[Tae-Joon Park Commemoration] POSTECH, One of Two Passions of Tae-Joon Park
[Tae-Joon Park Commemoration] POSTECH, One of Two Passions of Tae-Joon Park
  • Reporter Jung Han-kyu
  • 승인 2012.01.01 13:14
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People make the country, and education makes the people

▲ Tae-Joon Park(right), the founder of POSTECH, and Hogil Kim(left), the university's first president

POSTECH recently celebrated its 25th anniversary since its foundation. As many people already know, POSTECH has a special tie with POSCO. In fact, POSTECH could not exist today without the support from the recently deceased founding chairman Tae-Joon Park.

A major steel tycoon in South Korean history, Park is also known as the education revolutionist, one of many nicknames he liked to call himself. He always treated education with the utmost importance and is known to have said, “the country is made by outstanding individuals, and outstanding individuals are made by education.”

When he first came to Pohang to build the steel mill, he noticed that the competent workers did not want to come down to rural Pohang because the location lacked many things. One of the problems he tried to address was the education for the workers’ children. He founded POSCO Educational Foundation, which later became the driving force behind the scene for the growth of POSCO and the city of Pohang.He first built the kindergartens and then elementary, middle, and high school followed.

The pinnacle of his effort was the opening of POSTECH in 1986 and then Research Institute of Industrial Science & Technology (RIST) in the following year. In Korea there are over 180 universities, but most of them are focused on education instead of research.  POSCO was already growing into one of the major steel companies in the world, it needed to develop new technologies and skilled human resources to maintain its competitive edge in the future. The foundation of the two institutions fulfilled these needs and contributed to the regional development as well.

By founding POSTECH and RIST, Park established the three-pronged system of academic-industrial cooperation. POSTECH raises competent human resources, RIST develops technology that is actually applicable in the industry, and finally POSCO employs these technologies, providing funding and experience back to POSTECH and RIST. It was the first case in Korea to design such a model in advance and actually implement it.

After establishing the firm groundwork, he sought to hire qualified professors who matched the class. Park persuaded Dr. Hogil Kim, a Korean-American Physicist with extraordinary character to be the first president of POSTECH. He asked Dr. Kim to come to Korea to give back to the home country by raising the future generation. To this invitation, Dr. Kim replied, “now POSTECH is affiliated with POSCO, but later on POSCO will be under POSTECH. Is this okay?” and asked for authority to make decisions such as the number of departments, school administration, quality of professors, and student-to-teaching staff ratio. An extraordinary person himself, the founding chairman accepted the terms without hesitation and did not hold back to provide other supports.

Since then POSTECH has come a long way to become one of Asia’s top research oriented universities, and it is now taking an active part at the international level. The founding chairman Park had special affection for POSTECH that he considered it as his “second work of art” next to POSCO. He can no longer come to commencement and matriculation ceremonies, but his dream and intent will be remembered and inherited to the students. As was his long desired wish, POSTECH is teaching the students today in hope to produce the first Korean Nobel prize laureate.


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