[Meet the President] Korea University president pledges to take university to ‘next level’
Graduating from a prestigious university comes with many perks: opportunities for academic growth, enhanced personal reputation, an advantage in the job market, and, as the president of Korea University puts it, stellar networking opportunities.
Of course, international students aren’t excluded from these benefits.
“We have a very tight-knit alumni association wherever you go, whether Alaska or New Zealand,” newly-elected Korea University President Kim Dong-one said.
“The fact that we have the largest overseas alumni network is our biggest strength.”
In a recent interview with Kim, conducted by Korea JoongAng Daily CEO Cheong Chul-gun, the head of one of the country’s leading “SKY” universities explained how he would take Korea University to the next level during his four-year term and how international students can benefit from that journey.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q. Congratulations on your election victory. In your inauguration speech last February, you pledged to overcome the financial crisis facing many universities in Korea and pave the way for a “university Renaissance era.” Can you specify any plans?
A. To improve Korea University’s cash flow, one plan I have in mind is to provide life-long education for all age groups. The population of people in their 20s in Korea is drastically shrinking, which is why I find it crucial to offer educational programs for people in older age groups all the way up to people in their 70s. I would also like to offer online Korean language courses to everyone across the world who wishes to learn the language. In both plans, the essence is for Korea University to contribute to society and provide solutions to global issues.
Throughout your presidential campaign, you talked a lot about diversifying income sources to overcome the financial crisis. How serious of a crisis is it?
A big problem with Korean universities is that they are far too dependent on tuition revenues, around 40 to 50 percent of their incomes. [The corresponding figure for] leading universities in the United States is a mere 20 to 30 percent. So it’s really important that we lower this rate and generate more profit through other sources, such as technology transfers.
What kind of education do you wish to provide through your life-long education initiative?
As the fourth industrial revolution gains momentum, the lifespan of our knowledge and techniques is growing shorter. Some 40 to 50 years ago, it took maybe 40 years for half of our knowledge to be deemed obsolete. That means when people graduated from college back then, they were able to make full use of their skillsets before retiring. But that’s not the case anymore. Now, half of what we know is useful for only up to, say, 10 years. So every five to 10 years, we have to upgrade our knowledge through training and perhaps find other jobs. The only entity that can provide this kind of education is schools. So what we’re trying to do here is offer programs to people in their 40s or 60s who want to gain new tools to work in other professions, like part-time MBA programs or special or professional graduate schools.
Other universities in Korea have implemented various globalization strategies, such as establishing an international students-only college or building an overseas campus. What’s your globalization strategy?
We are currently in the works of establishing a foreigners-only school in our College of International Studies. I think there are pros and cons to the idea. When we think about it, if we were to travel to a foreign country to study, we wouldn’t want to be isolated from [local students]. Likewise, international students who come to Korea want to mingle with Korean students. But the positive side of a foreigners-only school is that international students will be given a chance to warm up to [their new lives in Korea] up to their sophomore year before they sit in the same classrooms as Korean students. At the moment, we don’t have any plans to build an overseas campus because we haven’t seen any successful cases yet.
You also mentioned plans to develop educational programs in the metaverse. How will they be different from Zoom classes, and when will they be ready?
I think we might launch classes in the metaverse one or two years later. Compared to Zoom, students in the metaverse will be able to be more proactive during class and interact more closely with the professor and peers. We already have the technology. We just need more time to blend the technology with our educational programs.
In March, Korea University became the first university in Korea to institute guidelines for in-class usage of ChatGPT. How did those guidelines come about?
No matter how hard people have tried to block technological advancement time and time again, they have never succeeded. When we were young, we were told not to use calculators when doing math. But look at us today. With technology, it’s important we know how to use it wisely. The essence of our ChatGPT guidelines is to allow our students and faculty members to use the program to produce better outcomes effectively.
How did professors react to the guidelines?
Some professors argued that they wouldn’t be able to differentiate between students who did the assignments on their own and those who got help from ChatGPT. My response to them was don’t assign easy tasks in the first place. With ChatGPT, I think the outcomes generally rely on the users’ level of knowledge. For instance, if someone were to translate something they knew absolutely nothing about, they would use the first thing that pops up on the program. But a more advanced user would keep typing in different words until they got a satisfying result.
What would you like to say to prospective international students?
One, think big and aim high at Korea University. Two, don’t settle too early. Back in college, I didn’t have any career plans until I was enlisted in the military. I think international students nowadays tend to draw early conclusions and thus limit their potential. But experience matters. When I was young, I went through many failures and thought I had wasted my time. But decades later, I now find those experiences useful in many ways.
Kim Dong-one is the 21st president of Korea University. His four-year term began in March 2023. He has taught at the university’s Business School since 1997.
Kim served many key roles on campus, including the dean of the Business School and Graduate School of Business Administration from 2014 to 2016. Internationally, he has served as an international advisory board member of the KEDGE Business School in France since 2015 and an international academic advisory board member of the Work and Equalities Institute at the University of Manchester in Britain since 2016.
Kim earned his bachelor’s in business administration from Korea University and his master’s and doctorate in industrial relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
About the university
Liberty, Justice, Truth
Seoul Campus: Seongbuk District, central Seoul
Sejong Campus: Sejong
1,465,299 square meters (362.08 acres)
Full-time academic staff (2022)
Administrative staff (2023)
Employment rate (2021)
Number of students at Seoul Campus (2022)
Short-term students (language learning, exchange program, etc.): 1,712
By country at Seoul Campus
China 40.7 percent
United States 9.4 percent
Japan 5.3 percent
Other 44.6 percent
Number of students at Sejong Campus (2022)
Short-term students (language learning, exchange program, etc.): 92
By country at Sejong Campus
China 88.1 percent
United States 3.3 percent
Japan 0.6 percent
Other 8 percent
Department with the most international students (2022)
Dormitory acceptance rate (2022)
Seoul Campus: 15.6 percent
Sejong Campus: 28.9 percent
Average tuition of self-funded undergraduate students per semester (2022)
4.47 million won ($3,340)
Instagram for international students
Instagram for foreign exchange students
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]