Wisdom of Korea (1998, January -- September)


Y.S.Kim (1998.1.24)

While I was in Europe from January 10 to 19, I spent three days in Naples (Italy). I had to work with the local organizers for the 6th International Conference on Squeezed States and Uncertainty Relations to be held in Naples in May or June of 1999. I am happy to tell you that there will be four Korean names on the conference poster.

As usual, I did some extra-curricular activities. Naples is known as Napoli to Italians and Koreans. Indeed, there are many words associated with this city. The most widely known word is the port of Santa Lucia through the famous song. Can you recognize the name Mateo Ricci? If not, you should find out (I mentioned him in one of my earlier articles). He came from Napoli and there is an Asian language institute named after him.

On Saturday morning (January 17), Prof. Salvatore Solimeno (my host) was kind enough to take me to an old Dominican monastery in Napoli's old town. There, one of the priests led us to the suite where Thomas Aquinas lived and studied. I asked Prof. Solimeno to take a photograph myself and the priest with the degree certificate of St. Thomas in between. I look all right in the photo, and I will be happy to send you a copy of this photo if you send in your request.

St. Thomas was born in 1224 in a small village between Roma and Napoli. In 1246, he went to Paris and started picking up a very strange philosophy: Islamic philosophy. At that time, the Catholic church was morally bankrupt, and the feudal lords were only interested in raising private armies to conquer the Holy Land. On the other hand, the Islamic world was flourishing. Italians constructed the port of Venice to trade with the Arab world. Spain was under Islamic domination. Many Koreans in their young age studied Marxism when they were disillusioned by corruption in capitalism. Likewise, Aquinas was interested in the Islamic world. In 1272, Aquinas came to Napoli and stayed there until he died in 1974.

On the intellectual front, Islamic scholars in North Africa were continuing Greek philosophy and science starting from the old libraries in Alexandria (Egypt). As I said in one of my earlier articles, the Greek philosophers were completely forgotten in the Western world during the Roman era and throughout the medieval ages. While studying the Koran and Islamic philosophy, Thomas Aquinas was able to rediscover Aristotle. I do not have to explain to you how important Aristotle was in the development of the academic world. Indeed, we have to learn things from Westerns because Aristotle did not live in the Eastern world.

The question then is how St. Thomas was able to accomplish this important task. The answer is that his mind was tuned to Greek-style logic. His books are all written in question-and-answer style. Again, as I said in one of my earlier articles, Greek philosophers believed in finding truth through dialogs, which eventually led to the development logic which we use in all branches of academic disciplines. Thomas Aquinas introduced logic to Christianity. Is it possible to believe in Jesus through rational reasoning? This seems to be possible in the Western world, but Korean believers insist that you have give up the logic to have a faith in Jesus.

In Korea, Christians are not the only ones who insist on giving up dialogs and reasoning. As you know, I constantly complain that Korean college graduates cannot reason through dialogs. In return, they complain that I have a personality totally unacceptable to the Korean society. Some SNU professors are saying that Y.S.Kim has a very serious "character" problem, because I sometimes raise the question of whether Korea's No.1 means the No.1 in the world.

It is well known to the world that Korean pilots cannot fly airplanes properly. The cause is that the pilot and his co-pilot cannot conduct dialogs. When the pilot makes an error, the co-pilot cannot tell the truth to his senior colleague in the cockpit. In Korean business firms, front-line managers cannot tell the truth to top-level executives. As you all know, this lack of dialog led to business failures we so painfully witness these days.


Y.S.Kim (1998.2.12)

There are more than 35,000 students at the Univ. of Maryland, and many of them are from foreign countries. There is an association of students from Moslem countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Jordan, and Turkey. There are also many Moslem students from India. Last Monday, they had a big dinner meeting, and they invited me to join them.

Before the dinner, we heard a sermon delivered by a Moslem priest from Egypt. He has been in the United States for many years and is now the leader of one of the Islamic temples in the Washington area. He was of course addressing to Moslem students studying in the Christian world. He made the point that Jesus occupies a very important place in the Moslem world, and Jesus serves both as the bridge and as the branch point between the Islamic and Christian worlds. I was interested to hear that both Abraham and Jesus prayed in the way Moslems do these days, with their faces touching the ground.

After the sermon, I shared the dinner table with him and was able to ask some questions about what Arabs did before the time of Thomas Aquinas. He said it is not necessary to discuss abstract philosophy. He then said whether I know how to do algebra. I said yes, and I even told him I can do algebra better than he can. He agreed and then asked me who developed the algebra. I said Arabs. He said Greeks developed geometry with three-step logic. Arabs then developed multi-stage logic which is known today as algorithm. These days, the algorithm of numbers is called algebra. The priest told me that the concept of algorithm was developed by Arabs. In so doing, Arabs completed the development of mathematics. In high school, we have to learn both algebra and geometry.

If you have some knowledge of computer software, you should know that the 21st century will be the world of algorithm. You will then ask whether Koreans are algorithm-oriented people. I know Confucius was an algorithm-oriented man, but I am not convinced Korean are. About 550 years ago, our King Sejong invited an Arabian mathematician to Korea to teach Korean scholars how to do algebra. However, those scholars were not interested in this strange subject. They were only interested in passing exams in order to elevate themselves to higher Gamtu status. Are we not making the same kind of mistakes these days? When I meet my American friends of my age, we talk about Korean students they are teaching and advising. Their complaint is very simple. Korean students in the United States are not interested in learning English. I seem to know why. They do not think English is needed for their career advancements in Korea.


Y.S.Kim (1998.3.5)

I was in Rome (Italy) on Sunday, January 18. In the morning, I walked from my hotel near Rome's main railroad station to Vatican (about five kilometers) to participate in the Sunday mass. Three days later, Pope John-Paul II was going to make a historic trip to Cuba, and the mass was a special send-off celebration. Indeed, on my way, I saw many youngsters (about 12-16 years old) in formation, and they were carrying balloons to be released after the Pope's message from his window at 12:00 noon.

Our common sense is that the male participants of the Sunday mass would wear neck-ties if not tuxedos, and the female participants would wear white headkerchiefs. Alas! The fact was diametrically opposite. I arrived there at 10:00 AM. For two hours before the appearance of the Pope at 12;00 noon, they had a very lively rock concert. Italians seem to have their own version of rock culture, yet it was definitely derived from the tradition of Elvis Presley. Yes! the Catholic church was accommodating or absorbing the 20th-century rock culture.

Since I am familiar with the history of Christianity, it was no surprise to me. From its beginning, Christianity had very deep roots in the secular world. Koreans regard religion as a way to go to heaven or to get rid of sins, and totally neglect the secular aspect of Christianity. This is precisely why we cannot become like Westerners even though we are the best Jesus believers in the world. We are not really different from Japanese who do not know how to believe in Jesus.

I hope to continue my stories on this aspect in future e-mails.


Y.S.Kim (1998.3.14)

If you look at the map of Korea, you will see the western tip of Hwang-hae Province. There is a huge rock like Gibraltar. Unlike Gibraltar, the rock is vertically cut. If you wish to terminate your life, it is an ideal place to jump. If you choose to look at the sea before jumping, you will see hydrodynamic vortices whirling around. This place is called Chang-San-Gok. The vortices sometimes become very violent, even these days.

More than 2000 years ago, Koreans there invented an ingenious theory that the violent vertex is a sign that the underwater-god wants to have girls, as powerful people throughout the history needed many extra girls. In order to make the god happy, Koreans used to throw girls into the vortex. This kind culture is called paganism.

Several centuries later, Koreans there picked up Confucianism and were able to appreciate its virtues. As you know, one of the Confucian virtues is the total dedication to your parents. Thus, a girl named Shim Chung volunteered to jump into the water in order to make the underwater-god happy who would then open the eyes of her blind father. This still makes sense.

Koreans love this story. Indeed, the story of Shim Chung is one of our national treasures. The story is a vivid illustration of one of the Confucianism virtues. It is based on our traditional pagan culture, but we cannot dismiss this aspect our paganism.

If you look at the map of the areas centered around Black Sea, Aegean Sea, and Mediterranean Sea, you would suspect that there were and still are many pagan gods living in those areas. This is why Greeks invented so many gods. I once heard a lecture telling that pornography was invented by some of the Greek gods. I forgot their names but one of them sounded like the name of one of the U.S. presidents.

About 2000 years ago, those Mediterranean pagans learned about the social order based on one God and ten Rules, while Korean pagans started picking up Confucianism. This is how Christianity was developed.

We always complain that Westerners have a culture which is distinct from ours and that we can never catch up with them. I disagree. If we look at them and look at ourselves carefully enough, they are not different. The trouble is that we only look at them, but we never look at ourselves. If you like to understand others, understand yourself first.

Perhaps I can mention my personal experience on this matter. While I was developing this network, many Koreans sent me e-mails telling me there is something wrong with me, and offered to explain what is wrong with me. I then told them they should look at what is wrong with them first before telling me about my problems. I still get the e-mails of this kind. My advice to them is simple. Look at what is wrong with themselves first. They will then know precisely what is wrong with me.


Y.S.Kim (1998.3.28)

As many American students did, I came back from Paris after spending my spring vacation days. Before going there, I read an article entitled "Best Minds Bidding France Adieu" published in the March 21 issue of the Washington Post while waiting in the airport. To make a long story short, I will just quote some numbers. Since 1990, an estimated 300,000 white-collar workers left France (with a population of 56 millions), and they are among the brightest French young men and women. About 40,000 of them live in the high-tech reaches of Northern California. Those French citizens all have their unreasonable pride of being French. One of them said "I have never rejected France, I love my country.... But things have to change."

Like Korea, France is a highly structured and class-conscious society. However, unlike in Korea, France's economy is booming, and those Europeans are excited about the forthcoming uniform currency for Europe. Yet, Frenchmen's best jobs are in the United States.

After I arrived in Paris, I read another newspaper article dealing with Europe's brain drain to the United States. This time, the article was talking about talented Hungarians. When I was visiting Hungary last January, I spent some time with graduate students at Eotovos University (Hungary's No. 1). Their most honored graduation prize is a post-doc position in the United States.

I do not have to visit other countries to conclude that the best jobs for Europeans are in the United States. Then, there is an important question for us. While it is so easy for Europeans to establish themselves in the U.S., why is it so difficult for Koreans. The quickest answer could be that Europeans look like Americans while we look like Chinese or Japanese. This is no longer an issue in the United States, if it ever existed in our time (I have been here since 1954).

Then what else is the difference? The difference in cultural background! The Euro-American culture is of course based on Christianity. As I said many times, Koreans have a major advantage of having good Bible knowledge. The Bible tells you how to go Heaven, and Koreans know this aspect very well. The Bible also tells you how to enjoy your life. This secular aspect is largely unknown to Koreans. It is not appropriate to discuss religious issues within this network system. These days, I am giving a series of lectures on secular aspects of Christianity.

Quite understandably, I received many e-mails raising objections to what I said, but they are all based on religious beliefs. I choose not to respond to them publicly. Many of them question my qualifications to talk about the Bible, but I am very happy to respond to this question. In my WWW home page (www.physics.umd.edu/robot), I conclude the story of my background by saying "the United States has been very nice to me." There are more than 500 million passenger cars in the U.S., and one of them is mine. My car carries a Maryland license plate proudly saying SORAE. Indeed, this is my secular way of saying "the Lord responded positively to my prayers."

What does the word SORAE mean to you? I have a key chain commemorating the 100-th year of Seoul's "Sae-Moon-An" Presbyterian church built by American missionaries in 1887. Three years earlier, in 1884, Koreans in the village named SORAE established a Presbyterian church without any foreign assistance. I was the member of this church until 1946 when I had to cross the 38th parallel to the South. The village of SORAE is about 40 km west of place where Shim Chung and her blind father lived sometime ago. The first church house was dedicated in 1884. The second building was built in 1995, anf the third in 1934. The 1934 building had two doors: one for men and the other for women. When I went to the church with my mother, we had to enter through two different doors. I still have many copies of the page containing photos of these three buildings, and I will be happy to send you a copy if you wish to have one. Please send me an e-mail with your postal address.


Y.S.Kim (1998.4.3)

Some people asked me why the United States has to import foreign scientists while there are so many outstanding universities within its territories. I am a professor who teaches physics to American students, and I know the answer to this question. The answer is very simple. American college graduates cannot do mathematics.

Of course, Americans realize this problem and they are determined to solve it. Yet, it will take many years. Since the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on school integration, the U.S. educational system has been preoccupied with social justices and somehow neglected mathematics. In the meantime, Koreans scientists can work for the United States.

This is not a strange concept. During the Vietnam war, the U.S. needed more medical doctors than its medical schools can produce. During the period 1965-73, many Korean doctors immigrated to the U.S. and they all became millionaires.

Several people asked me how I believe in Jesus. As I said before, it is not appropriate to discuss religious aspects in this network. Furthermore, you are not interested in reading my physics articles. Likewise, you are not going to adopt my way of believing even if I tell you the secret. However, the story is quite different for Americans. You read religiously the physics papers written by famous American physicists. You are definitely interested in how Americans believe in Jesus.

Indeed for you, there will be a TV program next week describing how Christianity was developed. In the Washington DC area, it will be aired on Monday and Tuesday through the Education TV (Channel 26). I assume that the same program will be broadcast in a similar manner in other parts of the United States. I assume also that this program will be available in Korea and Europe at later times.

According to its three-minute preview, Jesus was a spokesman for a new ideology developed by a small number of Jewish clergies who did not belong to the main stream of the Jewish religion establishment. The use of the word "spokesman" seems to be very significant, and the program is bound to be controversial.

We all say that the United States is a Christian country, but Americans do not seem to believe in Jesus. They seem to believe in money. Jesus definitely said it is impossible for rich persons to go to Heaven. Then how is it possible to believe in money and Jesus at the same time. I seem to know the answer to this question, but I will wait until I watch the above-mentioned TV program. I may or may not be influenced by this program. In either case, I will definitely say something about this important issue.


Y.S.Kim (1998.4.12)

I have been recently getting many mails telling me how I should believe in Jesus. Let me answer them in the following way. I am talking about the United States, not about religion. In order to understand the U.S. and her citizens, it is absolutely necessary to understand how Americans believe in Jesus. This is the reason why I am talking about Jesus.

In approaching Jesus, the basic difference between Koreans and Americans is that Americans openly talk about the pagan or secular origin of Christianity, while Koreans regard the Western paganism as a untouchable world of God. It is because Christianity is also their culture to Americans while it is only a religion to Koreans.

As I promised, I watched last week a four-hour TV program entitled "From Jesus to Christ." The main theme of the program seems to be on the feuds among the religious factions during the first century when Romans conquered and destroyed Jerusalem. Yet, I learned one important lesson. According to this program, Jesus was born in a wealthy or well-to-do family and was able to speak three different languages including Greek. This radical view is quite consistent with the suspicion I had for sometime on the family background of Jesus.

If you read my earlier articles, you can find out what my father's occupation was. In fact, a number of people asked me whether their guess was right. Likewise, if you read the New Testament carefully, you can guess the family background of Jesus. According to my guess, Jesus was born in a Jewish family engaged in a trade business with Egypt.

Ever since God created Korea, there have been Koreans engaged in trades with China. However, until recently, the names of those traders names were not known. Even these days, it is quite possible that the real money makes in the China trade are hiding their names. Those Korean traders brought in silk fabrics and other precious items from China in exchange for Insam and gold from Korea. They were rich and were secretly in touch with upper-class people in both countries.

They sometimes brought in books and new ideas. Christianity initially came from China to Korea through those Korean traders. Likewise, Jesus was associated with the traders who travelled from Israel to Egypt. According to the News Testament, Jesus spent most of his childhood in Egypt. While there, he was associated with the Egyptian ruling class consisting of Greeks (Cleopatra was a Greek). Jesus picked up much of his wisdom from his association with those Greek elites. Because he was with those traders, Jesus had an excellent understanding of the "dynamics" of money. This may have something to do with how Americans became so rich by believing in Jesus. I will continue next time. If you are impatient, you are invited to read Matt:25.14-30 and Luke:19.2-27.


Y.S.Kim (1998.4.21)

Today, I wish to propose a reunion of Korean physicists next year in Atlanta (Georgia). In March (1999), the American Physical Society will celebrate it centennial year during the March meeting of APS. Unlike in previous years, this meeting will last for seven days and will cover all branches of physics. This is an excellent opportunity for Korean physicists to get together during our traditional Korean dinner meeting.

The most senior Korean physicists belong to the Marilyn Monroe generation. I am somewhat younger than they are, and I belong to the Elvis Presley generation. Our young people belong to the X generation. It would be indeed fun for all these physicists to be in one room and to be assertive about their own generations.

On May 14-16, I will be in spending my vacation days in Atlanta and hope to meet some of my old friends there. I will also look for a place for us to meet next year, but I will not organize the banquet. This job belongs to our young generation. If you belong to the X generation and would like to do some good work and gain an first-hand experience in organizing conferences, please contact me. Indeed, I have been thinking about this meeting for sometime. Please read my earlier article entitled "New York Hilton" (1997.4.6).


Y.S.Kim (1998.4.27)

Last time, I quoted two places in the New Testament (Matt:25:14-30 and Luke:19:2-27). They are called the Parables of the Three Servants and the Gold Coins respectively, and Americans believe in them. In these two parables, Jesus divides the world population into two distinct groups.

Here the New Testament makes a sharp distinction between American and Korean college graduates. American college graduates appear to be empty-headed, but they eventually become ahead of Koreans and tell Koreans what to do. Americans know how to multiply what they have, while Korean college graduates only know how to complain.

