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World Bank President Jim Yong Kim Visited SNU

  • November 1, 2012
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Jim Yong Kim, President of World Bank Group (right) and OH Yoen-cheon, President of SNU. With all seats and stairs filled, SNU Centennial Hall was swarmed with over 300 students. Suddenly, camera flashes and clicking went rampant. Jim Yong KIM, president of the World Bank Group, had arrived.

On October 16, “A Dialogue with the World Bank Group President” was held at Seoul National University. Open to the public, this event included a dialogue session between Professor LHO Kyong-soo (SNU Graduate School of Public Administration) and President Kim, as well as a question and answer session.

President Kim, who was born in Korea but grew up in Iowa, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University. He also earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School as well as a PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University. He went on to become a professor of Harvard Medical School. During his tenure as a professor he also became director of the WHO’s HIV/AIDS Department. Later, he was named the 17th President of Dartmouth College, becoming the first Asian-American president of an Ivy League institution. Beginning in July of this year, Kim took office as the 12th President of the World Bank Group.

President Kim has ties with SNU in more than one way. Not only did his father study at SNU in the School of Dentistry, but Kim also participated in the Preparation Committee for SNU Incorporation last year.

“I feel very much at home here,” he began. His welcoming tone instantly set the students at ease. “From 1984 to 1988 I frequently visited SNU. I did research with Professor HAN Sang Bok for my anthropology doctoral dissertation. Oh, and I often ate 500 KRW jjajangmyeon at the university cafeteria!” he revealed.

Furthermore, he spoke of the rapid growth of Korea and mentioned the great expansion of SNU as an institution. As he spoke of the responsibilities of the youth, he stated, “If there is one room, one place in this entire country that is important in the future of not only this country but this peninsula, and I think the entire region, it might just be this room… there’s a lot riding on your shoulders, but on the other hand there’s so much opportunity” as well.

SNU students asking questions to President Kim

President Kim gave sound advice for SNU students to strive for success in the competitive work field. “Technology is going to be a big part of the future. Even if you’re not an engineer, you’ve got to understand something about technology. If you are going into the humanities, really focus on writing. Every single job I’ve ever been in, every single place I’ve ever been, there has also been a lack of people who write clearly and effectively.” Make sure you’re not just an appreciator of books; make sure that you become an excellent writer. There’s always a need for great writers.”

During the Q&A session a student asked how to become an influential person in the world (Time Magazine listed Kim as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world in 2006). Jokingly, President Kim answered, “I’m actually not an influential person in my household” which filled the room with laughter. With all jokes aside, President Kim truthfully answered, “You have to have the humility to know that you can always get better. The most important thing to being a great leader is humility…My mother used to tell me, you should see your life like a wheat plant. A wheat plant when it is young grows straight up, but when it matures, it bows its head.”

When Professor Lho asked about SNU becoming legally incorporated, President Kim answered, “It’s impossible to run a world-class university when everything you do has to be approved by government administration. The university, professors and students…you have to be outward looking.” He stressed the need to be outward looking for the students as well. “The strategy of being outward looking has to be built in the DNA of the system. You have to really understand what’s happening to the rest of the world. Globalization is only going to accelerate. The different economies are going to be more integrated; it’s an inevitability. I urge you all to be as aggressively outward looking as possible.”

Written by OH Jung Eun, SNU English Editor,
Reviewed by Eli Park Sorensen, SNU Professor of Liberal Studies,
Proofread by Brett Johnson, SNU English Editor,

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