Wisdom of Korea in the United States

    Photo of myself on my Korean passport for travelling from Korea to the United States in 1954. Since then I have been in the Unites States, and I became old.
    This is my family photo of 2018 (1954+64).
    With me are my wife, my son and his wife, and two grandchildren.

    After coming to the Washington area in 1962, I married the girl I met in my freshman year in college, bought my house, and sent my son to Princeton. My son's family is also in the Washington area, and we meet often for dinner. Before I die, I like to send my grandchildren to Princeton.

  • Young Suh Kim
    Professor of Physics Emeritus
    University of Maryland
    College Park, Maryland 20742, USA

  • I was born in Korea in 1935 and came to the United States in 1954 after high school graduation. This means that I lived most of my life in the United States. Then, why do I need the Wisdom of Korea?

    The life in America, especially in the academic life, is exremely competitive. Thus, in order to get ahead, I need something Americans do not have. Indeed, I am blessed with the Wisdom of Korea.

  • Americans believe in money. Koreans believe in Jokbo (genealogy). I believe in both. If I could not have both, I had to choose the Korean value. Why?

    My ultimate goal has been to place my name on Einstein's scientific Jokbo (genealogy). I do not know how to achieve this goal with money.

  • Click here for the Korean Wisdom in my research life.

    The United States is a highly competitive world. Since I came here with a Korean background which is quite different from that of Americans, I had to give up my Korean ways in order to adjust myself to the American style of life. Thus, did I give up my Korean root?

    My answer to this question is clearly No, as I said before. I had to look for the ultimate wisdom from my Korean root, in this highly competitive world.

  • The purpose of this webpage is to elaborate on the wisdom I inherited from Korea. Americans believe in money, but Koreans believe in Jokbo (Genealogy). I believe in both. However, if I cannot have both, I was born to choose Genealogy. The ultimate Genealogy in my case is, needless to say, Einstein's genealogy.

    In American universities, promotions in the ranks depend on how much research grants one bring in to his/her university from the government agencies such as the National Science Foundation or from industrial corporations.

  • Since I could not have both, my promotions were delayed. In the academic world, it takes ten years for the first-year assistant professor to become a full professor. In my case, it took 30 years, because I chose the genealogy instead of money.

    The price for putting my name on Einstein's Jokbo (genealogy) was 20 years of delay in promotions in the academic ranks. In my opinion, this was a very reasonable price for me.

  • I worked hard to put myself on Einstein's Jokbo with mathematical tools I learned during my high school years in Korea.

  • 1954-58. I was an undergraduate student at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, known these days as Carnegie Mellon University. I worked hard there and got excellent grades.

    Click here for my undergraduate years in Pittsburgh.

      Princeton (1961). Preparing a paper for publication in the Physical Review.

  • On March 12, 1958, I got a letter from Princeton University telling me that I ranked very high among the 15 boys admitted to the graduate program there. Princeton at time was a single-gender school.

    Going to Princeton? I was going to meet Einstein! Einstein died there three years earlier in 1955. I am not the only person who felt in this way. All ambitious American boys wanted to go to Princeton because of Einstein's big name. Why boys, not girls? Princeton was a single-gender college until 1969.

    Only after many years of struggle, I found out the way in which I could talk to Einstein.
    Click here
    to see how I talked to Einstein

  • Click here for my Princeton years.

      Physics faculty photo of 1963 at the University of Maryland. I am the youngest person in this photo.

  • In 1962, I became an assistant professor of physics at the University of Maryland. I then became promoted to an associate and to a full professor. In 2007, I became an emeritus professor after retiring from my teaching and other university duties. I still have my office in the physics building and publish my papers and books with my university address.

  • To sum up, I grew up in Korea but went through my college years and professional life in the United States. The traditional culture of Korea is quite different from that of the United States. Does this means that I had to give up my Korean way of life and Korean way of thinking in order to adjust myself to the American ways ?

    The answer to this question is No. I had to rely on the wisdom of Korea in order to assert myself in the world.

  • I would be less than fully honest if I say there were no prejudices against Koreans, especially during my Princeton years (1958-62). My American friends used to say

    1. Koreans cannot run their own country. The best solution is to give the country back Japan. Americans did not and still do not know the history of that area before the Pearl Harbor Day of December 7, 1941. At that time, Korea was under Japanese occupation.

    2. The people with non-white skins do not have enough brains to make nuclear bombs. It is safe to say that this kind of thinking led to the present trouble with North Korean nuclear bombs.