The New Testament makes also a sharp distinction between Korean blue-collar workers and Korean college graduates. It was Korean blue-collar workers who built the industrial base in Korea, and it was Korean intellectuals who messed it up. There are many Korean blue-collar workers in the United States. They are uniformly praised by Americans and admired by other ethnic groups.

How about Korean college graduates? Let me concentrate on the graduates of Seoul National University who on the average say " No.1 in Korea" at least ten times a day. If I ask them if SNU is a univ. from an advanced country or a from a backward country, they cannot say they came from an advanced university. I then ask why? Their answer is that it is because Korea is a backward country. Let us admit that Korea is not yet completely advanced. Then who is responsible (or more responsible than others) for making Korea an advanced country. I have not seen any SNU graduates who readily say SNU should be. Instead, they say the government is doing enough to elevate SNU to an advanced status.

Korea and its government and citizens give the best of everything to SNU. Korea cannot become an advanced country unless the SNU people start multiplying what they are given. This is precisely what they refuse to do, and this is precisely the tragedy of Korea. I know that the SNU people flatly disagree with me on this issue. This is precisely why I appear to them to have a very sereious character problem.

Let me say further about Korea's No.1 university. Perhaps the SNU graduates are the only ones in the world who constantly sing "No.1 in Korea" in the United States. American reactions to this habit is thoroughly negative. To them, Korea's No. 1 means that they cannot speak English. For this reason, some Americans are saying SNU is the "best in Korea but the worst university in the world."

There are many Chinese-American physicists in the United States. They are naturally interested in knowing about what C.N.Yang is doing for Korea's best university, and ask me about his role in Korea. I tell them I know nothing about C.N.Yang's connection with SNU or other places in Korea. Those Chinese physicists know much more about C.N.Yang. While they all have a great respect for him, they know the upper limit of what Yang can do for them. They of course know what C.N.Yang can do for Korea. Here again, Koreans are the losers. According to them, Korea's best university is so hopeless that it has to buy C.N.Yang's name. They seem to quote the amount of money Koreans are paying to Yang, but I tell them I do not know anything about Yang's Korean connection simply because I do not know. To those Chinese-American physicists, SNU is widely known as the world's worst university.

What is my own opinion of SNU? I do not think SNU is the world's worst, but I think it deserves the "world's worst" title in view of the ratio of the output to the input. We can get rid of this ugly title only if the SNU people start multiplying the best of everything given to them by Koreans. I say this again. American college graduates are not given as much as Koreans, but they multiply what they have.

DIFFERENT OPINIONS ----------------------------------------------------

I received many mails since I introduced the word "worst university in the world." Many are agreeing with me, but their opinions are not useful because they say the same thing as I do. I also received many containing different opinions or different logic. They are useful to me and to the readers. I am attaching two of those mails. YSK

From: Lee Jung Kyu Mon, 27 Apr 1998

Dear Prof Kim,

I think you can apply the same theory, not knowing how to reproduce what they have, on the university graduates of Korea as a whole, not only to SNU graduates. I'm just a bit tired of watching SNU students being the representative of Korean intellecturals almost all the time.


A non-SNU graduate

Jung-Kyu Lee
School of Physics
The Univ of New South Wales
Sydney 2052, AUSTRALIA
Email: jklee@roen.phys.unsw.edu.au

---------- Letter from a SNU graduate

From: Yong-Hoon Kim {yhoon@roma.physics.uiuc.edu} Mon, 27 Apr 98

Dear Prof. Kim,

First, I respect your effort to make young Korean physicists to think about various points and try to improve themselves. I fully agree with you on certain points, but sometimes I cannot help notice some flaws in your logic.

In your most recent mail, I agree on the point that SNU could be worst in the world, if you don't count all the other universities in Korea. Actually, I myself, as a recent SNU graduate, do not consider SNU is at the best level in the world in terms of various factors. As I know, in terms of facilities, maybe it's even worse than several other recently-built Korean universities.

"What is my own opinion of SNU? I do not think SNU is the world's worst, but I think it deserves the "world's worst" title in view of the ratio of the output to the input. We can get rid of this ugly title only if the SNU people start multiplying the best of everything given to them by Koreans. I say this again. American college graduates are not given as much as Koreans, but they multiply what they have."

Ok, but the main point I'd like to make is not about if SNU is the best or the worst. I would like to simply point out that I think you do not know how much 'we were given', or what is the research/education environment of SNU. To simply put it, I believe that SNU people didn't/are not getting as much as American college graduates: I believe you know how much hours of class professors have to teach in Korea. I hope you know what kind of lab equipments we had to use in our lab class (can you believe that some of them go back to the Japanese colonial age?). Please just check the budget of SNU with any relatively known American universities. Although, I cannot say that money is everything, but I strongly believe that the quality of research/education is closely related to the the money the university has and offer to the students.

In terms of the ratio of input/output, I believe that SNU people probably at the best level in the world. Also, this is why I respect my teachers and seniors struggling in Korea fighting with old and rigid systems and tried to get some funds, who must have been one hundred times more helpful to us than the Korean physicists in America who have maybe achieved high scholastic work or positions but never thought about how they can be of some help to their mother country.

Yong-Hoon Kim
Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, IL 61801


Y.S.Kim (1998.5.6)

There are at present two distinct groups of PhD-seeking Korean students in the United States. The first group consists of fresh boys and girls who came directly from their Korean universities. They all have lofty goals as researchers. They only want to talk to Steven Weinberg, but not to me.

The other group consists of those who came to the graduate schools after spending up to six years in Korean industrial labs. If I ask them why they did not continue their carriers in industry, they all say that they have been bullied by their colleagues with US-made PhD degrees. I like these people because the do not mind talking and listening to me. They all have realistic goals as responsible citizens.

These days, there is a monster bullying our young scientists in Korea. His name is IMF. If they are squeezed out from their labs in Korea, they should come to graduate schools in the United States and retrain themselves. While doing this, they can look for opportunities in the United States. The Silicon valley in the San Jose area needs at least 300,000 mid-level scientists and engineers.

In the U.S., universities are known as both education and research places. Not widely known is the fact that they serve also as retraining grounds for America's post-graduate workers. Thus, the university population goes down when the U.S. economy flourishes, and the number of students goes up when the U.S. goes through economic recession. These days, there are many empty seats in U.S. graduate schools, and Koreans can fill them up.

I get many e-mails from Korean scientists and engineers (without doctoral degrees) whether I can find suitable jobs for them in the United States. While I cannot work for everybody, I can give them a wisdom. Come to a U.S. graduate school first. Retrain yourself, learn English, and get the degree. Then look for a job!


Y.S.Kim (1998.5.19)

As you know, I am very fond of talking about Japan, and this is well known among my Japanese friends. Last week, one of them came to me and asked me why Japan is doing so miserably economically while the United States is doing so well.

I gave him a blunt answer. Americans believe in Jesus while Japanese do not. He became stunned and told me that he knows every Korean is Jesus-crazy but he thought I was somewhat better. I then asked him whether he knows the difference between Coulomb and Ampere. He then told me I answered his question about the Japanese economy.

When we talk about money, there are two variables to measure. One is the absolute amount measured in Coulombs, and the other is the rate of money flow measured in Amperes. Japanese have many many Coulombs of money but does not have a circuit to allow those Coulombs to flow. Their existing circuit is thoroughly outdated and overloaded, and their circuit components are burning. Their finance ministry and major banks are important components of their money circuits, but they are burning. A number of high-ranking officials are hanging themselves to death.

When Jesus talks about the money, he is talking about the flow of money, not the absolute quantity. Indeed, Jesus is sometimes for rich people and sometimes fiercely against the rich. In the parable of the three servants (Matt:25.14-30), he appears to praise rich people. When he talks about a camel and the eye of a needle (Matt.19.24), and also about "poor in spirit" (Matt:5.3), he appears to be against the rich. Where does Jesus stand on the issue of money?

We can clear up this confusion if we use the notion of Ampere. When he blesses those who are poor in spirit, Jesus is talking about those who drive $15,000 cars even though they can afford $50,000. When Jesus mentions the camel, he is talking about those who drive $50,000 cars while they cannot afford more than $15,000 for their cars. As in the case of the parable of the three servants, Jesus is talking about the input and output -- the flow of money. The first group of people will have enough money to save and multiply, while the second group of people will become bankrupt and will sink to Hell even before they die.

I seem to quote from the Gospel of Matthew often these days, and there is a good reason. My mother used to tell me and others that I used to recite verses from the Matthew before I could speak properly. This was a gross exaggeration, but it now appears that she was not exaggerating too much. The point is the memory-oriented Korean educational system. You have to memorize and memorize. What is wrong with it? Because I memorized the Matthew without understanding its contents when I was a child, I am now able to compose a story of Jesus and money.

I came to the United States after spending four months as a freshman at SNU. This means that my Korean education lasted from 1942 and to 1954 covering the most difficult period in Korea's recent history, consisting of the Pacific War, the division of the country, and the 6.25 conflict. The only education I had was to memorize everything. Yet, I never complained about the Korean education I received before coming to the United States. Indeed, I never had a moment to think my Korean educational background was second to anything esle in the world (I say this very often in my articles).

If I translate this into a religious language, you have to thank God for everything you have. They preach this in Christianity, but I am not aware of any religion which preaches you to complain about everything you have. Many Koreans say that I often express my contempt toward a certain group of people. You should know whom I despise most.


Y.S.Kim (1998.5.20)

I came back on Sunday after spending four days in Atlanta (Georgia). The purpose of my trip was to look for new professional opportunities. As you know the APS headquarters is located in College Park, and the APS building is not far from my office. For this reason, I often meet those APS officials at various social occasions. While exchanging jokes with them, I usually find out what APS has in mind for the future. I was also interested in the format APS is going to have for next year's APS meeting in Atlanta.

It appears that we should have two Korean dinner meetings: one on Monday (March 22) and the other on Wednesday (March 24). With this in mind, I met two interesting Koreans in Atlanta. The first one was a very nice-looking lady of about age 40. She manages a Korean restaurant in Atlanta's Korea Town. She seems to have a connection with many Korean intellectuals and politicians. When I visited her restaurant, I met two of my friends who spent many years at the Univ. of Maryland. This meeting was totally unexpected.

The other Korean was a Chinese born in Korea. He came to the U.S. sixteen years ago, and now runs four Chinese restaurants in Atlanta, including a Korean-style Chinese restaurant near Atlanta's convention center. Since I have an inroad to the Chinese community in Korea, we talked about the people we know. This Chinese gentleman has a vivid memory of his father paying "taxes" to the gangster group which once dominated the Myong-dong commercial district. I was very happy to hear that he gave 75-percent discounts (collected only $2.00 for an $8.00 dish) to North Korean athletes when they came to the Olympic meeting held two years ago in Atlanta.

In spite of this ground work, I will not be organizing the dinner meetings. This job belongs to the younger generation, and our young people seem to have a very positive attitude to toward their new responsibility. Indeed, we need a coordinated effort to exploit this valuable resource. I discussed this issue with Dr. Eun-Suk Seo of the Univ. of Maryland. You should know who she is. Our younger people seem to feel closer to her than to me (they seem to regard me as an old man). If you have new ideas about organizations of Korean activities in the United States, please feel free to contact her. Her e-mail address is or .


Y.S.Kim (1998.5.31)

On May 21 (1998), the Washington Post published an article about the new CEO (chief executive officer) of US Airways which is one of the major U.S. airlines. He is 44 years old, and his name is Rakesh Gangwal. He was born and raised in India, and received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. He then came to Philadelphia and received an MBA degree from the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Like an engineer, he says often "If something is wrong, it can be fixed." Since he is a mechanical engineer, he knows how fluid flows, and he can analyze systematically how money flows. Indeed, an increasing number of physicists and engineers are going to financial industry in the U.S, and they are making important contributions there. They know the difference between statics and dynamics, they have computational skills, and they can build models of money circuits. Indeed, many bright American scientists are going to this sophisticated industry.

There are many students from China, and not many of them are returning to China after completing their degrees in the U.S. Are they all going to be tenured professors? No. They are much more practical than Koreans, and they move in many different directions. Some of them go to the financial industry and do very well there.

When I teach physics, I always tell my students that physics has three different components.

  1. Physics is an experimental science.
  2. Physics is a quantitative science.
  3. Physics is also an abstract science.
In order to be a physicist, you should have a clear understanding of these three dimensions. Otherwise, you are a idiot physicist. What does this have to do with business?

I am not the first one who observed this. I got this idea from a businessman named John D. Rockefeller. He was born in 1836 and lived for 97 years to die in 1933. He was once in control of one half of the total wealth of the United States. Since he became more powerful than the U.S. government, the government introduced a series of anti-trust laws to break up his empire. As you know, these days, the U.S. government is applying these anti-Rockefeller laws to Bill Gates of Microsoft.

When he was a child, Rockefeller started his business by doing an "experiment" of selling goose's eggs which he collected from the wild field. He was very "quantitative" in keeping meticulous records of his business transactions. He was very "abstract" in figuring out new business ventures after formulating an idea based on his past experience, and on new economic environment such as the emergence of petroleum as a new energy source.

In addition, his brain was thoroughly configured by his mother who was a devoted Protestant Christian. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus tells rich people how to spend their money: on those who need the money most. Rockefeller rigorously followed the teaching of Jesus throughout his life. This is the reason why Rockefeller's name is associated with so many places, including Rockefeller University, R. Foundation, and R. Plaza. During the period of 1930s, the United States went though a great depression, and many universities were in financial trouble. The Rockefeller family saved many of them including the Univ. of Chicago.

Yes, there were many Americans who simultaneously believed in money and Jesus. I would place John D. Rockefeller at the top of the list. Remember also that you have a potential to do well in the financial world with your physics/engineering background. If Americans do well there, it is understandable. But, Indians and Chinese also seem to be doing well. If you are a Korean, you have an added advantage. You have an excellent knowledge of the Bible upon which American capitalism is based.


Y.S.Kim (1998.6.1)

I was on an airplane from Detroit to Baltimore in February. I was sitting next to a self-assured-looking gentlemen who appeared to be about ten years older than I am. Yet, it was quite clear to me that he was not a college graduate. I asked him whether he fought in Korea during the 6.25 conflict. He said he was in the army but did not have to go to Korea. He told me further that he does not know too much about the army and that the only weapon he can operate is the 45-Caliber pistol.

The 45-Cal is a short-range hand gun designed to kill human beings. If you are hit by its 11.5mm-diameter bullet, you are finished. In 1949, Ahn Doo-Hee delivered three bullets from this dreadful weapon to Kim Koo. It is bulky and has a crude appearance. For this reason, MPs (military police) carry this weapon to scare people. I thus asked this 45-Cal man whether he served as an MP. He said No. He was a chauffeur for generals, and he had to carry the pistol to protect the generals who were drunk most of the time.

I then asked him how he got this non-combat job in the army. He was a taxi driver before getting drafted. I then asked him what he did after he left the army. His life-time profession was to drive cars, including taxis, limousines, ambulances, hearses, and trucks, Japanese cars, German cars, Italian cars as well as American cars. I then asked him whether he is a millionaire. He then asked me how I found out about his wealth. I said it is because he seldom drove his own cars and spent very little on them. He then asked me how long I have been in the United States and told me I understand his country very well.

These days, one of the hot topics in the U.S. is the blue-collar millionaires. It is not uncommon in the U.S. to start with nothing but retire as a millionaire. This is precisely what this taxi driver did in his life. Instead of spending his money on his cars, he invested wisely in profitable business. In this way, he multiplied his wealth.

If you think you are short on money, do not worry. Start saving and investing. You can also become a millionaire like this taxi driver. There are many interesting cases like this, and I hope I can discuss some of them more systematically in the future. The point is that there are many blue-collar millionaires in the United States, and this makes the country very strong. Korea is not a hopeless country because our blue-collar workers are as healthy as their American counterparts.


Y.S.Kim (1998.6.9)

Last time, I told you a story of a life-time taxi driver who retired as a millionaire. Since he did not have to drive his own car too often, he was able to save and invest the savings from his automobile expenses. The mathematics of his economics is very simple to understand, but it is very difficult to practice. Yet many Americans these days practice this mathematics to become millionaires.

In response to this story, Dr. Ki Suk Hahn of Fermilab sent me the following letter.

Dear Prof. Kim, About blue-collar millionaires: I first read about them in Reader's Digest more than six years ago. There was an article that described the lifestyle of the millionaire, saying they drove modest cars and wore non-flashy clothes. It is amazing the kind of variety there is in America today. It is the "true individual" who can buck the trend of buying fancy cars and homes and toys to match their income level, so they can appear to be doing well. A good percentage of these people have a lot of credit card debt, which I find silly.


Ki Suk Hahn
Tue, 2 Jun 1998 10:56:38 -0500 (CDT)

The key phrase in Dr. Hahn's letter is "buck the trend." I wish to expand the meaning of this phrase in this article.

As you know, the Wright brothers developed the first flying machine. Their home was in Dayton (Ohio), but they did their experiments at a fishing village on the Atlantic coast. The place is Kitty Hawk (North Carolina). Why did they come to Kitty Hawk from Dayton? There are a number of reasons, but we are not going to talk about them. In either case, it costed them some amount of money to move their flying machines, in addition to the cost of manufacturing and repairing them. They also had to build their dormitory and laboratory in Kitty Hawk. The question then is who financed their research?

