humble Jesuit priest and start his life anew. In one scene, De Niro and the priest are climbing up a steep waterfall cliff. When they completed the most difficult climb, carrying with him a very heavy load of goods as a penance for his sins, they were greeted by a group of native Indians, who cut off the baggage and dropped it over the cliff. While it did not sit easy with De Niro to have lost his once valued items, the burden was lifted from everyone, and their lives continued forward.

To open a new chapter, KAIST must exert such courage. Instead of arguing and blaming people for past wrongs, KAIST must collectively focus on its future and do its utmost to carry out the important tasks ahead. And we must help each other to release from our grasp those things that will make our journey and our mission murky and unnecessarily difficult. My wife and I are here to work with you for building up KAIST for the sake of our mother nation.

The late spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi warned against the big seven sins. Among them the most relevant to KAIST are ‘science without conscience,’ ‘knowledge without character,’ ‘politics without principle,’ and ‘religion without sacrifice.’ We must strive to promote science, knowledge, and character with a clear conscience, uncompromising principles and willing sacrifice.

KAIST, in order to become a leader and contribute to science, technology and industrial development, must do well in the following five areas – each emphasized using the five letters in our institution’s name.

Firstly, “K” is for knowledge creation. Faculty members and students will venture into pioneering research to create new knowledge and technology. KAIST will collaborate with outstanding research centers domestically in Daedeok Industrial Park and other places, and internationally with others worldwide including those in Silicon Valley. High-value knowledge creation often requires world-class facilities and a supportive environment. We will do our best to promote active support and engagement from government and other leading organizations.

Lecture halls and professors’ research laboratories are the wells of new knowledge creation. In student-centered and faculty-led research programs, motivated hard- working students, both graduate and undergraduate, can greatly benefit from diverse and unique opportunities. However, not all productive researchers are straight A students. I remember an outstanding researcher at the University of California, Berkeley when I was a graduate student. To him research was paramount, and he spent days and nights in the laboratory conducting experiments. He would still be at his bench past midnight, even if an examination was to be given the next morning. He did not get all As, but in knowledge creation, he was second to none. Soon after graduation he began to amaze the world through many research breakthroughs. KAIST must value and support such talents, otherwise it is a national loss.

Interdisciplinary research will encourage exploration of untraveled territory where many gems can be found. In a research university, individual academic departments should be centers of excellence. It can be compared to a perfect sphere or a ball. However, if the knowledge space of KAIST is to be filled with spheres only, then 48% of the entire space would remain unfilled, which is the space to explore for earthshaking research.

Interdisciplinary research calls for faculty members from different academic departments to closely collaborate by breaking walls and overcoming inconveniences. Engraved at the entrance hall of Bell Labs, Murray Hill, New Jersey is the teaching of Alexander Graham Bell which asks to visit the unexplored territories to find new things.

KAIST needs to continually promote and support researchers to participate in interdisciplinary research programs at institutes such as KAIST Institute and others with conviction and enthusiasm.

Secondly, “A” is for advancement on all fronts. On January 30, Nara-ho was successfully launched to circle the globe in order to gather and transmit information that would benefit all people around the world. And like Nara-ho, KAIST should launch itself to a higher altitude to make our world a better place.

To become a globally leading institute, KAIST must do its best to secure necessary supports both morally and financially. Every member of KAIST must have an unshakable conviction that all things can be done better, that innovative ways can be found and that things can improve. Good habits should be built and practiced unceasingly. KAIST will also find ways to improve its overall efficiency.

KAIST must find ways to strengthen collaborations with the Institute for Basic Science and many research centers in the Daedeok Industrial Park. It is well known that the success of Silicon Valley has hinged on the research and education of the neighboring universities such as Stanford, Berkeley, and San Jose State. Dean Frederick Terman of Stanford University encouraged and helped William Hewlett and David Packard to create the Hewlett-Packard Company.

The future blueprint of KAIST needs to be remade in consultation with all its constituents and the Board of Trustees. Co-ownership of such a blueprint can be cherished, sustained and realized with the full participation of all.