    3. I was good in mathematics, and I used to brag about what I learned during my high-school years in Korea. They asked me whether my high-school lessons were given in English. When I said I learned all high school lessons in my own language, my American friends could not understand how anyone can do mathematics with a language other than the Euro-American languages.

      Katherine Stephens went to Korea as a Peace Corps volunteer, and then served as the U.S. Ambassador to Korea. She is now the president of the Korean Economic Institute in Washington.

  • During the election year of 1960, John F. Kennedy introduced the idea of Peace Corps. This caused an excitement among young American students. Teaching things to the people in underdeveloped countries!

    They were all set to go to Mexico to teach them how to lay bricks for buildings. They were also willing to go to oil-rich Arabian countries to teach them how to run their banks.

    1. I was almost stoned to death when I said it is a great idea because Americans learn things from the world. How can Americans learn anything from others? This was the attitude of Princeton students when I was there.

    2. Kathleen Stephens spent two years in Korea as a Peace Corps volunteer, and later served as the U.S. Ambassador to Korea (2008-2010). She is now the president of the Korean Economic Institute in Washington. Indeed, she is a valuable asset in the foreign affairs of the United States. Needless to say, she is a product of JFK's idea of Peace Corps.

      In 2010, I met her at a meeting in Washington, and we talked about Kennedy's ideas on the Peace Corps.

    3. When I told her the above-mentioned experience with my friends while at Princeton, she told me Kennedy's first speech contained the idea of Americans learning things from the world. After all, JFK was a future-looking person.

Here comes what I really wanted to say.

Koreans have a cultural base that is quite different from that of the United State. The United States is a highly competitive world. Thus, did I have to give up my Korean background in order to pick up a new culture in America?

My answer was clearly No.

I had to strengthen my own Korean root to compete with others in the United State.

Thus, what are the cultural assets I inherited from Korea? I would like to itemize those assets.

  • In spite of these confusions, I still maintain what I am. I was born and raised in Korea. I still carry my Korean passport when I travel to other countries. This Korean passport is stronger than the U.S. passport these days. For instance, I can go to Russia without visa to that country.

  • I still read a daily newspaper from Korea and watch Korean TV programs. There are four Korean TV channels available in my area. I enjoy social gatherings among Koreans in the Washington area. There are also many Americans who served in Korea as soldiers or diplomats.

  • Koreans work hard. Their ancestors were farmers. They had to get up early in the morning and work hard until their evening hours.

  • Koreans believe in the education of their children. Until 1970, Korean kids had to study hard to pass the entrance exams to go to a small number of elite high schools. I went to one of those elite high schools. Click here for my high school background.

    Things are different now. They want to send their children to prestigious universities in the United States.

Koreans know how to construct their industrial base and their democracy.

  • In April of 1960, there was a student revolution in Korea against the election fraud. My American friends told me directly Korean is not ready for democracy. However, they did not know about the hidden assets of Koreans. Koreans are diligent and are eager to learn new things. I am one of them.

  • The net effect of these Korean assets can be seen in the following photos.

    The black-white photo was taken in 1950 before the total destruction of the city during the Korean War (1950-53). Since then, Koreans were able to lift up their country to one of the strongest countries in the world.

Koreans are art-loving people.

  • When Koreans construct buildings, they consider how they look with the natural environment.

    1. Korean Architecture. Harmony with nature.
    2. Another Photo in harmony with nature.
    3. This Simple Structure in Pyongyang is an integral component of nature. Korea used to be and still is one country sharing the same cultural heritage.

    Unlike those European cathedrals, Korean houses and buildings do not stand out. It is very difficult to extract artistic values from them. Right? Wrong! The strength of Korean architecture is its harmony with nature. I can of course talk more about its historical origin, but let me stop here.

  • How about harmony in physics? Whenever there is a great breakthrough, it is accompanied by a harmonious union of two or more existing disciplines.

    1. Newton was able to combine comets (open orbits) and planets (bound orbits) into one equation of motion.

    2. Maxwell was able to unify electricity and magnetism to formulate electromagnetism, responsible for today's wireless world.







      E & M



    3. Einstein observed this mismatch between mechanics and electromagnetism and fixed the problem to formulate the principle of relativity

    4. Heisenberg came up with his uncertainty priciple in an attempt to achieve a harmony between the particle nature and wave nature of matter.