Last year, I spent a weekend in Kitty Hawk and visited the museum dedicated to the Wright Brothers. In one of the exhibition windows, there was a writing saying "All the experiments have been conducted at own expense without any assistance from any individual or instituion. The Wright Brothers." Nobody was interested in investing money in the project conducted by these two crazy people.

Is it possible to do reasearch these days without funding from governement agencies? No! However, if nobody believes you would be successful in your research, can you get the government funding which has to go through rigorous peer review processes. Thus, if you want to develop your own idea, there are no choices except following the example of the Wright Brothers. You indeed have to "buck the trend." Believe or not, there are such researchers in the United States, and I know at least one Korean physicist who belongs to this category. If you like to know who this Korean physicist is, I will be very happy to introduce him to you. Please send me an e-mail.

The above-mentioned taxi driver who bucked the trend is worth mentioning because there are now many people like him, and because you may be interested in following his example to become a millionaire. Likewise, those researchers who bucked the trend will become significant only if you are interested in doing the same. This is invitable. You may think, because of surplus government budget of the U.S., there will be more funding for pure research. Wrong! The balanced bugdet is largely due to the budget cuts reducing drastically government funding for pure research. Thus, if you wish to survive in research dearest to your heart, you should know when and how to "buck the trend." In the end, they are the only ones to survive and to be counted.


Y.S.Kim (1998.6.20)

I will be spending the last week of this month in the Republic of Armenia. Do you know where Armenia is? The most famous person from this country is of course Noah (in the Old Testaments) who built his ark at the top of Mount Ararat. Nobody knows the exact location of the place where his ark settled down after the flood, but I am bringing my binoculars to examine the area more closely.

This will be my ninth visit since 1990 to the former Soviet territories. Whenever I go there, young scientists ask me one intense question: how to get a postdoc position in the United States. Indeed, among those in the former communist countries, the highest honor for a young PhD is a postdoc position in the U.S. This is also true in Korea.

Unlike those Eastern European countries, Korea has many US-educated professors who had spent many years in the U.S. as graduate students and postdocs in the U.S. Thus, Korean PhDs should be and are more skillful in getting positions in the U.S. Yet, there is a one important misunderstanding common to both Koreans and those from the former communist countries.

Those young scientists think the selection criterion is whether they belong to the top 1, 5 or 10 percent of the new PhDs produced in their home institution or country. Wrong and wrong! The selection process is completely different from that for the admission to graduate schools.

In order to understand the fundamentals of this process, we have to go back to the principle of capitalism. American professors hire postdocs in order to produce research papers which will eventually bring more research funds to their respective research groups. This has nothing to do with your ranking in your class.

Thus, in order to get the desired position, you should understand the ultimate objective of your prospective employer by studying the papers from his/her research group. When you write your application, you should explain indirectly how you can help him/her in getting more research money. If the professor thinks he/she can make more money by hiring you, you are in. You are out otherwise.

If I am allowed to borrow words from the old communist world, you are becoming a "slave of capitalism" when you become a postdoc. You should be a faithful and diligent servant of this version of capitalism to survive in the research world. Then is this "slaveship" going to become your life-time profession? The answer to is completely up to you.

Sometime ago, Jewish people were slaves in Egypt, like Korean postdocs in the United States. Those Hebrews picked up the Egyptian wisdom, from which they developed their own. It is widely believed that the wisdom contained the first five books of the Old Testaments was developed by the Egyptian priests/scholars.


Y.S.Kim (1998.7.5)

I came back last night from my trip to Armenia. Armenia is a small country surrounded by Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Iran. There are many Armenians in the United States, and they are known as very stubborn people. In 301 AD, Armenia adopted Christianity as the national religion 32 years before the Roman Empire did. However, it is very interesting to note that Armenians still preserve their pagan traditions.

Like most of the former Soviet republics, Armenia is depressed from the economic point of view. But they know how to make themselves happy. On my hotel floor, there were many French girls from Paris, and I was able to compare them with their Armenian counterparts. Indeed, to my eyes, the Armenian girls were quite capable of pushing those French girls to back seats.

Quite contrary to the impression we have about the former Soviet republics, Armenian maintains a very close tie with Russia because they need each other. For instance, Armenia's Turkish border is guarded by Russian combat troops. The physics conference which I attended was jointly organized by Yerevan State University and JINR (Russia's Joint Institute for Nuclear Research at Dubna). For all practical purposes, the JINR was running the show, and its director and his secretarial staff came all the way from Dubna (north of Moscow).

I was told by the organizers that I would receive an honorarium (extra money) of 50 USDollars, but I was not happy in view of the financial problems Russians are having these days. Yet, it would be very rude to decline their offer. After some agony, I pulled out a piece of Korean wisdom: to eat up and drink up. Then, two intelligent-looking Russian ladies came to me and hand-delivered to me five fresh $10 bills. I then proposed to them that I and they go to one of Yerevan's best French restaurants and spend all $50 (about $300 if spent in the U.S.). They laughed and readily agreed with me. So we went, and spent happy hours there. It would not be appropriate to mention here their names and their positions, but both of them spent more than 20 years at JINR as administrators and they know very well the physics world.

After we left the restaurant, we spent one hour on the streets. At one point, we met an ice-cream vendor who speaks fluent English. I asked him how old he is, and he said sixteen. I then showed him my two hands and told him I went to the United States when I was 19 years old with two empty hands but I am now famous enough to be invited by his country. I told him further that he should also go to the U.S. to study. Then there was a surprise. One of the Russian ladies said to him "Prof. Kim had an excellent preparation before going to the U.S. You should therefore study very very hard as Prof. Kim did." How did she know that I had an excellent preparation?

I frequently say that I had the world's best education before coming the United States to young Koreans in order to encourage them. However, I never say this to non-Koreans for diplomatic reasons. Then how did these Russian ladies sense my thinking? It is also remarkable that I heard similar comments from a number of Russian women during my earlier visits to Russia. Then, is there a secret communication channel between Korean boys and Russian girls? I wrote an article in 1995 on this subject, and you are invited to read my article entitled "Can Koreans talk to Koreans?" (1995.11.14), which contains the following two paragraphs.

One hundred years ago, Korean boys (girls) were not allowed to talk to girls (boys). These days they talk too much. Then when and how did they pick up the romance culture? It was during the period 1920-40. During this 20-year period, Koreans learned how to write Hangul and learned how to write love letters. The romance culture during this period was well documented by the Korean novels written Lee Kwang Soo. These days, he is known as a pro-Japanese traitor to our young people, but I am not interested in discussing this issue here.

I was told by my friends in literary circles that Lee Kwang Soo was heavily influenced by Tolstoy. This means that Koreans and Russians had the same romance style at least for 20 years. However, this 20-year-period could be a slice of several hundred years. Thus, my recommendation is that you should talk like Captain Bronsky when you talk to a Russian girl. She may then talk to you like Anna Karerina.


Y.S.Kim (1998.7.9)

For centuries before Christianity came, there were many art-loving people in the European part of Russia. They invented creating images of animals, human beings, landscapes, and abstract objects in the form of icons. During the 10th century, a man named Vladimir brought a portrait of a lady with her infant son from Constantinople (now Istanbul) to Kiev. As you know, the Chinese character meaning "good" or "ho" consists of woman and son. Thus the "good" picture from Constantinople became very popular among the people in Kiev and the surrounding areas. They started reproducing the picture using their icon technology.

As you can guess, the portrait from Constantinople was that of the infant Jesus and his mother. This is how Russia was born as a Christian country. They started building churches, and they had to decorate the church walls and ceilings with icons. The backbone of Russia's history is that Russians have been able to carry out evolutions in painting. They created three-dimensional paintings, which led to architecture and sculpture. They then wanted to make moving pictures, leading to the art of dancing which known as ballet, and more recently to motion pictures.

Vladimir Lenin and his colleagues used motion pictures very effectively in spreading their communist ideology. Thus, the movie makers were well treated during the communist era. North Korea's Kim Jong-Il is known to imitate this aspect of Russian culture. However, what those Russian communists did not know was the fact that those cinema artists could also spread the idea of individual freedom through those propaganda-oriented films. I will talk about some of those films next time. In the meantime, you may read one of my old articles entitled "Medici and Chirstmas" (1996.11.27).


Y.S.Kim (1998.7.25)

These days, many of my young friends are asking me how they could enjoy their postdoc years, instead of suffering. They seem to be sensitive to are the word "slave of capitalism" which I borrowed from the cold-war period. That is right. If you are a postdoc, you have to do the research which will bring more contract money to the professor who hired you. I would like to add here that the professor in charge of getting money for you is also a faithful slave of capitalism. They spend twenty five hours per day to figure out how to get more money to pay you.

We used to call Russians "slaves of communism" before 1990. But you would agree that Russian scientists did very well while being slaves of communism. How about the slaves of capitalism on our side? They also did very well. If you look at those individuals who did well on either side, they did not know how to complain about their environments. The easiest way to become happy anywhere is not to complain.

In order to stress this point, I will give a Russian example. As I said in my previous article, Russians are picture-loving people, and the communists used motion pictures to impose their ideology to those within the territory under their control. Indeed, those film makers had to follow rigorously the party line in order to survive, and they were the true slaves of communism. Yet, they have been quite creative under the given circumstances. There are many examples I can mention, but I will mention only one.

Mikhail Kalatozov was a relatively young film maker in the 1950s. In 1957, he produced a cinema entitled "Cranes are flying," and this film was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1958 Cannes film festival. I watched this movie in 1960 while I was a graduate student. The story is based a war-time romance between a girl named Veronica and a boy named Boris. This is a very straight-forward story everybody can understand.

Veronica and Boris love each other and decide to get married during the WWII period. However, Boris gets drafted to the Soviet army, and gets killed in action. Veronica is told of Boris's death by his comrade and also by Red-Army authorities, but she does not believe Boris is dead. After the war is over, the soldiers come home. So far, there is nothing unusual, and the story is quite consistent with the communist party line.

Before the train arrives, the relatives of those home-coming soldiers wait at the station. Veronica also goes to the station to meet her husband-to-be with a large bouquet. When the train arrives, a communist official emerges and makes a speech. The speech goes like "Comrade! Thanks to the great sacrifice we all made, we have achieved the greatest military triumph in human history. Our next task is to rebuild our great country, and complete our great goal of achieving socialism for the world." The speech continues, and it is a standard speech anyone can recompose.

While the speech continues, those soldiers meet their parents, wives, and children, and embrace. The motion picture uses simultaneously two different languages. One is of course the acoustic language of the communist official, the other is a pictorial language on the screen. Would the audience be more interested in listening to the patriotic speech or in the emotional scenes in which the ordinary people embrace their loved ones? The film maker makes a strong point. Socialism is important, but there is something more important: humanity! Some people say that this film was the beginning of the end of communist totalitarian rule in Russia. and I agree with them.

Veronica could not find her husband-to-be, and she has to face the moment of truth. Instead of showing sorrow or desperation, she picks up a stem of flower from her bouquet and gives it to the person nearest to her at the station, and she continues until she gives away the last flower.

What lesson can postdates learn from this film? First, the film maker did not deviate from the existing ideological framework. He simply added a new dimension. Sometimes this new dimension is difficult to see, but it will be eventually known and appreciated. In physics, I and my Korean colleagues added a new dimension to the research line initiated by Eugene Wigner. If I tell my colleagues about this new dimension, they get turned off, but sooner or later they will have to accept what the Korean boys did. I am travelling around the world to make it sooner instead of later.

Second, Boris never comes home to marry Veronica, and she has to start a new life. She does this without giving troubles to others and without complaining about the Soviet system. I always insist that the pre-college eduction I received in Korea was the best in the world. On the other hand, my education went through four different political systems, namely Japanese colonial rule, Stalin's communist rule in North Korea (1945-46), American military rule in the South (1946-48), and Korea's democracy (1948-54) including three-years of the 6.25 conflict. Indeed, I received the most imperfect education in history. How can this imperfect education be the best in the world? Well, I have something to give to you, as Veronica gave flowers to her fellow Russians. I will talk about my gift to you next time. Have a nice summer!


Y.S.Kim (1998.7.27)

In my last mail, I talked about a Russian film entitled "Cranes are flying," and our young people seem to like the story and its implications. They asked me to continue this story rather than talking about the gift I intend to distribute.

I stressed in my previous mail that the ideological slaves of communism were quite creative. The question is whether Koreans are capable of being creative while being slaves. Indeed, during the Japanese colonial rule, Koreans have been quite creative. I can list at least five items, but I will mention only two tonight.

After the 8.15 of 1945, the United States sent to Korea its 24th Army Corps consisting of two infantry divisions, namely the 7th Div. to cover Seoul and the 38th Parallel and the 6th Div. to cover the rest of the South. They were combat troops (veterans from the Okinawa battle) not capable of providing civil services. In order to solve this problem, American authorities decided to organize a police auxiliary force responsible for guarding bridges, power stations, and other civil installations. For this purpose, the U.S. military government started recruiting Koreans with military backgrounds. For Koreans, it was the beginning of the Korean Army.

The top man in this organization was General Yoo Dong-Yul (whose position later became that of the minister of defense). General Yoo went to China before 1920 and was the Chief of Staff of Kwangbok Army in 1945. He was definitely the right person for the job, and General Yoo had a grand plan for the Korean army-to-be. His plan included the following ideas.

  1. All army memoranda be written in Chinese (as Koreans did before 1910).
  2. The officers of the Army be chosen only from the Yangban class.
He insisted these in 1945. He did not know Koreans were creative enough to learn Hangul and to abolish the caste system under the harsh Japanese rule. I hope to continue this story later. Seven hundred years ago, Mongolians forced Koreans to build ships in order to invade Japan. In 1995, I wrote an article about how Koreans took care of themselves during the harsh years under the Mongolian domination. Read the article entitled "Korean Wisdom" (1995.4.25).


Y.S.Kim (1998.8.14)

I stated in my previous mail that Koreans were very creative during the period 1920-25 under the harsh Japanese rule. I stated there that I could mention at least five items to support my assertion, and said that Koreans learned how to use Hangul and got rid of the caste system. Among the three remaining items, I would like to mention one of them tonight.

As you know, in February of 1919, Korean students in Tokyo got together and declared the independence of Korea and composed an independence hymn. The hymn included a sentence saying "hold the rifle and rise." However, at that time, Koreans did not have rifles and did not know how to operate them. In 1945, Koreans had enough military potential to stage an armed revolt against Japanese if the Allied had allowed Japan to keep the Korean peninsula as one of their provinces (This was what Japan initially hoped as one of the surrender terms). Unfortunately this potential was used exhaustively for the 6.25 war.

I would love to elaborate on this point, but I will not do so tonight. However, I would like to point out that Koreans acquired their military skills from the Japanese army. It is quite natural for those Koreans wearing Japanese army uniforms to think about using their Japanese rifles against Japan and for their own people.

One of the first Koreans who thought in this way was a Yangban named Kim Gwang-Seo. He was a graduate of the elite Japanese Military Academy, and was a cavalry caption of the Japanese army in 1919. He then fled to Manchu and became a commander of the Korean military group in Siberia who fought with Russians against Japanese army (Japan once attempted to eating up a chunk of Siberia after the revolution in Russia). I have a 1919 photograph of him in Japanese army uniform with his horse.

I thought he was assassinated by a jealous Korean compatriot, but I was wrong. According to the August 13 issue of Hankook Ilbo, he was later disarmed by Russians and was forced to go to Kazakhstan together with other Koreans. Apparently his youngest son and grandchildren are in Russia and they are going to visit Korea. This is a totally unexpected event, but Koreans in the South do not appear to be eager to upset the North Korean regime by amplifying the story of this first Kim Il-Sung.

Kim Gwang-Seo was a brilliant soldier and commander. He used to ride on a white horse, and he was known to Koreans as Kim Il-Sung. Indeed, he was the "jinja" Kim Il-Sung. Koreans were imaginative enough to invent a "land contraction" method for him. Koreans invented the story that Kim Il-Sung can reduce Manchu to the size of Seoul.

The visit to Korea by his grandchildren will prove that the person who ruled North Korea until 1994 was a "gazza" Kim Il-Sung. The concept of "gazza" was not invented by Kim I.S. but by Koreans. The question then is why I am so intensely interested in these two persons. As I explained in my earlier articles, my professional life has been profoundly affect by them. I said repeatedly that I am a "gazza" Wigner's student but, with this title, I am able to form a Wigner "mafia" around the world. I am also using the concept of Kim Il-Sung's land contraction method to construct a world-wide computer network system.

Tonight, I had a dinner with a (American) Catholic priest. I told him that Jesus consists of two different persons. One representing poor people, and the other who understands the dynamics of money. He asked me how I got this strange idea. I asked him what Jesus did while he was older than 15 and younger than 30. He told me that this 15-year period will make one person completely different. I did not put any further argument against him, but I like my own theory better because those two different persons seem to have different family backgrounds. My theory was of course influenced by the history of Kim Il-Sung.


Y.S.Kim (1998.8.30)

Before I left Korea in 1954, I used to see tigers smoking cigarets. I was a young boy, and one elderly tiger with a long bamboo pipe asked me to light his cigaret basin. Since I did not carry a cigaret lighter, I had to borrow it from a passer-by to make this elderly tiger happy.

Koreans adopted the first constitution in 1948 and rewrote it in 1952. We did it again and again, and we are still thinking of doing it again. The United States also has a constitution. Instead of rewriting it, Americans added a number of amendments. The fifth amendments is well known to us. These days, I am recommending to my American friends a new amendment according to neo-Confucianism (Chuja-Hak) which says that the king can touch any woman in his country. The modern American version could be that the president can touch any Whitehouse intern. In this way, Americans can avoid talking about their president's personal life.

