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Yonsei University’s 134th Commemorative Address 2019.05.11

May 11, 2019

I would like to extend a warm welcome and my sincere gratitude to the honorable Chairman Hur Dong-soo and Directors Park Chang il, Suh Joong Suk, Kim Yong Soon, Peter Underwood, and Yang Il Sun of the Board of Directors, former Yonsei Presidents, President Park Sam-Koo and senior representatives of the Yonsei Alumni Association, Yonsei alumni who have returned to our campus to commemorate their 25th, 50th, and 60th year graduation reunions, and all distinguished guests who have joined us here today.

This year, which marks the 134th anniversary of Yonsei University, also commemorates the centennial of the March 1st Independence Movement and the establishment of the Korean Provisional Government. The movement proclaimed to the nations of the world the independence of Korea through nonviolent demonstrations, with professors, students, and graduates of Chosen Christian College and Severance Union Medical College - the two predecessors of Yonsei University - at the heart of it all. They believed that it is the duty of mankind to advocate justice, humanity and peace, and that it is the obligation of the Korean people to preserve the right of national independence. As we celebrate the anniversary of Yonsei University during this momentous year, we are reminded of the virtuous spirit of the Yonseians who devoted themselves to the independence movement, and we take this opportunity to honor our notable history once more.

Yoon Dongju Memorial Grove was debuted last year to uphold the shining spirit of Yonsei, showcasing Yoon Dongju’s poems A New Path and One Night, Counting the Stars. The woodland area also features works of prominent Yonsei literary scholars such as Chosun Christian University Song lyrics written by historian Jeong Inbo. In addition, Pinson Hall - formerly a dormitory where Yoon Dongju had resided on campus - is being restored as Yoon Dongju Memorial Hall to display his manuscripts and artifacts donated by his family. The building will serve as a place to reflect on the spirit of Christian values, the essence of the youth, and the spiritual significance of a young truth-seeker who expressed the pain of troubled times. Here, visitors can reminisce about what Yonsei meant to Yoon Dongju and what he meant to Yonsei. 

Another memorable Yonseian is “Seosan” Chung Suk Hai, an independence activist, pro-democracy activist, and philosopher. After entering Chosen Christian College in 1917, he led the March 1st Independence Movement student protests and continued to participate in independence activities while studying in Paris. After Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule, Chung Suk Hai taught philosophy, mathematics, and physics at Chosen Christian College and established the foundation of Yonsei’s education and administration during his terms as Vice President for Student Affairs, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. During the April 19 Revolution in 1960, he pioneered democracy of the nation by leading professors’ demonstrations.

Throughout his life, Chung Suk Hai said that "Knowledge is to become righteous and to stand on the side of justice." He was a true teacher with the courage to always put righteous knowledge into action and a true Yonseian who embodied the spirit of truth and freedom. Thus, he is honored as the fourth Historical Figure of Yonsei Spirit. It has been 23 years since his passing, but I believe he still watches over us from the heavens.

Respected Yonsei community,

Three years and three months have already passed since I first took office as President of Yonsei University. As I look back upon the days of perseverance, I feel that time flies by so quickly. I am reminded of the precious time I am given every day and how important my responsibilities are. To this day, I renew my initial resolutions as President every morning and give my best efforts in keeping the promises I made to our fellow Yonseians.

Three years ago, I introduced the values of the 3Cs - Christianity, Creativity, and Connectivity - to advance Yonsei University’s fundamental mission of education, research, and social contribution.

First, Yonsei University established the Institute of Global Engagement & Empowerment (IGEE) to practice the university’s founding spirit of Christianity by spreading the act of social contribution to the world. IGEE successfully hosted the annual Global Engagement & Empowerment Forum on Sustainable Development (GEEF) for the past two years. Under the leadership of Honorary President Ban Ki-moon, more than 2,000 participants from 80 countries attended the events, including the former and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, Prime Minister and former President of Austria, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mayor of Seoul, Secretary-General of the United Nations Population Fund, Jack Ma, and Jeffrey Sachs. By addressing and acting on global issues such as health, women, and future cities, the forum will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of humankind.

As a result of these various social contribution activities, Yonsei University has been named the most socially responsible private Korean university for two consecutive years since 2017 by the monthly newspaper Le Monde diplomatique and the Korea Corporate Social Responsibility Institute. It is a great pleasure to recognize that we continue to realize Yonsei’s founding spirit and I would like to express my deep gratitude and respect to all of you who have supported Yonsei University.

As part of efforts to undergo a paradigm shift in education, Yonsei University established the Institute for Higher Education Innovation last year and opened courses to nurture social innovators with problem-solving skills. Yonsei provided 24 new courses in the spring semester last year, and currently, more than 2,300 students are taking one of the 67 courses offered during the spring semester this year. Even now at this moment, students are getting hands-on experience in solving issues that impact society. Yonsei also continues to cultivate creative talent that will lead the digital age, having recently been awarded Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year of 2019 Times Higher Education (THE) Awards Asia in recognition of its innovative education.

The Second Stage development plan of Yonsei International Campus in Songdo began last year as the new hope and new investment for the future of Yonsei University. Building upon on the success of the First Stage plan - the Residential College (RC) program of the University College for the freshman class - the International Campus will now take plans to the next level by establishing Yonsei Science Park. We will create a virtuous cycle of commercializing and industrializing research results in cutting-edge areas such as bio-related fields, future cities, and ICT, and then returning subsequent profits to support education and research programs.

Another social responsibility of Yonsei University is to educate the next generation of prominent scholars and contribute to academic development. The Korean Ministry of Education’s BK 21 (Brain Korea 21) project develops world-class graduate schools and nurtures outstanding young talent. Next year will be critical, as the next BK21 FOUR (Fostering Outstanding Universities for Research) project will commence, and Yonsei University has been working tirelessly since the second half of 2018 to be selected. Your collective support in ensuring Yonsei’s stature as a global research university would be greatly appreciated.

Beloved Yonseians!

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever." In these words, I envision the future path of education at Yonsei University. I see the alumni of Severance Union Medical College and Chosen Christian College such as poet Yoon Dongju and scholar Chung Suk Hai who fiercely lived as if they would die tomorrow. I see on these grounds the Yonseians of the times of disgrace and tribulation a century ago who learned and taught as if they were to live forever. Thanks to their service, our alumni stand proudly here today, and our young students can lead the way to the future of Yonsei University based on the Yonsei spirit cherished by all. Please support our students to grow as stronger, admirable Yonseians that can transform the world. I will also dedicate my greatest efforts to fulfill this mission.

I extend my respect and gratitude to all Yonseians who are here to celebrate this special day. May the love and grace of God be with you always. Thank you.