Q. Congratulations on the appointment of the ninth president of KAST. What does KAST do?
Korean Academy of Science and Technology (KAST) is called ‘National Academy’ in the United States. There are several fields of Science (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Natural Science, Engineering, Medical Science) and a few fields of Humanities and Social Science. It is called ‘The Royal Society’ in the United Kingdom. ‘Royal’ doesn’t mean the royal family but the nation. KAST in Korean implies the meaning of academy. KAST specifically focuses on the fields of natural science, engineering, medical science, and agricultural science. The total number of KAST members is under 500 in Korea and about 2,500 in the U.S. For the members at the age of 70, they are called ‘honorary member’ in the U.S. and ‘lifelong learner’ in Korea. For the new members to enter the community, the regular members retire at the age of 70, exceptionally the president can last until 73. KAST is, in other words, a group of scholars. As the number of members is very few, it’s a small meeting for professors and researchers who are very well-known and had gone through many studies in the field of natural science, engineering, medical science, and agricultural science.
Q. KAST is quite new to people. What is the main role of KAST in Korea?
KAST gathers many experts and researchers of each field, and therefore, the government discusses science policies in Korea with us. Furthermore, KAST introduces Korean science technology to the nations abroad by inviting experts from foreign countries and Nobel prize winners to make international interchange. KAST also holds international events to strengthen the national science research department and gives special lectures to high school and college students with many experienced KAST members so that students can build their dreams.
Q. What does it mean to become the ninth President of KAST in Korea?
KAST is where the best experts gather. I believe the true owner of KAST is the members, not myself. In order to discover ideas of these world’s greatest scholars, servant leadership is essential. Most of the members study deep into their subjects. I think we should introduce their valuable ideas to the public and serve our society.
Q. How are the members of KAST selected?
Each of the fields has its own committee. For example, natural science is divided into physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and members are selected among these.
Q. In the inauguration ceremony, you mentioned that Korea is getting very close to winning the Nobel prize.
I think Korea is just about to win the Nobel prize within the next decade. Nobel prize is achieved mostly by the international agreement, not by the individuals, so informing Korea’s current research status internationally is important. Thus, it is a really tough task. Not only for the Nobel prize, but many international events should be organized to raise the level status of Korean science technology. For instance, regarding the recent climate and weather problems, it is important to find the issues directly related to the real world, whether there is any academically remarkable solution, or what is the social responsibilities of technologists. Therefore, many outstanding people in the field of science technology are invited to international conferences to solve these problems. Korea should consider more about making more investments for Korea’s top science technologists to make the basic studies. Nowadays, the number of students majoring in engineering decreases while the numbers and qualities of engineering students should increase. Experts in the fields worry about what we should do in the current condition.
Q. What is your future plan and goal as the ninth President of KAST?
My Goal is to gather opinions from a large number of science technologists, suggest necessary policies to the government, and provide more various channels of voluntary services. Also, I want to help the Korean scientists to become more well-known by making more interactions with many internationally experienced scientists. Although Korean science technology has a slightly short history compared to America or Europe, we have been presenting numerous research papers. However, we don’t have corresponding chances to take significant roles internationally. I expect the KAST can be the bridge for the Korean scientists to be respected in international stages. It is important to push ahead for the interactions with experts in abroad, but I consider the recommendation of the policies for the Korean government and volunteer works are far more important.
Q. You studied electrical engineering in the past. Please tell us more about your research in that field.
I studied the display engineering like the OLED, LCD, that is shown on TV monitors. Among the various minors of electronic engineering, I studied for the semiconductors and display. The core elements of the display in detail.
Q. You only went through the whole life as a researcher, do you have any interest in any different fields?
There were only a few Korean industries in the 1970s. So, most people tended to study abroad. I graduated the Seoul National University and received a Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins University. In order to build experience, I worked as an electrical engineering professor in SUNY Buffalo for 5 years, and finally carried on my career as a professor of the engineering college in Seoul National University for about 30 years.
Q. How did you come to SUNY Korea after working in the Seoul National University for 30 years?
In 2013, I retired from the Seoul National University and contemporary worked as a professor in Kyeong Hee University. Then I was asked for the favor of President ChoonHo Kim to take the ‘Director of Research’ position at SUNY Korea.
Q. From 2015, You have been in the SUNY Korea for 4 years, what can be the most remarkable difference?
The number of faculty increased extremely as well as students and staffs. And the scale and quality of research projects showed the most distinction.
Q. What should be done to promote the research activities at SUNY Korea? It seems you have a big picture.
Research cannot be done in a blink. It needs a long time like a tree to be fully bloomed. As time passes, more graduate students and more experienced professors will help with the projects and it will be followed by outstanding results. SUNY Korea has developed in a short period, but it is still waiting to be more developed. The bigger pool of talent must be created. Just as figure-skating develops as having more colleagues, science field also needs many colleagues to compete with one another to help to grow. Computer Science is the core of the 4th industrial revolution, therefore it will grow more than we expect. Maybe more important than electrical engineering. Computer science is significantly showing up their importance. I have greater expectations since we have experienced professors and provost, Dr. Arthur Lee, for instance, teaching at SUNY Korea.
Q. What do you want to say to the junior researchers and students?
I want to remind them of how the world keeps changing. For the next 5 years, we have to keep up on our studies in order to follow and predict the future. Faculties should always think about their positions in the future and what they would like to do.
Korean Constitution Day (Je-Hun Jul) is a day commemorating the establishment of National constitution. The name 한민구 stands for the national constitution day. We expect him to stretch out his Savant Leadership for the development of Korean science and technology, and to build up the foundation of SUNY Korea research field.