The constitution is supposed to be the most fundamental law for the country, but every country has a law much more fundamental than the constitution. What is then the super-constitution for Koreans? What is the super-constitution for the United States? Let me talk about the U.S. first. There are many Korean Christian clergy men and devoted Korean ladies in the U.S. When I meet them at non-church gatherings, I raise the following two issues.

  1. Who wrote the first Korean edition of the Bible? This question upsets Korean ministers. They become very angry when I tell that the first Korean edition was written by a Korean scholar (who else could do it?).
  2. Jesus consists of two different persons with two distinct family backgrounds. You can guess how my clergy friends would react to this remark when I say I got this idea from the legend of Kim Il-Sung.
However, they whole-heartedly agree with me when I say the U.S. super-constitution is the Gospel of Matthew. I also have many Jewish friends who do not believe in Jesus but have knowledge of the New Testament. They also agree with me. Thus, I must be saying something true and acceptable to everyone.

This is the major advantage Koreans have in the United States. Since Koreans have good knowledge of the Bible, they can adapt themselves easily to the American lifestyle if they so decide. This indeed is the reason why Korean blue-color workers are doing so well. Unlike Korean intellectuals, they are not Gamtu-conscious and take Jesus very seriously. They also have a strong determination to settle down in the United States.

How about Korean intellectuals including Korean students? They can also do well if they decide to compete with American. They do miserably if they are interested in Gamtu or becoming Korea's No. 1. Their tragidy is that they do not know how fortunate they are. They should realize first that the nature of Korea's super-constitution. What is then Korea's super-constitution?

According to the first (1948) edition of the Korean constitution, the president was to be elected from the National Assembly, and our first president was elected in this way. This raises the possibility of tie votes (equal number of votes for two candidates). In order to solve this problem, Koreans resorted to Confucianism. The 1948 constitution clearly specified that the elder person becomes the president in case of a tie vote.

Indeed, Confucianism was the super-constitution before 1948. These days, if I tell this story to my young friends, they say the election system would work only if the Assembly consists only of cigar-smoking tigers. They tell me they did not know how stupid Koreans were fifty years ago. It appears that Confucianism has completely evaporated from Korea.

Then, what is Korea's new super-constitution? Many people say "no-law" or "money and connection." However, ever since God created Korea, the super-constitution has been "children's education." Do you know how much sacrifice your parents made for your education? If are thankful to your parents, you will be blessed. If you keep complaining about your educational background, you will sink to Hell.


Y.S.Kim (1998.9.8)

I have been telling you that Koreans were extremely creative during the period 1920-45 under harsh Japanese rule and that we should be proud of the achievements made by our grandparents. We should certainly learn lessons from them. I am telling these stories because we are again under a very harsh rule, namely the IMF rule. My American friends are telling me that Korea will be the first Asian country to recover from the present economic trouble. I then tell them that they say this because they think Korea will be the first economic colony of the United States. They do not disagree with me.

I said in my earlier articles that Koreans learned how to use Hangul, got rid of the caste system, and built a military potential during the period 1920-25. I then promised to talk about two more items. Today, I will tell you about how Koreans learned to operate engines and its consequences.

We become very angry at Japanese when, instead of apologizing, they bragg about what they did to us. They often claim that they have provided technological innovations in Korean agriculture, and that they set up an elementary school system for the entire country. Yes, they did. Then what was their purpose? For instance, they drafted many Korean boys and gave them military training. Did they do this in order to encourage Koreans to stage an armed revolt against them?

Indeed, Japanese planned to transform the Korean peninsula into their food factory. For this purpose, they introduced various agricultural innovations. However, in order to make Koreans to produce rice for Japanese but not for Koreans, they also introduced the elementary school system which would make Korean children absolutely loyal to their emperor (like North Korean children loyal to the Kim family).

Furthermore, they set up the East Asia Development Company (Dongyang Cheok-shik Hoe-sa) to buy up the Korean rice fields. Not many of you know about this company because its effect was minimal because Koreans refused to sell their lands to Japanese. But their intention is not forgivable. A young Korean man named named Na Seok-ju threw a bomb at the headquarters of this company located in Seoul. Since he was backed by a left-wing faction of the Korean independence movement, we do not talk about him.

Among the technological innovations, Japanese forced Koreans to use the meter sticks when they transplant rice seedlings in order to assure their even distributions for rice stems. I do not have to explain why this will increase the rice productivity. They also distributed various agricultural machines to be powered by internal combustion engines. The most common engine was a one-cylinder engine with two large fly wheels generating about twenty horsepowers.

Did Koreans then have enough supply of gasoline to power the engines? No. They used the gas produced by burning charcoals. When charcoals burn, they emit gas first. The gas then burns to produce the heat. Thus, a charcoal furnace was attached to the engine. We used call it the "moktan" engine, and those moktan engines worked well for our farmers. Indeed, Japanese had to resort to the moktan engines to drive their automobiles during the Pacific War. When I have time, I will try to reproduce the moktan engine from a lawn-mower engine. I like machines.

Mr. Chung Ju-Young makes newspaper headlines these days. He came from a farm with moktan engines. He became an auto-mechanic before he ventured into capitalism. The cars produced by his factories are doing OK in the world market. But not every Korean farmer became a capitalist. With an increased productivity, Korean farmers developed their own technology of hiding crops from the Japanese crop inspectors. In this ways, they were able to accumulate capitals. Where did they invest their capitals? Children's education of course.

This aspect of Korean farmers was well addressed by a Japanese film maker named Kurosawa Akira who passed away three days ago at the age of 88. In his film entitled "Seven Samurai," he shows the relationship between Japanese farmers and Samurai warriors in the 16th century. He concludes this film by showing how happy the farmers are and how much those warriors envy the farmers. It is not difficult to translate what Kurosawa says into the relationship between the Korean farmers and the Japanese oppressors during the period 1920-45. If you are in the United States, there will be Kurosawa festivals in the coming months. I recommend that you watch Seven Samurai. It is a great film even for Americans.


Y.S.Kim (1998.9.19)

When young Korean scientists finish their PhD degrees in the United States or Europe, the Korean government orders many of them to spend their postdoc years in the Army, even if they have very attractive offers from well-established universities or research labs in the U.S. or Europe. Those young people are complaining to me because they do not know anyone else interested in listening to them about this problem.

In fact, for many years, I have been looking for a solution to this problem, and was thinking of contributing a article to one of the newspapers in Korea. However, I am refraining from doing this because the question of military duties is a highly emotional issue. I am afraid of a possible backlash to my younger friends. The basic problem is that the Korean lawmakers do not understand the word "postdoc." To them, PhD means that you finished your study and that there is nothing else to study. The lawmakers are not the only ones having this problem. Most of our university administrators are hostile to the notion of research.

If you have ideas, please send them to me. I will be happy to distribute them to the recipients of this network service. I am not very skilful in talking to politicians, but there are rules in talking to the public. You are not going to say that we need a special privilege because we are smarter than other Koreans. We have to entertain the public interest. We have to convince the public that

  1. Our young PhDs can bring far more benefit to the nation by serving as postdocs than by carrying rifles or grenades.
  2. Our country is at war with the rest of the world in scientific front.
  3. The life as a postdoc is much tougher than being a soldier.
  4. The modification of the existing draft law does in no way violates the principle of the universal military duty for all Koreans.
Again, the basic difficulty is that this argument does not mean anything to those who cannot grasp the meaning of the word "postdoc" or "research."

Korean politicians are not the only ones having this difficulty. For many years, American and Soviet politicians allocated large sums of money to research activities in their respective countries because their research results will strengthen their military establishments. We should be able to find an appropriate word for our politicians.

If you have read my earlier articles, the present article does not sound like mine. It is simply too plain. I do indeed have a radical solution to this problem. It is a combination of both Spartan ideal and Sartre's concept of freedom. Our politicians might like my idea, but our young scientists will not. If you are interested in this secret idea of mine, send an e-mail to [robot@physics.umd.edu] with SPARTRE.KOR on your Subject line.

In the past, many of my friends accused me of being a Spartanist. After reading my SPARTRE.KOR article, they can also accuse me of being a Sartrist. It is fun to be accused!


Dear Professor Kim:
The content of your e-mail circulation regarding the military duty in Korea appears different from what I happened to see how some young Ph.D.'s fresh out of schooI had fulfilled their military duty by working at a Korean national lab. I saw an "energetic and highly productive" young Ph.D., who did his postdoc work at IBM TJW Research Center for two years and then returned home , taking a "regular" faculty position at an university. He had to fulfill the military duty we all have to go through one way or another, regardless of whether we like it or not. In stead of enlisting the Army, he was allowed to fulfill his military duty by working at either a national lab or a "government-recognized" industrial research lab for roughly 5 years, and he did so as a regular research member of a large semiconductor company in Seoul. After completion of the five-year service at an industrial research center with a full salary as a regular employee of course, He's now gone back to an university. I know this young "theoretician" didn't lose his "productive" years due to his military obligation. It sounds that the Korean government has a "mechanism" of allowing a fresh Ph.D.'s, especially scientists and engineers, to work in a research center of the national interest, in stead of forcing them to carry a "rifle" in the army. Hope I'm not offending anything against you. Actually, I enjoy reading your e-mail circulation, which many times reminded me of my "old" memory in the 40's and 50's, running around in Seoul as a youngster.

Best Health,

Young H. Lee (Sept. 22, 1998)
IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
POBox 218, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598.
Tel: (914) 945-1957, Fax: (914) 945-4015
eMail: yhlee@us.ibm.com@internet - Please read Dr. Lee's second letter

Dear Professor Kim:

By all means you may circulate my e-mail. I visited some Korean universities last August and fully agree with what you said. It's really tough for university professors to do a "top notch" research in Korea, and could be even worse for younger Ph.D.'s. One positive side I observed was that junior guys are more and more collaborating with their counterparts in Japan. All these "internet" things certainly help them a lot also in communicating with their peers outside. Regarding the young man I told you about, I happened to read his recommendation letter when he applied for a job here, and he was rated as 'a rare breed' by some Illinois faculties. While he was in a Korean industrial lab, he have published several papers in Phys.Rev.Lett and Phys.Rev (B). I'd like to think of him as a "world top class" among his peers.

Good Health,

Young H. Lee (Sept. 23, 1998)
IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
POBox 218, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598.
Tel: (914) 945-1957; Fax: (914) 945-4015
e-mail: yhlee@us.ibm.com@internet


Y.S.Kim (1998.9.29)

I am continuing my series of articles on how Koreans were creative under the harsh Japanese rule during the years 1920-45. Koreans learned how to use Hangul, got rid of the caste system, built up a military potential, and picked up technology to increase agricultural productivity. I said further that the capital accumulated from the increased agricultural productivity went into the education of younger generations.

During this period, Koreans learned how to use Hangul by reading the Bible and by writing love letters. Unfortunately, I do not belong to the 1920-45 generation and I do not know how to write love letters. How many of you know how to write romantic letters? The romanticism of 1920-45 did not stop at man/woman relations. They had a much greater romanticism toward their children and grandchildren. This was the beginning of a new intellectual core in Korea. Some people question whether this core exists, and more ask whether Korean intellectuals are worth anything. In either case, many young Koreans went to Japan to study during the period 1920-45. After 1945, those Koreans who studied in Japan led Korea's intellectual life until 1960. I hope to discuss their impact next time.

Tonight, I will talk about what romantic dream my grandfather I had for me and how his dream affected my life in the United States. As I said in one of my earlier articles, he was beaten several times by Japanese police. His solution to this problem was to send his grandson (myself) to Todai, which was called Tokyo Imperial University at that time. His grandson will be the No. 1 student at Todai but Japanese will give the No. 1 spot to a Japanese boy, and I will have to settle with No. 2. My maternal grandmother told me that by the time I became ready to go to college, I would have to go to the United States instead of Japan.

These days, I routinely say Todai (Univ. of Tokyo these days) is worse than the worst university in the world. You already know which country has the worst university. But my life in the United States has been exactly like what my grandfather had predicted. As I said repeatedly before, Eugene Wigner was only a adopted advisor. I had a real advisor at Princeton and he signed all the documents for my degree, but he is saying an American physicst is the No. 1 man among about the thirty PhDs he produced even though, according to my grandfather, I am the No. 1. My obligation to my grandfather is to prove that I am indeed No. 1 among those Princeton boys. This is why I am working so hard at my old age.

Let us talk about Japan. Like all Koreans, I enjoy kihapping (giving hard time to) my Japanese friends. My kihap to them usually takes the following form. When I sit down with my Japanese and Western colleagues, the Westerners ask the Japanese many questions about Japan. Always, I have to answer the questions. Japanese cannot communicate with Westerners because they do not believe in Jesus. I usually end up with vigorously defending the Japanese values. Why? Am I a pro-Japanese traitor? No! It is because Japanese share the same cultural base with us. This is the reason why I am advocating our close cooperation and collaboration with Japanese.

What romantic dream do you have for your children? What dream do you have for yourself? Let us be romantic! Please send me your letters. I will be happy to circulate them.


Y.S.Kim (1998.9.30)

As I promised, I would like to talk about those Koreans who studied in Japan and made contributions to Korea's intellectual life during the period 1950-60. They are about twenty years older than I am. Before constructing an abstract theory, I will tonight introduce to you some of those who are well known to me.

Indeed, Japanese gave very a good education to Korean gymnastic teachers. For this reason, the gym teachers occupied important positions in the Korean education hierarchy during the period 1945-55. These days, Japanese athletes are afraid of their Korean counterparts.

I can list more people, but I should stop here and construct an abstract theory. I will do this next time.

Wisdom of Korea (1998, October -- December)


Y.S.Kim (1998.10.1)

During the period of 1920-45, many young Koreans went to Japan to study. By 1940, Koreans were able to form a core of intellectuals consisting of those students. They went there with energy and passion to compete with Japanese boys, and they did very well. On the other hand, Japanese authorities had a different idea for them. They did not want to see Koreans setting up their own elite class. Japan's solution to this problem was very simple: draft them all and send to the battle fields in China.

We use the word "Hak-byung" for those Koreans. The magazine called Sasang-Ge was created by those Hak-byungs. For simplicity, we use the abbreviation SSG for this magazine. As is well known, the founding editor of SSG was Mr. Chang Joon Ha. This monthly magazine guided Korea's intellectual life from 1953 to 1965. Since Mr. Chang's younger brother was in my high-school class, a number of my high-school friends carried out the editorial duties for SSG. Indeed, one of the ex-editors is now reading this article. Since those editors were undergraduate students during the period 1954-58, Korea was intellectually in a vacuum state before SSG.

The SSG magazine taught Koreans one important lesson. The people of Korea are capable of changing their government, even though its process has not always been ideal. This is precisely what Japanese cannot do. The present Japanese government is a Todai (Univ. of Tokyo) dynasty incapable of solving their own problems. Nobody knows when Japan will have a new government with a new "kokoro." When they were young, those Hak-byung Koreans were determined to prove they were better than Japanese. Indeed, they did.

On the other hand, SSG's understanding of the United States was less than perfect. Many people say that SSG's downfall was caused by a personal feud between Chang Joon Ha and Park Chung Hee. But, according to what I know about this magazine, SSG's fundamental difficulty was due to Hak-byungs' lack of understanding of the United States. Unfortunately, SSG's fall was followed by Korea's intellectual dark age of isolationism. As I said repeatedly in the past, the word "Korea's best" is a product of this isolationism. I hope to talk about the attitude SSG took toward the United States and the Western world next time.


Y.S.Kim (1998.10.3)

In 1999, the combined March and April meeting of the American Physical Society will be held in Atlanta, Georgia on March 20 - 26. Because it is the centennial meeting of the American Physical Society, there will be many special programs. Of particular interest to us are the following get-together programs arranged by APS.

According to an estimate made by APS, there will be as many as 7,000 participants from the entire world. We estimate that there will be nearly 200 Korean participants. Last night, I had a telephone conversation with one of the Korean graduate students at the University of Georgia. He is telling me that there are six Korean graduate students and that all of them are willing to serve on the Organizing Committee for the Korean events at the meeting.

They have reserved places for Sunday (March 21) and Wednesday (March 24) meetings for Korean gatherings. They will make a formal announcement after making detailed arrangements. I was quite pleased to hear their report.

Among the American plans, the Tuesday alumni reunions are of particular interest to us. Most of our senior physicists studied in the United States, and they were all good students. They are encouraged to attend their alumni reunions. In the U.S., you do not have to be a graduate of a given university to attend its alumni meetings. For instance, I am a Princeton graduate, but I usually attend Harvard meetings because they are more exciting to me. Likewise, you are free to drop in any alumni groups to entertain your curiosity. If you are a professor at a Korean university, bring your students with you to your own alumni meeting.

As you know, we have a Jokbo program for all major U.S. universities. I would like to urge those Jokbo editors to update their respective lists of the Koreans who received the degrees from their own universities.

After reading my recent articles, many young people seem to have developed a romanticism toward the Hak-byung generation. I was too young to belong to this brilliant generation, but I did my best in speaking for them. As for the romanticism of my own generation, you may send an e-mail to with SPARTRE.KOR on your Subject line. As you can see, this word is a combination of Sparta, Sartre, and Korea. Many of you have already read this article in connection with postdoc's military duties, but it is not clear whether you noticed that the article was based on the remnant of the Korean romanticism of 1920-45 toward their children and toward their younger generation.