    These two great theories formulated in the 20th century are relativity and quantum mechanics. They were developed separately. It is a great challenge to see whether they can be combined harmoniously into one theory. Of course, the present form of quantum field theory is a great step toward solving comet (scattering) problems. How about bound systems like the hydrogen atom consisting of one proton and one electron.

Koreans are song-loving people.

      Korean song and dance.

      BTS: Group of singing Korean boys at the White House (2022).

      Food tray for their ancestors on the Korean thanksgiving day (Chuseok), with the full moon in September.
      Koreans, on both sides, celebrate the same set of traditional holidays with the same set of songs and dances.
  • Koreans were farmers, September is the harvest month for them. The full-moon day of September is their thanksgiving day. They developed songs and dances to celebrate the results of their hard works.

    There then came Western influence during the early years of the 20th Century. They developed their music skills with guitars, pianos, and other musical instruments. Koreans then started composing their own heart-moving songs.

  • Unfortunately Korea was occupied by Japanese imperialists in 1910, and then by two separate armies after 1945. Consequently two separate governments were set up. The communist government in the North and the democratic system in the South.

    This political division of the country did not divide the song culture for all Koreans.

    1. Koreans in the North love the songs composed in the South.
      Click here for one of those songs.

    2. Koreans in the South love the songs composed in the North.
      Let us hear one of their songs.

    3. Joint performance in Pyongyang of the musicians from both sides. Click here.

    Sooner or later, hopefully sooner, Korea should be united into one country. Nobody says the instrument of unification is another war. The true instruments are Korean hearts and minds. Korean songs constitute the powerful representation of Korean hearts and minds.

  • These days, thanks to the development of HD televisions, the sound-only culture of songs became the integrated culture of songs with dances. As we all know, Korea is one of the leading countries in this new form of culture.

      with Ludwig van Beethoven in Bonn (Germany).

  • Koreans also love classical music of the West. Beethoven, Bach, and Tchaikovsky are the names familiar to all Koreans. I am one of those Koreans who love classical music. How did I learn? In Korea, I had a short wave radio to listen to the world. In recent years, I travel around the world and visit music halls and talk with musicians.

    You are invited to the photos of music halls I visited in many different countries. Click here.

  • Einstein was a muisic lover, so are most of my colleagues in physics. I can not explain why one has to love music in order to do physics research, but it is interesting to note all good physicists are music lovers.

Koreans know how to believe in Jesus.

  • Unlike China, Japan and other countries in Asia, Koreans know how to believe in Jesus. I am not a religions person, but my Christian background is much stronger than my American colleagues who think I am a Buddhist. You can see my unusual Christian background from this webpages.

      The third building of the Presbyterian church in Sorae (now in North Korea) built in 1934. I attended this church until 1946 when my family moved to Seoul to avoid the communist rule being set up there.

      Click here for the history of this church.

    1. Click here for the church I attended during my childhood years.

    2. Story of Nicodemus. I met Paul A. M. Dirac (Nobel 1933). I was like Nicodemus who met Jesus (Story in the Gospel of John). Who was Nicodemus? Click here.

    3. Garden of Eden. I have the same number of ribs on both sides of my chest. Thus, God pulled out two ribs from me. How can I prove it?

    4. Moses talked to God. I talked to Einstein. How?

    5. Herod complex. Psychology among academicians.

Korean History is longer than that of the United States.

  • The Korean way of thinking was heavily influenced by the philosophies developed in China, namely Taoism and Confucianism. Taoism for science, and Conformism for ethics. During the 12th Century, the Chinese scholar named Zhu Xi synthesized these two philosophies. This new philosophy is known as neo-Confucianism.

    Koreans adopted this neo-Confucianism for the national ideology during the 15th Century, and the Taoist influence is reflected in the Korean national flag. This Taoism can play a role in Western philosophies. Kant and Hegel are among the most influential Western philosophers.

  • In Korea, you have to pretend to know about Kant and Hegel if you like to be treated as an educated person, even if you do not know anything about them. The environment is quite different in USA. Kant and Hegel are strange names on American university campuses.

    The science of physics is to derive one formula or a basket of formula which will tell what happens in the world. The following diagram tells how Taoism can play its role in combining Kant and Hegel.

  • The point is that Einstein's brain worked exactly in this way.
    Click here for a detailed story.

  • Beyond Einstein? We can ask now whether both the theory of relativity and the present form of quantum mechanics can be derived from one basket of equation. This means whether Einstein's E = mc2 can be erived from Heisenberg's brackets for the uncertainty relations. Crazy enough? I like to be recognized and rememebered as the person who proved this is possible. Click here for my story.