Thirdly, “I” stands for Integrity. The integrity of KAIST will ensure a consistently good balance between theory and practice, freedom and principle, honesty and teamwork, and value and action. Integrity must be valued and practiced in all research publications, financial management, and human relations.

Several years ago I attended an international conference in Kos Island, Greece. During this trip I learned more about the essence of integrity through a legendary story. According to the story, a sculptor was commissioned to produce a bust to commemorate a beloved hero. But it was taking too long and the person in charge of the project visited the sculptor and questioned why the product could not be delivered immediately. To him it appeared to be done, but the sculptor said he needed more time to finish the backside. In frustration the visitor asked who would care to see the backside. The sculptor’s answer was, “My revered god sees the backside.”

I believe a person or an organization with integrity can endure and stand the test of time. Integrity should be a virtue of KAIST.

Fourthly, “S” is for sustainability. Education and research at KAIST must ultimately seek the sustainable truth. Research themes themselves must be sustainable and not overly driven by short-term goals. The EEWS program addressed key global issues in Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability. With the success of sustainability-driven research and development, KAIST will rise to be a top-echelon global leader in science and technology. Sustainability-driven research will bloom under much encouragement and support. Often research outcomes are measured by a citation index, but no less important is the quality assured by one’s own conviction and trust.

I can elaborate on this point by quoting an example of Dr. Claude Shannon who did research at AT&T Bell Labs and later became a professor at MIT. He published sparingly but each of his publications was a jewel. To this day, his information theory is broadly applied. We need to support KAIST to make many sustainable contributions of the same caliber.

Fifthly, “T” is for Trust. KAIST must be an institution which is trusted by the government, its people, and parents of the students. Trust is deemed as valuable as hard cash.

The culture of trust is made possible through understanding and caring for one another’s circumstances. Trust will take permanent root on campus as a part of KAIST culture when the faculty, staff and students, all members of KAIST community, listen and understand many differing ideas and thoughts others hold and share each other’s accomplishments and sincere congratulations for one another. Furthermore, when we dedicate ourselves to do our own parts in the national and social endeavor in science and technology with pride and a sense of responsibility, it will regain and strengthen the trust the nation and the public, as well as the global society, hold for KAIST. On a bigger scale, we also need to be a trusted institution sought after by many professors and students abroad. With such trust established, KAIST graduates and the people of Korea can find more and bigger opportunities globally.

To summarize, KAIST should be outstanding in view of knowledge creation, dynamic advancement, integrity, sustainability and trust.

KAIST has reached its place as a globally recognized university through the wholehearted support of the people of Korea. I understand that hauling KAIST to join the ranks of the world-leading university aspired by the society through continuous change and innovation is the only way to return the love and support of the nation, which is the very the mission I was called upon to take on as I am inaugurated into KAIST presidency.

Honored guests, family and friends, I would like to remark on just one more rather important item before I round up my speech.

Last, but not least, I would like to congratulate the Class of 2017 for your achievements. You overcame fierce competition to come to KAIST, and you have persevered through rigorous challenges to reach this point. Although you may have agonized before making your decision to enroll here, you have chosen wisely. All members of the KAIST family will do their best to ensure your future success as you move beyond these walls. My door is always widely open for you to visit, and I will always welcome and value your questions, observations and suggestions.

hen it comes to education and guidance in general, please be assured that KAIST professors and support staff members are here for students and for their best education.

Class of 2017, may your success at KAIST and beyond be a magnet to attract more talented high school students for a science and engineering education. KAIST professors are your role models and can be your life-long mentors and coaches.

Personally, even after more than 40 years since my graduation from Berkeley, my wife and I go visit my teachers at Berkeley, Professors Leon Chua and Ernest Kuh, to enjoy meals together and have intimate conversations on many aspects of life. Just this month, they were happy to hear of my inauguration as KAIST President and gave best wishes for my new role at KAIST.

Dear honorable guests, I thank you for being here today to mark the beginning of this new chapter at KAIST. I sincerely believe and ask that your support will continue to advance KAIST and benefit all of us, our nation, and the world.


KAIST, 291 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 34141, Republic of Korea

T. 042-350-2114 / F. 042-350-2210 (2220)

Copyright (C) 2014, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, All Rights Reserved.

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