Y.S.Kim (1998.10.11)

I just came back from Berlin after spending three days there. Yesterday was Saturday. I spent four hours at the Cecilienhof palace in Potsdam. In July of 1945, Stalin, Truman and Churchill had a conference there. Because of the election defeat, Winston Churchill was replaced by Clement Atlee during the conference. On August 1, 1945, Stalin, Truman and Atlee produced a paper widely known as the Potsdam declaration. Many people say that those three politicians thoroughly messed up the world including of course Korea. I seem to agree with them.

After Potsdam, I went to another historic place. One of the three major universities in Berlin is Freie Universitaet Berlin, and it was set up by Americans in the U.S. zone after 1945. It was necessary because the Univ. of Berlin, known today as Humboldt University, was located in the Soviet zone of Berlin. The third university is the Technical University of Berlin where Eugene Wigner studied chemical engineering.

Just south of the relatively small campus of Freie Univ., there is a short street called Faraday Weg. It was a rainy afternoon, but I was very happy to walk along the street. Why? There are laboratories belonging to the Fritz Haber Institute of Chemical Physics. Do you know who Haber was? During the first decade of this century, he invented a method of combining nitrogen from the atmosphere and hydrogen extracted from the water to produce synthetic fertilizers. It is not difficult to see why the Haber process does not require any raw materials because water and nitrogen are free. It may require some amount of electricity to extract hydrogen atoms from the water.

You would agree that Haber's invention was much greater than the development of nuclear bombs. Indeed, after hearing about the Haber process, Kaiser Wilhelm II said "We can now start a war." The Kaiser was not the only person impressed by this process. As I said before, Japanese authorities were interested in converting the Korean peninsula into their food-producing factory. They started building a nitrogen fertilizer factory in Heung-nam. Do you know where Heung-nam is? In order to provide electric power needed for the Haber processes, Japanese authorities built a hydro-electric power station with capacity of 300 megawatts. They had to build a dam which created Chang-jin Lake not far from Heung-nam. Thus, the Heung-nam fertilizer factory was able to produce chemical fertilizers without any raw materials.

Inspired by this brilliant idea, many young Koreans started studying chemical engineering. Indeed, until 1960, you had to study chemical engineering if you entered SNU's Engineering College. I entered this College in 1954, but I was not in the Chem. Engr. department. Let us not talk about myself. The point is that Fritz Haber was the grandfather was Korean engineering tradition.

We do not know exactly what happened to this fertilizer factory after the country was divided, but I recall reading in 1956 an articles in a Japanese magazine "Chuo Koron" saying that the Heung-nam industrial complex was completely demolished by repeated B-29 bombings by the U.S. Air force during the 6.25 conflict which lasted from 1950 to 1953. Japanese were interested in the Heung-nam industrial complex because they built it. Indeed, in 1945, the Japanese government was working on a surrender formula which would allow them to keep their imperial family and the Korean peninsula, but the Potsdam declaration called for an unconditional surrender from Japan.

After the division of the country, what did American and Korean (South) authorities do to supply chemical fertilizers to our farmers? The story is not too beautiful. In a future article, I hope to talk about this unfortunate page of Korean-American relation in connection of Korea's isolationism.


Y.S.Kim (1998.10.13)

When I was in Rome (Italy) last January, I was able to spot a number of Korean restaurants, but most of them were closed. One block behind Via Nazionale, which is one of Rome's main shopping streets, there was a restaurant called Arirang, and I went in. It was a dinner time but the restaurant was empty. I asked the owner why most of the Korean places are closed. He said most of them are for Korean tourists who spend lavishly. They are not coming because of the IMF crisis.

Because I was the only customer, the owner was able to talk with me on various Korean affairs. He was curious what Gamtu I was wearing within the Korean community. I told him that there is an organization called "Worldwide Association of Korean Physicists," and I am the "life-time" president of this organization. He asked me how I can cover the entire world. I told him I can do this by maintainig a global computer communication system, and I said further that communication is much stronger than Gamtu. He appeared to understand, but the word "life-time" sounded very strange to him. Even though he knows that there should be a single individual totally dedicated to the organization if it is to survive, it was not clear to him whether I am qualified to be the life-time president.

The restaurant owner decided to test me. He asked me again whether my business is physics. He then asked me whether I know his younger brother whose name is "Kwon Heok Jeon." I told him I met Dr. Kwon in 1992 while he was a graduate student at Brown University. He then went back to Korea presumably to fulfil his military duty. I said further that he came again to the U.S. and is now doing his post-doctoral research at the Univ. of Florida. He was impressed and told me I am indeed the life-time president. I promised to him to tell Dr. Kwon that I met his elder brother in Rome, and I am doing this now. Dr. Kwon must be reading this mail.

While we were talking about other issues, a group of Koreans came into the restaurant. This group consists of thirty Korean high school seniors and three teachers. I sat with those teachers and asked them what are those youngsters. Those students were selected from a TV quiz program and the sponsor is providing a world tour for them. To me, those students appeared to be neater and smarter than the Japanese students I often see in European cities. I went to the table for students and asked a few questions.

I asked whether there was a student from Paichai High School. One of the boys raised his hand. I asked him whether his school anthem is the same as the old one. He said YES. I asked him who the most distinguished Paichai graduate was. He said "Woonam Yi Seungman." I was very happy. The students then asked me whether I am a Paichai graduate. I said Yes and No. I then noticed a girl looking like a college student. I asked her which high school she was attending. She said Kyonggi. I then said I know many Kyonggi graduates but I do not know when Kyonggi started admitting girls. She laughed and said there is another Kyonggi only for girls. I then said I remember her school and its school uniform. I asked whether the girls at her school still wear uniforms. She said the uniforms were once abolished but they came back, and she has to wear it when she goes back to Korea. I asked her whether she had to wear a belt around her waist. She said the old-timers did but not anymore. In this way, I continued silly talks with those high-school students, but not without purpose.

I noted that those students were there because they are the best academic competitors in Korea. I was naturally interested in whether they have a desire to compete with their American counterparts. None! Their position was that Koreans should compete with Korean and Americans should compete with Americans. We often say that North Korea is the most isolated country in the world. From the intellectual point of view, the isolationism in the South is not really different from that of the North. In the case of the North, we can blame their politicians. Whom can we blame for the South? My only consolation is that the Korean athletes do well in world-wide competitions. Perhaps, if we learn the ideology from our athletes, we might do all right.


Y.S.Kim (1998.10.14)

I received a numbers of responses to two of my previous mails. I was disappointed not to receive any opposing views on my claim that I am a "life-time" president. Please send me e-mails explaining why I am wrong, and I will be very happy to circulating them. Instead, I received a number of e-mails asking me to spell out how my life was as a freshman at SNU. They seem to think I developed my negative view toward SNU during this period. Not true!

I attended SNU only three and half months before coming to the United States. My best achievement during this brief period was to pick up a girl who became my wife nine years later. She was one of the twelve girls among the 360 students in my class at the Engineering College. As I said before, I was not in the Chem.Engr. department, but she thought I was smarter than those chemical engineers. She was with me when I was walking last Saturday along Faraday Weg (in Berlin) where the Fritz Haber Institute is located. While walking, we talked about the friends we met during our freshman year, particularly those who became chemical engineers. We like them all and we are very proud of being their friends.

My wife believes I am smart enough to behave properly when I go out with other ladies, and I do occasionally. I also knew many girls before I got married. Among those, there was a Korean girl who thought I had an inflated opinion of myself and was determined to put me down. For this purpose, she used to appear before me with intelligent-looking gentlemen. One of those was a Korean chemist who received his degree in Germany. I do not know whether she succeeded in taming me or not, but I still exchange cordial and pleasant greetings with the chemist in question whenever we meet our mutual friends. He played many important roles during the developing stage of Korea's research establishments. I like him very much and but I will not mention his name.

Here is the point. Until recently, Koreans did not have much respect for those Koreans who received their degrees in the United State. They were routinely called junk (or something dirtier) doctors. Koreans used to believe that the true scientists are those who studied in Germany. Indeed, the best way for a Korean girl to tame an unruly Korean boy like myself was to show up with a man with a German degree.

It is understandable if Koreans had an unreasonable respect for Germany before 1945 because Japanese copied many things from Germany. But why did our contempt toward the U.S. last until 1970 or even today? This was a contributing factor toward Korea's isolationism.


Mo Yang (1998.10.15)
Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute

I graduated SNU with B.Sc, M.Sc. and Obtained Ph.D. in Experimental Physics in 1981 from the University of Munich, Germany. After that, I worked for 3 years in the Max-Planck Institute, Germany. I came to the US in 1984 and was a research staff for 7 years in Indiana University, USA. I worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for 7 years and now I am an invited research scientist in the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute. Having worked in universities and national laboratories, in Germany, America, and Korea, I think that I ought to compare the three different scientists.

The comparison of every detail would be a long story of thousand page book. But I dare to describe them in one paragraph.

German studies science to become a scientist, American learns science to make money, and Korean uses science to become a "Chicken Head". The qualities of those scientists are in Gaussian distribution for German, Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution for American, and Random Noise distribution for Korean.

Mo Yang
Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute
Quantum Optics Laboratory


Dr. Mo Yang,

I never hesitate to say that I really hate your condescending idea based on what you wrote.

"German studies science to become a scientist, American learns science to make money, and Korean uses science to become a "Chicken Head". The qualities of those scientists are in Gaussian distribution for German, Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution for American, and Random Noise distribution for Korean."

You cut off the noble and lofty spirit of a lot of enthusiastic Korean scientists. I am curious about the fact that with how many people (including Korean, German, and American) have you ever been talking and how deep. It may be merely your distorted, superficial and self-condescending idea. You had to be very careful when you commented on this topic.

Jeonghoon Sun
Chemistry Dept.
SUNY, Stony Brook
NY 11794-3400

From: Mo Yang
To: Jeonghoon Sun

Thank you for your interest and valuable comment. You probably know how many korean students go abroad for higher education and how many foreign students come to study in Korea. Although so many ambitious and enthusiastic scientists came back from America and Europe after their degrees, the ratio is not much changed from that of 30 years ago. Once I thought that young enthusiastic scientists educated in developed countries surely will change the scientific level of Korea soon. Of course, they contributed in the Random Noise Distribution. However, what I have observed is that when those young scientists return to Korea, they have only two choices, either adapt to the korean community or escape. I hope your noble and lofty spirit not to perish in a few years after your homecoming.

M. Yang


Dear Dr Yang,

"German studies science to become a scientist, American learns science to make money, and Korean uses science to become a "Chicken Head". The qualities of those scientists are in Gaussian distribution for German, Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution for American, and Random Noise distribution for Korean."

I think your observation is quite acute and has a point. I guess you must have cultural and/or educational explanation for it. May I ask for it?

Best Regards,
Jung-Kyu Lee
School of Physics, UNSW, Sydney 2052, Australia

From: Mo Yang
To: "Lee, Jung-Kyu"

Thank you for your email. As you guessed, the differences must have been originated from the different social and educational systems. When I moved from Germany to USA 15 years ago, I assumed that there should be not much difference between American and German because they are both white people. However, I was amazed that every things are so much different. I would say that the America is differ from German as much as the difference between Korea and America. If you are ready to read Korean (either email in Korean or Hangul WP), it would be better to discuss in Korean. It would be a quite long story to explain thoroughly. If you have any specific interest or question, please do not hesitate to write me.

M. Yang

YSK's note: I met Jung-Kyu Lee when I was in Sydney last summer. She is a very smart lady. We went together to Sydney's opera house and watched Verdi's La Traviata. She is very courteous and straight-forward. She advised me to abandon my pro-SNU stand. It was a surprise to me because I said SNU is the worst university in the world. She also told me she has read all the articles I have written. I asked her which article was most interesting to her. She picked one, and I am attaching it for your entertainment. Please continue reading.


Y.S.Kim (1996.5.21)

You have read an interesting article written by Mr. Joon Shik You in our previous communication. He will be the first-year graduate student in the biophysics program of the Univ. of Maryland. I like him and he has many interesting ideas in physics. In his article, he pointed out that the qualification of a Korean high school teacher is measured by the number of students he/she has sent to SNU.

It is not fair to blame any single person for transforming Korea into an Entrance-exam Hell. However, if I am forced to name one person most responsible for this mess, I would mention the name "Kim Wonkyu." He holds the top record in sending students he sent to SNU. I knew him very well because he was my high-school principal. After he died in 1969, his family set up a private institute named after him. The business was quite profitable because the word "Kim Wonkyu" was synonymous to successful entrance examination.

Let us invite another interesting person to this conversation. You all know who Kim Hogil was. He was the founding president of Pohang Univ. of Science and Tech. He spent ten years until 1978 at the Univ. of Maryland. Kim Hogil was not only a brilliant man, but also had a colorful style of talking. He often told me he knew about me better than I do, and he gave many different stories about me. I do not remember all of them, but I would like to present one interesting version to you, because it tells Kim Hogil had a deep interest in the Korean educational system many years before he became the first president of POSTECH.

He told me that he knew about me before coming to the Univ. of Maryland in 1968 (I came in 1962), and studied about me more carefully after having direct contacts with me. He then said he carefully compared me (Y.S.Kim) with Dr. Kim Myungsun (my uncle whom I mentioned in my articles) and with Principal Kim Wonkyu. I then asked him where I stand in comparison with those two gentlemen. He bluntly told me that I am nothing compared with them, and that, If I (Y.S.Kim) have anything, it is because of their influence. When I asked how much he knows about those two Kims, he said he knows much more than I do even though he never met them. As some of you know, this is the way Kim Higil used to talk. He did not always sound logical, but what he said sometimes carried a deep meaning. If he studied Kim Myungsun and Kim Wonkyu and their influence on one particular person that carefully, he was indeed interested in becoming a great educator.

Then what led Kim Hogil to go through such a thorough investigation of my connection with those two Kims? Kim Wonkyu was a very outspoken person and used to bragg about his ex-students. You can now guess whose name he mentioned most often. Kim Hogil heard about me from what Kim Wonkyu's public speaches. Even though, he was known as the "Exam Czar" among Koreans, he never praised me as an efficient exam taker. When I was in his high school, he used to praise me for my extra-curricular activities on electronics and short-wave communication.

After I came to the United States, he started praising me for "judiciously" managing my life as an "exemplary citizen" of the world. Because he was not so familiar with American or Western life style, he often made up his stories according to his educational philosophy. The point is that his ideal student is not an exam-taker, but a person who can play leading roles in the world. Kim Hogil was one of the small number of Koreans who knew this, and this is presumably why he knew Kim Wonkyu better than I do.

You are then tempted to ask Kim Wonkyu why he created this exam mess if his ultimate purpose is not the exam. Since he is not around, let me answer the question for him. Tigers are known to be ferocious animals. However, since tigers do not have wings, they can play only a limited role in the world. Koreans use the word "tiger with wings" for a superperformer. When you are fully prepared for the entrance exam, you are like a tiger. After the exam, you should build your own wings. You can start this during your freshman year. It is not too late, and you should not complain. How about the knowledge you accumulated while preparing for the exam? Keep it and use it later. I am writing many articles these days, and they are based on the knowledge I acquired during my high-school period.

There seems to one phenomenon which contradicts common sense. It is natural for people to praise the exam system when they pass, and curse the system if they fail. However, in Korea these days, the exam system is thoroughly cursed by those who pass the exam, while those who fail stay silent. According to the Washington Post article (May 7, 1996), the average cost for the exam preparation in Korea is $30,000, perhaps the highest in the world. Thus those who passed the exam should know how fortunate they are. Let us ask Kim Wonkyu again how we can deal with this problem. He will say

"If there is anyone who complains about the exam system after passing the exam, he/she should be shot to death."

Kim Wonkyu was a Spartan-style educator. We can agree that the death penalty is too severe, but we can start making progress if we stop complaining about the system. If you passed the exam, you are a tiger. Your next step is to build your wings. You would agree that Kim Wonkyu has a better solution to our problem than Harvard has.

PS. I was one of 360 boys who entered his high school in 1948. Because of the devastating war (1950-30), we had to study in roofless class rooms for one year and in temporary veneer shacks for two years. Only 250 boys were able to graduate. Yet, my class produced three Harvard PhDs, two Princeton PhDs, and one MIT PhD.

Letter from Sangwook Park (1998.10.20)
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Dear Prof. Kim,

I always thank you so much for your e-mails and for the valuable information and discussions wherein. I just have a comment on the last part of your last e-mail: the letter about Mr. Kim Wonkyu and Korean education system.

As a young generation, I have never heard the name Kim Wonkyu and I don't think any single person can be significantly responsible for the current mess of the Korean education system. However, if he is responsible somehow, he should be "blamed" for it because as many people have pointed out, our education is screwed up for real. You often claims that "you should not complain Korean education system you have been thru because such and such...". I perfectly agree with you in the sense that "complaints" do not solve the problem. I believe that one should start moving forward and progress based on where he/she seats on, not denying or merely complaining where they are (this belief came from my own experiences throught my young 28 year old life).

However, the right is right and the wrong is wrong. The "tiger with wings" is a good theory but it's only a theory. In reality, the students, especially the "good" students, who went thru the Korean education system, do not only learn knowledges but also some fixed attitudes and philosophy. One fixed attitude to the "study" and the life is set up in their mind (I believe I don't have to say it). This is, I think, the most important obstacle for Korean scientists to be competitive in the world classs competetion. The tiger cannot build up the wings, because he has been educated not to even think about the wings! That's why they don't build them up. One can learn knowledge any time if he/she really wants more. However, the philosphy and attitudes which have been set up throughout one's youth can hardly be changed. Changing philosophy is much much harder than learning more knowledge needless to say.

Complaining our own educations we have gone thru is not the solution, but it is true that our education is horrible and never been desirable.

Thanks very much.
Sangwook Park
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Code 662
Greenbelt, MD. 20771

Letter from Yeong-Ah Soh (1998.10.22)
NEC Research Institute, Inc.

Dear Professor Kim,

I completely agree with Dr. Sangwook Park's comment about the Korean education system. It has a serious problem which requires to be recognized by everybody if we want to become world class competitors. Denying the problem or avoiding recognizing it will only procrastinate our current problems.

In addition to the education system I think that a more fundamental issue lies in our culture which prevents young spirits from questioning things. Although I was born in Korea, I received most of my elementary school education in a foreign country. When I returned back to Korea I faced a cultural shock. It was considered disrespectful to ask questions to older people or to merely express my opinions. In school, simply raising a question to the school teacher out of pure curiosity (not to put down the teacher) was considered impolite and it was discouraged. Such a culture does not help our people to think independently or critically or build our own views. Our culture or education system trains us to fit into a given framework without asking questions about it.

If you don't fit into the framework you are considered an outsider or not acceptable. Therefore, most of the people choose consciously or unconsciously (through a slow and natural process since they are influenced starting from early ages) to fit into the framework. At the end of the process you loose your free mind.

Yeong-Ah Soh [soh@research.nj.nec.com]
NEC Research Institute, Inc.
4 Independece Way
Princeton, NJ 08540

Comment: After the unification of their country, Germans got rid of all the traces of communism. For instance, Karl Marx Univ. was renamed as the Univ. of Leipzig. Thus, if there is a quotation of Karl Marx, it must be very close to the words of God. If you enter the main lobby of Humboldt Univ. in Berlin, you will see a shining marble plate engraved with the following quotation.

Die Philosophen haben dei Weld nur vershieden interpretiet; es kommt aber darauf an, zie su veraendern. -- Karl Marx

In English -- Philosophers interpret this world in various ways. There comes the question of changing the world.

Our young people keep giving interpretations of Korea's education system. They should continue. They should also take the burden of changing the system. If they do not, are we going to ask Japanese, Americans, Germans, or Kim Il-Sung's son to do the job for us?

Letter fron Juhyun Yoo (1998.10.22)
The University of Auckland, New Zealand

Dear Professor Kim,

I have nearly finished my thesis (Ph.D in materials) in the University of Auckland in New Zealand. So I am searching a job through the internet, then I found your program, which is very useful. In addition you want to discuss with somebody for the topic you suggest. I would like to join the topic.

In my opinion, many people argued "which is better or not". However, I would like to change the topic to the basic principle, which is the education system. I would like to divide the education system to software and hardware. I would like to define the software as the relation between the student and the professor, the hardware between the student and the university administration including the policy of education under government.

In my case, about 5 yrs ago, I came to NZ for Ph.D studying. After that, I recognised so many different aspects in education system between NZ and Korea. My son is the 3rd year in primary school. Sometimes I compared with my son's school and school life with my old ones. I think the differences come from the complex. As you know, there are so many factors. In my opinion, the most important factor in education is the circumstance.

Thank for reading. Best regards,

Juhyun Yoo [j.yoo@auckland.ac.nz] The University of Auckland
New Zealand


Y.S.Kim (1998.10.24)

I keep getting complaints about Korea's educational system. My position has been and still is that the Korean system is not perfect but it is highly unlikely that you can find a better system elsewhere.

Dr. Soh's point is justified. True! Due to the lack of questions and answers in their class rooms, Koreans students are not trained to communicate with other people in the world. How can we fix this problem? It is very simple. Students in class room should ask questions even though they are running the risk of being punished. Dr. Soh spent two years at the Univ. of Maryland, and she knows me well. On the other hand, some of the people belonging to her generation used to tell me directly that I have to work hard because I have an inferior brain. If they are bold enough to say this to a man who is as old as their fathers, why could they not ask questions in class rooms?

Koreans have a great respect for Germans. Dr. Ahn Ho-Sang was Korea's first education minister, because he studied at the Univ. of Jena in Germany. He of course had a grand plan for Korea's education system. Even after he left the education ministry, Dr. Ahn continued working for Korea's youth organizations. He is now very old, but he still advocates the supremacy of the Korean race. He is known to believe in the North Korean version of the Dan-Koon legend. A very interesting person!

Dr. Ahn was a great believer of the German system of education. He was the creator of Korea's Student Defense Corps (Hakdo Hokook Dan or Hak-Ho Dan). If you went through the Korean school system, you should have been a member of the Hak-Ho Dan. Dr. Ahn did not invent it. He simply copied from the Hitler Jugend (Hitler youth organization). He was a fascist. Dr. Ahn was not the only fascist educator in Korea. In fact, most of the prominent Korean educators were fascists. I happened to know two of them. One was my uncle, and the other was my high-school principal. I talked about my uncle in my earlier articles. What is new about him is that Yonsei University is erecting his statue, and I assume that the job has been completed by now.

The other fascist educator I knew well was my high-school principal. Dr. Park does not seem to like him, and Dr. Soh completely agrees with Dr. Yang. However, I am the person who knows how this fascist handled questions students asked in class rooms. Quite contrary to the complaint Dr. Soh makes, my principal used to fire the teachers who were unwilling or unable to answer students' questions in class rooms.

Dr. Soh is quite right. The most serious problem in Korea's education is the lack of communication between students and teachers. At the same time, it is wrong to put blame on those dedicated educators because of their fascist inclination. The only solution to this problem is to stop blaming others and start asking questions. The solution is this simple!

Finally, there comes the question about Germany and Korea. If Korea's education system is so similar to that of Germany, why don't Germans complain about their own system? The answer here is simple but cruel to Koreans. In Germany, the number of universities is much smaller than that of Korea. For this reason, there are no rooms for those Germans who are unqualified to go to college. In Korea, since there are so many universities, we have too many college students who are not qualified to go to college. Those unqualified students are bound to complain and complain. Indeed, Korea's solution is to reduce the number of universities by closing down some of the existing ones. You already know which university should be closed down first.


Y.S.Kim (1998.10.24)

On Wednesday (Oct. 21), I had a dinner with the newest member-to-be of KIAS at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Princeton (New Jersey). He will join KIAS next month. Many Koreans ask me why I am spending so much time and money with those children. My answer is very simple. I am imitating Korea's fascists in education. I talked about two of them in my previous mail. Today, I will introduce to you another fascist by retrieving two of my earlier articles about him. I hope they are entertaining to you.


Y.S.Kim (1995.9.7)

I spent three days last week at Evanston (near Chicago) for physics business, and I was fortunate enough to meet several Korean students studying at Northwestern University. One of them gave me as a gift a large coffee cup carrying the emblem of NWU. It is my great pleasure to thank him publicly for his kindness. If you come to my office, I will proudly show you the NWU cup.

On my desk, there is a gift I received from another Northwestern man, and it is a pocket-size copy of the Bible he used to carry until 1961. He went to Northwestern University in 1930 and worked day and night to complete his PhD degree in 1933. He came back to Korea to join the faculty of Severance Union Medical College, and devoted his entire life to Korea's medical education until he died in 1982. I knew him very well because he was my uncle.

Perhaps I can introduce him to you in this way. Yonsei University was called Yonhee until 1958. My uncle started the movement to combine Yonhee and Severance into a single university system as soon as he returned to Korea from Evanston in 1933, but his idea was stone-walled by Japanese authorities. The name change from Yonhee to Yonsei was by no means a trivial task, and my uncle was definitely the prime mover.

Like most of the educators of his age, he was thoroughly male chauvinistic. To make things worse, he used to use very crude words such as "yo-nyun" to young ladies, and the female students of Yonsei or Severance used to stay away from him as much as possible. Yet, my uncle was responsible for another name change. Until 1960, Korean nurses were called KAN-HO-BOO, but they are now called KAN-HO-SA. BOO means a woman (without skill), SA means a college graduate, and there is a big difference.

In 1952, my uncle initiated the "motion" to create a system of nursing college. This was a totally crazy and unacceptable idea at that time, but he was able to install the College of Nursing in the Severance College/Hospital complex simply because he had a dictatorial power there. Now the College of Nursing is a highly respected college at Yonsei University.

You would agree that the transition from BOO to SA was an important step in improving women's right, and nurses in modern hospitals definitely deserve the SA status. One year ago, I watched a Japanese TV program dealing with working conditions for nurses in Japan, and I talked with one of my Japanese friends today about Japanese nurses. They still receive a two-year vocational training (without college degree), and they are still called KAN-GO-FU (KAN-HOO-BOO in Korea). My uncle, a Northwestern man, did his job right in our getting ahead of Japan.

Let us now look at Korean women in physics. Compared with Japan, we have many excellent US-educated lady physicists, and they are doing very well. Prof. Yoon Jinhee (from Purdue) recently joined the faculty of Inha Univ. Prof. Chang Sookyung is one of the most active faculty members at Yonsei. Prof. Won Hekyung of Hallym Univ. is making frequent trips to Japan for research cooperation with Japanese physicists. Prof. Kim Jae-Eun is one of the senior faculty members at KAIST, together with Prof. Park Hae Yong who is her husband. Last year, they sent me a picture book of Kokuryo remains, and I am very happy to say that they are extremely nice people as well as diligent workers.

Yet, it is true that male chauvinism is still very strong in Korea and this scares our young lady physicists. My advice to them is very simple. Korean women are now strong enough to solve their own problems. They do not have to rely on male chauvinistic monsters like my uncle (or even myself; I used to scare girls) to solve the problems for them. Lady Park Soon-Cheon was Korea's first congresswoman, and she pushed through the legislative procedure to add the double-penalty provision to our old criminal code (whose first edition was written by Itoh Hiro-umi - Yideung Bak-moon - the most hated person in Korea). The double penalty means that both man and woman (not woman alone) should receive punishment for adultery.

Two hundred years ago, Korean women were even stronger. The book entitled "Chun-ju Sil-Eui" was written in Chinese by an Italian priest named Mateo Ricci. As you know, Koreans made the first contact with Western ideology through this book, and the book was thoroughly forbidden until 1864. It was Lady Kwon Yuhandang who translated this book into Un-moon during the Chung-Jo period (toward the end of the 18th century). Her father-in-law was the highest government security officer in charge of arresting and executing Christians. I have a suspicion that he knew what his daughter- in-law was doing and gave her the protection she needed. In either case, you would agree that Lady Kwon was a very courageous woman, perhaps as courageous as Maria Sklawdowska Curie of Poland.

I will be in Poland next week. In spite of my keen interest in Poland, it will be my first visit there, and I am looking forward to learning more about that country. Not many of you know that Poland had been divided into three different colonies for 125 years until 1919 when it became a unified country again according to Wilson's declaration of the Fourteen Points. I became interested in Poland after reading a short story by Marek Flako (Polish writer) published in the Sasang-ge magazine in 1958. Flasko was stylishly indicting the communist regime in Poland, but his story tells also that dictators, whether they are communist or capitalist, are all bad. This article was quite acceptable to the Korean censorship at that time because it was thought to be an anti-communistic article. Korean authorities were not smart enough to know that it was hostile also to them.

Politics is not my business, but I used Flasko's skill to print some of my articles in the Physical Review D in the 1970s containing the claims which are very offensive to the particle physics establishment. These days, my main business is to explain what I really wanted to say in those articles. Many of you have seen squeezed-state posters containing a circle-and-ellipse logo. This logo is from one of those papers. I made my trip to Evanston last week because Prof. Horace Yuen of NWU wanted to understand my 1970s articles written in Flasko's (Polish) style.


Y.S.Kim (1996.1.22)

In my last article, I promised to discuss Korea's college entrance exams, and I indicated that we may gain some wisdom from the admission policies of the IV League schools. I discussed one Korean boy who was not admitted to Harvard because he never participated his high-school's blood-donation programs while his academic plan was to study medicine at Harvard.

Before getting into the admission procedure, I would like to emphasize that we do not have to hear this kind of story from the Harvard admissions office, because we can hear many of them from our fellow Koreans. Today, I will tell a story which I heard from my uncle whom I talked about in one of my earlier articles. As I said there, he dedicated his life to Korea's medical education. Naturally, he was always concerned about the ethics of Korean medical doctors and doctors-to-be. He used to tell the following story to his students.

During the early hours of June 29 (1950), he was on one of the platform cars (without walls) attached to the train which became the last train from Seoul. He was supervising the withdrawal of the medical staff of Severance Hospital (now called Yonsei Hospital), together with hundreds of wounded soldiers. As soon as the train arrived at Suwon's railroad station, it was sprayed by machine-gun bullets from Kim Il-Sung's Soviet-made fighters (called YAK fighters). The situation on the roofless platform cars was a total mess.

Amidst this confusion, my uncle heard a clear voice from those wounded soldiers. They were urging their medical doctors and nurses to run away from the train and take cover. They were concerned about the safety of the un-armed civilians they were supposed to protect. My uncle used to tell his students that their job is to protect the health of Koreans and that they should learn lessons from those humble soldiers. You would agree that those wounded boys were much stronger soldiers than some of the corrupt generals.

In 1950, the Korean army consisted mostly of volunteers. They had to join the army because their parents did not have enough money to send them to college. They were the true representatives of the humble people of Korea. While the Harvard admissions office was talking about a negative aspect of one Korean boy, we should seek eagerly positive values in our traditional culture, and we should take them into consideration when we admit boys and girls to our universities and colleges. Then how? We will talk about this later.

Letter from Mo Yang (1998.10.27)

Dear Professor Kim:

Please, allow me to make a comment on your article "GERMAN INFLUENCE ON KOREAN EDUCATION SYSTEM" (10/24/1998), which contained the following paragraph.

"Finally, there comes the question about Germany and Korea. If Korea's education system is so similar to that of Germany, why don't Germans complain about their own system? The answer here is simple but cruel to Koreans. In Germany, the number of universities is much smaller than that of Korea. For this reason, there are no rooms for those Germans who are unqualified to go to college. In Korea, since there are so many universities, we have too many college students who are not qualified to go to college. Those unqualified students are bound to complain and complain. Indeed, Korea's solution is to reduce the number of universities by closing down the existing ones. You already know which university should be closed down first."

In Germany, school children are separated into two groups in the fourth grade in a National School (elementary school) at age 10. One group selected by credit and aptitude, go to Gymnasium for 9 years of study and graduate with a degree of Abitur (You have to pass the national exam and write a thesis). If you have a good score, then you have a better chance to study in a better professor group (not a better university). They begin university study after 13 years of pre education - one year more than the high school graduates in America and Korea.

The other group stay in the National School until tenth grade. Then they go to vocational school for job training. Two or three years later, they become a professional in a specialized area, taking a national examination. With some more training and experience, they become a Meister, which they are very proud of for life time. The vocational school graduates also can go to university if they pass the national examination which is equivalent to Abitur. But they are mostly not interested in the university study because only the people who like academic study go to university. For example, a pianist with excellence obtains a Meister title instead of Ph.D.

German students usually take 5 years to graduate university and obtain a degree of Diplom. Then, they are two years older than the college graduate, bachelor in America and Korea. If they get a job after the Diplom, their salary is not better than that of the vocational school graduate at the same age. So if you want a stable job, good income, and happy home, you do not need to go to university and spend 5 years. This comparison is even worse for a Ph.D. who spent more than ten years in the university. The salary after degree does not compensate for the lost time. For a reference, the ratio of the highest salary to the lowest salary in the Max-Planck Institute is not more than 3.

The Korean word of 'Gook Min Hak Kyo' is NOT from Japanese, but it is a translation of German word 'Volksschule' which means 'National School'. Now it is changed to Cho Deung Hak Kyo, a translation of American word 'Elementary School'. Was it worthwhile to waste so much money to change the school name? This means that Korean education system is totally americanized from university system to simple elementary school name. NOT similar to the German education system!

Conclusion: Korean students mostly go to university to solve the job problem for better salary and better chance of promotion. The university in Germany is not the place to prepare for a job, but the place to study. Without this concept of university education, I think that just reducing the number of university in Korea will results in extremely fierce competition for entrance only. It is not the matter of scholastic qualification. Another conflict is that there is no qualification standard in Korea for university, professor, and student.


M. Yang
Date: Tue, 27 Oct 1998 10:51:29 +0900
From: Mo Yang [yangmo@nanum.kaeri.re.kr] Subject: Comment to the German Education System Issue


Letter from K. C. Kim (1998.10.26)

Dear Dr. Kim:

Adding my 5 cents worth suggestion to your ongoing discussion of the Korean education system, I would like to bring to your attention an article appeared in the New York Times, October 26, 1998, entitled "Japan is torn between efficiency and egalitarian values" by Nicholas D. Kristof. In order to understand oneself, it helps to understand one's adversaries and competitors as well as one's friends. I would be thankful for your comments and thoughts on this article. In order to "compete" on the world scene, it helps to develop an eye to look at all issues not only domestically but also internationally as a citizen in this international community of nations. As I peruse many of your network correspondents' communication traffic, I have this distinct impression that the debate itself focuses exclusively on Korea's internal affairs, too much personalized opinions and internal complaints about something. While this kind of dialog may be necessary initially, too much introspective approach seldom produces a positive outlook. Having happy thought and positive outlook is just as important as self-criticism for individuals as well as the national psyche. Imagine that anything could have been done if all those Korean "fascists" you talked about had taken such a self-critical approach in every action they took! Can we elevate these discussions and debates on education, culture, or whatever to a level that some learned international intellectuals can understand, have an interest in, and possibly participate in the discussion? If one really wants to promote Korea's emergence into the world scene, should one care about who graduated from what school or whose relatives do or did what? For these anecdotal information one can always go back to a history book, or to what you called JOKBO.

I believe that your network and you personally are doing invaluable service to the Korean society by providing an outwardly look. Hence, I happily vote for your "lifetime" presidency of your network organization. If anyone can replace you some day in what you do presently, that'll be the day when, I think, we should celebrate Korea's significant accomplishment in educating its younger generation.

Best regards,

K. C. Kim
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 16:20:58 -0700
From: Kyu Chull Kim [kck@lanl.gov] -- Please continue reading.


Comments by Y.S.Kim (1998.10.27)

I indeed mentioned the word "life-time president" in my earlier articles. It means that we now live in a world where communication is supersedes Gamtu. If I am allowed to speak about the weakness of Germans, they are extremely Gamtu-conscious people, much worse than Koreans. Whenever needed, I handle them with my communication skills.

I am in 200% agreement with Dr. Kim (of Los Alamos) on his point that we should pay more attention to the world. With this point in mind, I prepared a number of files for your information. If you like to read about Japan, send an e-mail to with ILBON.KOR on your Subject line. Similarly, POLAND.KOR, NORTH.KOR, ARASA.KOR. One hundred years ago, we used the word "Arasa" for the country now called "Russia." Recently, I have written a series of articles on how we can understand the United States with our Christian background. Sooner or later, I will have to write about how I had to use my Korean background to compete with my Jewish colleagues. Many times in my articles, I said "In competition, winners are those who understand and respect their rivals." This is a teaching from Sun Tsu (Sonja).

Letter from Bong-Won Sohn (1998.11.3)
Subject: Comments on 'Volksschule'

Dear Prof. Kim,

I almost agree to Mo Yang's comment. But the word "Volksschule" is a very old- no more used word in Germany. "Grundschule" is the right word. Germans might spend also lot of money to change the name. In Germany, the words like "Volks" and "Fuehrer" (Leader - "Leiter" is more used) are used very resticrted and carefully. You know why.

It is very hard to say wheather the changing school name is wastage or investigation. I think the German and the American education systems have their own historical and also political backgrounds as any other country. I wonder if we should "respect" these systems because they are "now" more competive than the others are. Education system can not be imported like Sonys, Siemens or GMs. And people can not be changed by means of imported education system.

Best regards,

B.W. Sohn
bwsohn@astro.uni-bonn.de Thu Nov 5 14:26:03 1998
Tue, 3 Nov 1998 11:40:51 +0100 (MET)
Bong-Won Sohn [bwsohn@astro.uni-bonn.de] Please continue reading.

Comment: I agree. The educational system cannot be imported or exported. One's education depends largely how he/she takes it. Korean scientists are having difficulties in international arena not because they had poor education, but because they were blinded by Korea's isolationism. Many young people complain that I am trying to brain-wash them. My articles are aimed at changing their viewpoint by one degree (out of 360 degrees). Then they will be able to see the wonderful world. I can give you one example.

I have many Russian friends, and I have circulated my article of July 25 (1998) among them. They sent me comments, and I modified it several times according to their suggestions. If you have read it, it is a new version. If you have not, you will enjoy it.

CRANES ARE FLYING - Y.S.Kim (1998.7.25)

These days, many of my young friends are asking me how they could enjoy their postdoc years, instead of suffering. They seem to be sensitive to are the word "slave of capitalism" which I borrowed from the cold-war period. That is right. If you are a postdoc, you have to do the research which will bring more contract money to the professor who hired you. I would like to add here that the professor in charge of getting money for you is also a faithful slave of capitalism. They spend twenty five hours per day to figure out how to get more money to pay you.

We used to call Russians "slaves of communism" before 1990. But you would agree that Russian scientists did very well while being slaves of communism. How about the slaves of capitalism on our side? They also did very well. If you look at those individuals who did well on either side, they did not know how to complain about their environments. The easiest way to become happy anywhere is not to complain.

In order to stress this point, I will give a Russian example. As I said in my previous article, Russians are picture-loving people, and the communists used motion pictures to impose their ideology to those within the territory under their control. Indeed, those film makers had to follow rigorously the party line in order to survive, and they were the true slaves of communism. Yet, they have been quite creative under the given circumstances. There are many examples I can mention, but I will mention only one.

Mikhail Kalatozov was a relatively young film maker in the 1950s. In 1957, he produced a cinema entitled "Cranes are flying" (Letyat Zhuravli in Russian), and this film was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1958 Cannes film festival. I watched this movie in 1960 while I was a graduate student. The story is based a war-time romance between a girl named Veronica and a boy named Boris. This is a very straight-forward story everybody can understand.

Veronica and Boris love each other and decide to get married during the WWII period. However, Boris gets drafted to the Soviet army, and gets killed in action. Veronica is told of Boris's death by his comrade and also by Red-Army authorities, but she does not believe Boris is dead. After the war is over, the soldiers come home. So far, there is nothing unusual, and the story is quite consistent with the communist party line.

Before the train arrives, the relatives of those home-coming soldiers wait at the station. Veronica also goes to the station to meet her husband-to-be with a large bouquet. When the train arrives, a communist official emerges and makes a speech. The speech goes like "Comrade! Thanks to the great sacrifice we all made, we have achieved the greatest military triumph in human history. Our next task is to rebuild our great country, and complete our great goal of achieving socialism for the world." The speech continues, and it is a standard speech anyone can recompose.

While the speech continues, those soldiers meet their parents, wives, and children, and embrace. The motion picture uses simultaneously two different languages. One is of course the acoustic language of the communist official, the other is a pictorial language on the screen. Would the audience be more interested in listening to the patriotic speech or in the emotional scenes in which the ordinary people embrace their loved ones? The film maker makes a strong point. Socialism is important, but there is something more important: humanity! Some people say that this film was the beginning of the end of communist totalitarian rule in Russia. and I agree with them.

Veronica could not find her husband-to-be, and she has to face the moment of truth. Instead of showing sorrow or desperation, she picks up a stem of flower from her bouquet and gives it to the person nearest to her at the station, and she continues until she gives away the last flower.

What lesson can postdocs learn from this film? First, the film maker did not deviate from the existing ideological framework. He simply added a new dimension. Sometimes this new dimension is difficult to see, but it will be eventually known and appreciated. In physics, I and my Korean colleagues added a new dimension to the research line initiated by Eugene Wigner. If I tell my colleagues about this new dimension, they get turned off, but sooner or later they will have to accept what the Korean boys did. I am travelling around the world to make it sooner instead of later.

Second, Boris never comes home to marry Veronica, and she has to start a new life. She does this without giving troubles to others and without complaining about the Soviet system. I always insist that the pre-college eduction I received in Korea was the best in the world. On the other hand, my education went through four different political systems, namely Japanese colonial rule, Stalin's communist rule in North Korea (1945-46), American military rule in the South (1946-48), and Korea's democracy (1948-54) including three-years of the 6.25 conflict. Indeed, I received the most imperfect education in history. How can this imperfect education be the best in the world? Well, I have something to give to you, as Veronica gave flowers to her fellow Russians. I will talk about my gift to you next time. Have a nice summer!


Y.S.Kim (1998.11.18)

Tonight, I will talk about the promise I made in my article of July 25 entitled "Cranes are flying" (a Russian film). The article contains the following paragraph. "I always insist that the pre-college eduction I received in Korea was the best in the world. On the other hand, my education went through four different political systems, namely Japanese colonial rule, Stalin's communist rule in North Korea (1945-46), American military rule in the South (1946-48), and Korea's democracy (1948-54) including three-years of the 6.25 conflict. Indeed, I received the most imperfect education in history. How can this imperfect education be the best in the world? Well, I have something to give to you, as Veronica gave flowers to her fellow Russians. I will talk about my gift to you next time."

I have about 21 postcards containing a photo of the four string instruments Ludwig van Beethoven owned when he was an active composer. I bought 30 cards when I visited in 1996 the house in Bonn (Germany) where Beethoven was born. I will send one of the cards to a person who agrees with me on the point that Korea's pre-collage educational system is No. 1 in the world. He/she should write an article explaining why he/she has a positive attitude toward the environment in which he/she was raised.

The three-year period from 1950 to 1953 was of course the most imperfect period for my high-school education. According to the above paragraph, I appear to be a music lover, but I cannot read music (bean sprouts spread over five horizontal lines). It is not difficult to see what caused this imperfection in my education.

If I tell musicians or music-crazy scientists (American or European) I like Beethoven's string quartets, they become impressed. They say that one has to be a sophisticated listener to appreciate those quartets. But they become stunned when I tell them I am illiterate in reading music, "thanks" to the Korean War. Then how did I become interested in string quartets?

In order to explain this, I have to mention a very unfortunate page of the Korean history. As you know, the communist North Korean troops occupied almost entire territory of Korea in the summer of 1950. When they were driven out after the Inchon landing of Sept. 15, you like to think the recovered areas automatically became the territory of Korea. No! They were under the UN command which was the U.S. command. The same was true for the areas north of 38th parallel (or North Korea) when the UN and Korean troops marched into the North in October and November of 1950. In other words, American were and still are very stingy in giving Koreans the right to run their own affairs.

In the case of the North, the occupied areas were under American control, but the United States had no plans to provide civil services there. The "administration" was provided by the Korean troops without orders from the Korean government. There are still many money-loving officers in the Korean army, and you can guess how Koreans in the North was treated by the freedom army of the South.

In the South, Seoul had a powerful radio station with an output power of 50 KW. This station was under the UN command. Because Americans had no plans to run this broadcasting station, the station managers had to play records. During the one-hour day-time program, they played Vienna waltzes. During the evening hours, they played classical music. However, the station managers had an excellent taste of music, and allocated one-hour in the evening to string music. I was in Chinhae at that time, and I started liking string quartets by listening to Seoul.

I was a very lonely person during my undergraduate years, and music was my best friend. The great thing about string music is that you can listen while you study. I did not have too much money at that time, but I was enthusiastic enough to buy a complete set Columbia recordings of Beethoven's quartets. Those 33rpm disks are now more than forty years old and they do not produce good sound. Today, I bought a complete set of Deutsche Grammophon's CDs containing the complete set of sixteen string quartets Beethoven wrote.

In addition to great music, Beethoven means to us overcoming the handicaps. You already know what I am going to say next. I should stop here. Please send me your article to get the postcard. You know what to write.


Y.S.Kim (1998.11.20)

In my previous article on Beethoven, I mentioned what Americans usually do in other countries. They go in without specific purposes, without plans or means to run the places, and always without understanding of the people who live there, even though their intentions are supposed to be good. The reason is that the United States has been under the influence of George Washington's doctrine called Isolationism.

For many centuries before the Declaration of Independence, Europe had gone through endless wars. Washington was right in telling Americans not to worry about the affairs on the other side of Atlantic Ocean. He did not think the foreign minister was necessary for his new country. The United States still does not have the department or ministry of foreign affairs. The job of the foreign minister is carried out the prime minister who is known to us as the Secretary of State.

I often complain that Korean intellectuals cannot get rid of their deep-rooted isolationism, even though they enjoyed one-half century of special relation with the United States. We say often that Korean university people are like frogs in a deep well. One of the causes of this Korean isolationism is that Americans are also intellectually isolated. Koreans and Americans seldom find common interests even though there are plenty of them. Perhaps one exception is to contain North Korea's military intention. Even on this issue, there seems to be a wide gap, and the gap seems to be widening. Americans are not able to understand Korea has been a single-race country for many centuries.

I am writing this article not because I intend to drive a wedge between Korea and the United States, but because I feel that Koreans will gain more if we have a better understanding of the United States. We should we should try to understand the root of their isolationism. We should be able to do this because Korea has a longer and colorful history.

I hope to be able to write a number of articles on this issue. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to send me your opinions.

You will recall that I wrote a series of articles on Christianity. My intention there was not to talk about how one should believe in Jesus, but to understand the United States in terms of our own Bible knowledge. I said in one of the articles that the super-constitution of the U.S. is the Gospel of Matthew. Yet, many of my best friends advised me to talk like a Christian, not like a historian or scientist. I fully understand and appreciate their advice. They are still my best friends.

AMERICAN ISOLATIONISM -- Continued (1998.11.23)

The 3rd day of November is a very important day for Japanese. It is Emperor Meiji's birthday. Before 1945, the day was called Meiji-setz. These days, it is called the Culture Day. Every year on this day, Japan recognizes about 700 creative Japanese who made small but real contributions to the society. They range from professors to bath-room cleaners. Perhaps, we can have our own culture day on the 9-th day of October.

On this year's Culture Day, Japanese heard a sad news. Their magazine called "Chuo Koron" became bankrupt. The "Chuo Koron" used to be like our Sasang-ge magazine, and used to keep Japan's "kokoro" (heart/mind/ spirit/combined) alive since the 1920s (I do not know the exact year). It is generally agreed that this magazine became a victim of American "junk" culture. Japan without "Chuo Koron" will be a different Japan.

In order to tell you how strong this junk culture is, I would like to pull out one of my earlier articles on Harvard University. One's worst weakness is a failure to recognize his/her own strength, and I often say that Koreans and Japanese are like this. You will be happy to hear that Americans are not different. This American weakness is of course a product of their prolonged isolationism. Please continue reading. I am talking about Harvard!


Y.S.Kim (1995.5.8)

I am known to have a number of strange habits. One of them is to attend alumni association meetings to which I do not belong. This is not a strange custom in the U.S., and the Harvard alumni meetings are attended by many non-Harvard people.

Last year, I attended a Harvard alumni meeting held in Baltimore, and one of the speakers was the Dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The title of his talk was also impressive: The role of the United States in the post-Coldwar era. One half of his speech was predictable. The U.S. still has an overwhelming military power, but it is not effective because the Soviet Union no longer poses any military threats. Much of the economic and technological superiority which the U.S. used to enjoy has been eroded, and the present U.S. share of the economic influence is about the same as that of the pre-WW2 era.

The Dean pointed out however that there are still areas where the U.S. holds the absolute superiority. One is its agricultural productivity which can force other nations to accept the Uruguay Round. The other is the show business centered around Hollywood. In other words, he was saying that Americans can still make money by selling junk movies to the world.

I was really disappointed. However, I became more disappointed by what I did not hear from him. He failed to mention the great universities (including his own) the United States has. Just before writing this article I had a dinner with a young Japanese physicist from Kyoto. He agreed with me on the point that, if properly managed, the U.S. universities can educate the entire world for many many years to come. We also agreed that the Harvard Dean could have said this as America's greatest asset if he had been properly raised in a Japanese or Korean family.

Robert McNamara is a distinguished Harvard man and was the Secretary of Defense 30 years ago. His understanding of his own country and the rest of the world was about the same as that of the above-mentioned Harvard dean when he poured U.S. troops into Vietnam, as he confesses in his recent book about America's Vietnam War. It is indeed very difficult even for the United States to find healthy leaders.

The United States is not the only country with leadership problems. You should know which country I am talking about. I am not in a position to talk about the future of Korea as a nation, although this is a very important subject. However, I think I know enough about our physicists to discuss the leadership crisis in the Korean physics community. After I sent out my articles about Moses and MacArthur, I received a number of comments. It seems extremely difficult for Koreans to grasp the concept of "leadership" as one of the variables, partly because we do not have this word in our own language. We have to cultivate this leadership culture among our young physicists if we are to have a healthy and prosperous physics community.


Y.S.Kim (1998.11.28)

You have already received several mails about our plan to meet at the APS meeting to be held in Atlanta, Georgia on March 20 - 26, 1999. Because it is the centennial meeting of the American Physical Society, there will be many participants including many Koreans. This Meeting will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center.

There will be two Korean dinner meetings, and the local organizing committee consists of six Korean students at the Univ. of Georgia. They have already done an excellent for our meetings, and we are very happy to introduce them to you.

According to the Chairman's latest report, we will have dinner meetings at the "Seoul Garden" Korean restaurant on Sunday (March 21) and at the "Great Wall" Chinese restaurant on Wednesday (March 24).

Seoul Garden is in the Korea town of Atlanta about 10 miles from the conference site, but there is a subway connection. The restaurant will provide a shuttle service bus from the subway station. The price for deluxe Korean buffet dinner will be $20 (plus tax, gratuity, and beverage). The map and the subway time table will be provided three weeks before the meeting date.

The Great Wall Chinese restaurant is located at the grand lobby of the CNN (Cable News Network) building across the street from the APS meeting site. This restaurant is owned and managed by a Chinese business man born and raised in Korea. Waiters and waitresses will bring Korean-style Chinese food to each table. You will be treated like a Chinese emperor. The price will be $30 (plus beverage).

Mr. Choi, the Chairman of the Organizing Committee, told me that the $30 price tag sounds too expensive to students, and that I should come up with some money to reduce the student price to $20. I told him I will manage the problem.

Our young people sometimes get confused about who is in charge of the operation. The answer is very simple. The Local Organizing Committee is in charge and is responsible for everything. As for the future planning of this Korean program, you already know who is in charge. We regret that, in the past, there were some Koreans who attempted to get credit for the work they did not do. They are like that because they came from an underdeveloped country without professional ethics. You should ignore them if you are from an advanced country. As you know, Korea is an advanced country.

If you wish to make a speech at the dinner meeting, your should know that our young people are not interested in listening to you, because they are busy with their own friends. You do not want to become like the communist official who makes a lengthy speech in the Russian cinema "Cranes are flying." Those home-coming soldiers and their relatives are busy in embracing their loved ones. The speech-making communist official is the loneliest person in the world.

The best way for you to make a speech is to write it up and send it to me. I will be happy to circulate your speech using this network and store it in our robot system. I have already given a number of speeches on the forthcoming meeting, and you can read them by visiting our web page http://www.physics.umd.edu/robot/kor.html, or by sending an e-mail to [robot@physics.umd.edu] with MEET.KOR on your Subject line.

It appears that Atlanta is ready to welcome you. Let us thank our Local Organizing Committee!


Y.S.Kim (1998.11.29)

When we talk about prominent Americans, we mention George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Armstrong, David Sarnoff, Elvis Presley, and others. We all know what they did. But, if I mention Charles William Eliot, you will become blank. This is true also for Americans. After reading this article, you can tell your American friends who Eliot was.

As the title of this article indicates, Eliot was the president of Harvard University for forty years from 1869 to 1909. He became the president when he was 35 years old, and retired when at age 75. He died in 1926. Indeed, Eliot was the "life-time" president of Harvard. By the year 1900, Eliot was a dictator, fascist, Machiavellian, and whatever bad word you can think of. To make things worse, he was very conscious of Jokbo, like Koreans but not like ordinary Americans. Yet, Eliot was the single most influential person in the educational system of the United States. What did he do?

First of all, Eliot transformed Harvard from an obscure college in a feudal society to a world-class university capable of providing skilful professionals to an industrializing country. During his tenure, he achieved a ten-fold increase in faculty, and a four-fold increase in students. He introduced a curriculum reform which allowed students to take elective courses (very strange idea in 1890). He also introduced various science courses.

As Eliot became prominent as a university president, he was invited to Gamtu positions in various national committees on pre-college education. There, he was influential enough to force American high schools to raise their standards, especially in mathematics.

What was then his educational philosophy? One of the reporters asked him how he was able to produce a miracle at Harvard. His reply was very simple. When freshmen enter Harvard, they bring in so much, but they take out so little when they leave Harvard after four years. Thus, Harvard keeps the difference. Eliot's philosophy is still alive and well in Harvard's admissions policy. The exam scores do not guarantee the admission. You have to prove that you have something special to contribute to the University and/or to the world.

We can easily extend Eliot's philosophy. On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy said "Ask not -- " in his inaugural speech. He was amplifying Eliot's philosophy. Many people say Harvard is a Chinese university after 5:00 PM. It is not an exaggeration. There are many Chinese students at Harvard, and they stay on campus during the evening hours. Harvard is growing because those Chinese bring in so much from China and take out so little from the U.S. when they go home. Thus, Harvard takes the difference. This is true for other universities in the U.S. When they come to the U.S., Korean students come with a great wealth of knowledge acquired from Korea's memory oriented education, but they take very little from the U.S. when they go home. The United States keeps the difference and becomes strong.

Let us extend Eliot's philosophy further. Is a university a place for teaching or a place for learning. Certainly not a teaching place according to Eliot. This is the reason why people often say Harvard does not teach anything to students, and it is not difficult to find empty-headed Harvard graduates.

I do not know whether it is Eliot's influence. I often pick up Japanese domestic radio programs from my short-wave radio. Like Korea, Japan has serious problems with their educational educational system. They seem to think they can tackle the problem with a philosophy that their high-schools are learning places rather than teaching places. Are Korean schools learning places or teaching places? Is the philosophy enough to change the system?

When I was in high school, we used to say that our school was a prison run by a fascist dictator. When I entered, my class consisted of 360 boys, but only 240 of them graduated because of the 6.25 war. My class produced three Harvard PhDs, two Princeton PhDs, and one MIT PhD. It was certainly the No. 1 class in the world. We can learn lessons from Harvard, but we should not rule out the possibility of learning lessons from our fascist-oriented system. After all, Eliot was also a fascist.


In my previous mail, I talked about how Harvard University admits new students. Does this mean that we should abandon immediately our own entrance exam system? I have been talking about this problem with various people since I wrote a story about SNU's entrance exam in 1996. The answer is No. The present system is by no means ideal, but it achieved one great thing. The system allows everybody to take the exam.

Yes, there are many students who go through expensive extra-curricula tutoring programs, but there are also many who do not. Most often, they are from remote villages without benefits of economic prosperity. Our system offers equal opportunity to all Korean boys and girls, regardless of where they were born, what their parents do, and how rich they are. Most often, those from less fortunate backgrounds make important contributions to our society. Those who studied with tutors expect to be spoon-fed by others until they die.

In addition, Korean boys and girls can study in the United States if they do not like the Korean system. If one is indeed qualified to go to college, he/she should be able to deal with the exams (in Korea) or the language barrier (in the U.S.).

In the following story, I talk about how the present entrance exam system was created. I mention a number of distinguished Koreans including Dr. Park Chulzae who was the first president of Inha University. -- Please continue reading.


Y.S.Kim (1996.1.31)

These days, the best gift a Korean boy or girl can give to his/her parents is to pass SNU's entrance exam. It is because one of the rare corruption- free institutions in Korea. Then, what is the origin of this bug-free system? If I ask this question to recent SNU graduates, I often hear the answer I dislike most.

They say that the system was inherited from Kyungsung Imperial University which was a component of the Japanese Imperial Unv. system until 1945. Indeed, there was a university called ``Keijo Teikoku Daigaku'' in Seoul, and its campus later became SNU's main campus. However, the Kyungsung Imperial business had nothing to do with Koreans. The Japanese propaganda machine was telling Koreans that the Univ. was a gift from their Emperor to the Korean people because he regards Koreans as Japanese (they wanted to draft Koreans for their army). The truth however was that it was devised by Japanese authorities to exile their anti-fascist professors to a colony. Do you know or know about anyone who studied at Kyungsung Imperial University?

SNU was born as a component of the national university system formulated during the period when Korea was ruled by the U.S. Occupation Force (1945-48), and the first president of SNU was a lt.colonel of the U.S. Army. Quite understandably, Koreans did not like the university headed by an American army officer. This led confusion after confusion. How was then the entrance exam system? Mess! To make things worse, SNU had its temporary campus in Pusan during the period 1951-53. I cannot really document the degree of corruption at that time, except mentioning one concrete incident. In 1952, SNU conducted its entrance exam in Pusan, and the maximum score was 500. I know someone who got 25 out of 500 and still got admitted because his father was a minister in the government.

Indeed, this created an uproar among SNU's professors, and they stood firmly against political pressures to make the entrance exam a completely bug-free system. When I entered SNU in 1954, the exam system was praised to be 100% bug free by major newspapers. It was Korean professors who came up with this respectable system. During the period 1952-54, what we needed was a clean entrance exam system. We still need clean exams, but we need more now. What are they?

During the period 1952-54, SNU's president was Dr. Choi Kyunam (1898-1192). He was a tall and handsome gentleman. He studied at Yonhee Professional School (now called Yonsei Univ.) before going to the United States in 1927. He received his PhD degree in Physics from the Michigan State Univ. in 1933. He published his thesis in the Physical Review (let us find the reference). He joined the Yonhee faculty in 1934 and stayed there until 1946. He then became one of the three originators of SNU's Physics Department. Two other gentlemen were Dr. Park Chulzae and Dr. Kwon Youngdae. Dr. Park Chulzae later became the first president of Inha Institute of Technology which is now known as Inha University.

In 1954 when I was enjoying my dinner at a Sulnong-tang house (called Mookyo Tang-gwan), one distinguished-looking gentleman was telling about Yukawa to his younger colleagues at next table. I was impressed, but did not disturb their conversation. Later, I found out he was Dr. Park Chulzae and his position at that time as the head of the Special Education Bureau of the Ministry of Education in charge of sending Korean students to the United States and Europe. I met him formally when he was visiting Carnegie Institute of Technology (now called Carnegie-Mellon Univ.) in the fall of 1954. I was a freshman there.

Dr. Kwon Youngdae stayed in the Physics Department until his retirement. These days, when I ask young SNU graduates whether they can recognize his name, most of them say NO. Some say that his name sounds like that of a big politician during the Yi dynasty (called Dae-gam). One of my friends told me this morning that this is the correct answer because he was exactly like a Dae-gam when he was a professor in the Department. He left many interesting anecdotes.

Dr. Choi Kyunam became the Minister of Education in 1956. It is my understanding that he was a very humble person. His daughter entered SNU's English Literature Department when I entered in 1954. Like her father, she was very tall but was humble enough not to show any sign that her father was a famous person. Dr. Choi's main contribution was to supervise a team of SNU's professors who designed the cleanest entrance exam system.

I would like to thank Prof. Kim Seung Hwan of Pohang Univ. for sending me detailed biographical data of Dr. Choi Kyunam. Prof. Kim is known internationally as Swan Kim. He picked up this nickname while he was a graduate student at the Univ. of Pennsylvania. He was an exemplary student there and was admired by his classmates.


I talk about Japan very often in my articles, and I sometimes send those articles to many Japanese readers in Japan. Quite undestandably, some of them become upset, but most of them seem to enjoy reading my articles. I am attaching a letter which I received from one the Japanese readers. He talks about the role Chuo Koron [Choong-Ang Kong-Ron] played since the 1920s. (1998.12.10)

From: Akira ASADA Date: Mon, 07 Dec 1998 12:33:24 +0900 To: yskim@katherine.physics.umd.edu

Dear Prof. Kim:

Thank you very much for your interesting mail on Chuo Koron and Harvard. As you pointed out, Chuo Koron is a influential magazine to Japanese opinions. Its stance is liberal conservative. This was important for Japanese for a long time. While most opinion leaders of Japan were influenced by Marxism from '20-to '80 (except the WWII era), most of the articles in Chuo Koron were not influenced Marxism, but written from liberal view points with open mind.

Now, Japanese opinion became conservative. The influence of Marxism became weak, and anti-liberal close-minded (nationalistic) writings are gaining strength. So the liberal stance of Chuo Koron was essential. Unfortunately, the bankruptcy of Chuo Koron is saved by the Yomiuri News Paper Company, whose stance is anti-liberal conservative. After this decision, the contents of Chuo Koron Publication were forced to change their direction. One of the authors was ordered to modify his article, but he instead criticized the president of Yomiuri News Paper Company. His paper was not published. I fear this trend will continue hereafter.

I agree with you on the contribution of U.S. Universities to U.S. and the World. One of the origins of the great power of the United States is its openness. Many people come to the U.S. Their success gave new power to the U.S. On the other hand, Japan (and maybe Korea also) is a closed country. I think one of the reasons of recent depression in Japan is its closedness. Now younger generations of Japan are decreasing. So the activity of Japan would also decrease.

You said Chuo Koron was a victim of America's Junk Culture. Needs for serious writings in Japan is decreasing and needs for junk cultures are increasing. As for publications, Manga(Comics) are powerful in Japan (even Chuo Koron Publication, publishing several Manga books). Some Manga have higher quality than middle-level novels of Japan. Pedagogical themes (history, economics and even physics and mathematics!) are also exposed by Manga. But this situation may be a reason of the crisis of Chuo Koron. So rather than America's Junk Culture, Japanese Junk Culture itself caused the crisis of Chuo Koron.

Like most Japanese, I am not a Christian but rather a Buddhist (this means I have no respect for religion. But, when some one asked me what my religion is, I said I am a Buddhist for convenience). But we are tolerant on religion (I think this is one of the best part of Japan), I send my Christmas greeting to you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 1999.

With best regards,
Sincerely yours,

Akira Asada
Department of Mathematical Science
Faculty of Science, Sinsyu University
Matumoto 390-8621, Japan
E-mail [aasada@ripms.shinshu-u.ac.jp]


Y.S.Kim (1998.12.18)

I am writing this series of articles in order to tell my Korean friends to understand the United States. In one of my earlier articles, George Washington, the first president of the U.S., preached isolationism against Europe. It was a very sensible policy for Americans two hundred years ago when the trans-Atlantic navigation was like a flight to the moon.

However, it was not possible for the U.S. government to practice this isolationism after 1800. In 1812, Britain sent troops to the city of Washington to recapture the lost colony, and burnt the presidential mansion. Since Americans did not have enough resources to clean up the smoke stains, they put white paint on the building. This was how the the president's house became the White House. After defeating Britain 1814, the United State became quite confident, and encouraged Latin Americans to declare independence against Spain. Americans opened their eyes toward Central and South Americas.

In 1823, James Monroe, who was the president of the U.S., proclaimed the so-called Monroe doctrine which states that the entire Western hemisphere belongs to the United States. Americans apparently did not know and still do not know that the Monroe doctrine is only a policy statement by the U.S. government and that other countries are not bound to obey this doctrine. In 1960, when Soviet Union started establishing its base in Cuba, and Americans said this was a violation of the Monroe doctrine. The world laughed.

What does this Monroe doctrine have to do with Korea. Toward the end of the 19th century, the steam engines were driving battleships, and the Western powers were extending their colonial muscles. The Monroe doctrine did not sit well with Spain with a strong navy and with many Spanish-speaking "brothers and sisters" in Latin America. The result was the Spanish-American War in 1898, resulting in American victory. As a consequence, the United States gained a control of the Philippines. However, the American rule over the Philippines did not make Japan very happy. As you know, Japan took over Taiwan from China after the Cino- Japanese War in 1985, and Japan was determined to move to the the Southeast Asian islands rich in natural resources.

The United States had to make some peace with Japan, and Theodore Roosevelt (the U.S. president, 1901-1909) made a deal. The U.S. would let Japan eat Korea while asking Japan to stay out of the Philippines. Japan accepted this deal and annexed Korea in 1910. This is the reason why Woodrow Wilson had to keep his mouth shut while Japanese were massacring Koreans in 1919. Wilson was known an advocate of the principle of self determination of nations. However, for Koreans, he was another colonialist or a supporter of Japanese colonialism. What I say here might surprise many Koreans. But, before blaming Woodrow Wilson, we should blame ourselves for our lack of understanding of the United States. We cannot blame Americans too much for working for their own interest. Indeed, American policy makers at that time were much smarter than those after 1940 who could not define their own interest.


Y.S.Kim (1998.12.23)

In my article of Nov. 29, I talked about Charles William Eliot who was the president of Harvard University for 40 years from 1869 to 1909. He transformed Harvard from an obscure college in a feudal society to a world-class university capable of providing skilful professionals to an industrializing country.

Since then, I received a number of questions about him. Unquestionably Eliot built the first-class university by constructing the first class faculty. The question is how he was able to recruit so many talented people to the faculty. I did some research along this line, but I was not able to find recruit manuals written by him. On the other hand, I read some books about him, and I am now able to construct an abstract theory based on what I read and heard about about him.

It appears that Eliot did just about everything Korean universities will have to now. He simplified the recruiting procedure by reducing the amount of paper work. Eliot drastically reduced faculty teaching loads by increasing the faculty/student ratio and by reducing the number of required coursed students had to take. This resulted in more time to do research. The Harvard was the ideal place to go if one had a creative idea to develop.

Charles William Eliot was born in a well-to-do family and learned how money flows from his family members. The Boston area was and still is one of the industrial centers of the United States. There were many wealthy Harvard graduates living in the Boston area. Whenever Eliot needed money for hiring faculty, he approached those wealthy alumni. Harvard still keeps this tradition. If you are a Harvard graduate, you will have to pay Harvard tax every year for the rest of your life. Throughout the United States, it is known as the alumni contribution system. I talked about this aspect of American culture several times in my earlier articles.

Eliot was in France, Italy and England from 1963 to 1865. From 1965 to 1868, he was on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although he was a Harvard graduate, Eliot had an abundance of experience with the world other than Harvard. He knew what Harvard needed. When he said "When freshmen enter Harvard, they bring in so much, but they take out so little when they leave Harvard after four years. Thus, Harvard keeps the difference," Eliot was talking about faculty. This philosophy later became the AAUP guideline for faculty recruitment.

The AAUP stands for the American Association of University Professors, and its guidelines for faculty hiring and retention are well known. Promising young faculty members are hired as assistant professors. After five years, they are reviewed by their senior colleagues. Some of them are promoted to associate professors with permanent tenure, but others are asked to leave. Those who leave do not carry anything from the university even though they bring in so much to the university when they are hired.

I often say the best American philosopher was Thomas Edison. Edison did not say much, but did everything by doing it. Eliot was like Edison. He ran the university by building up his experience. However, in his lecture note entitled "The Conflict between Individualism and Collectivism in a Democracy" (published in 1910, and reprinted in 1967 by the Books for Libraries Press), Eliot was struggling to formulate a philosophy in which the maximum freedom can be consistent with the ultimate goal of the society. The freedom he had in mind was of course the academic freedom. He did not say this explicitly, but what he wanted to say seems to me that the individual freedom is available only to those who are willing and able to make contributions to the society.

I heard about Eliot from many different people while in the United States, but I have not done any systematic research on him. In addition to the above-mentioned lecture note by him, I have read a few chapters of Eliot's biography written by Henry James, published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1930. I am a professor and is therefore in an education business. As you know, I still maintain a keen interest in Korea's educational system. If I have a philosophy or prejudice, it was profoundly affected by my high school principal whose name was Kim Wonkyu. He wrote a book entitled "Freedom and Disciplines" in 1958. Unlike most of the Korean authors at that time, he admitted that his book was a largely a translation of the book with the same title by a British author. He was kind enough to send me a copy of his book while I was a graduate student at Princeton. If you are a Korean, you do not have to read this book. Just read the title which says everything about the freedom to be enjoyed by students and faculty.