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Inaugural Address 2020.02.03

Inaugural Address

February 3, 2020

Professor Seoung Hwan Suh

The 19th President of Yonsei University

Greetings to the Honorable Chairman Hur Dong-Soo and Members of the Board of Directors, former Yonsei University Presidents, President Park Sam-Koo of the Yonsei Alumni Association, and distinguished guests! Today I solemnly stand before you to assume my duties and take the presidential oath of office as the nineteenth President of Yonsei University.

I feel with my entire soul the history and awesome responsibility of Yonsei University, which has persevered through the waves of modern Korean history for the past 135 years. I commemorate the sweat and tears of our historical scholars who delivered light to the world through the love of God and dedicated their lives for the independence and development of the nation. I envision the young souls coming from all corners of the globe, even at this very moment, to Yonsei to gain the wisdom and knowledge of life. I recall our faculty members dedicated to advancing research and education and the 340,000 alumni who pray for the development of their alma mater.

My fellow Yonseians!

To fulfill the responsibilities of universities, we must examine the waves of our ever-changing environment. The year 2020, which we have just entered, is a time of great civilizational transformation. For many years, 2020 has symbolized the starting point for the future society. We now face a new civilization where the explosive development of science and technology completely surpasses human biology. We have reached the tipping point where the deterioration of human life is reaching irreversible conditions due to climate change and environmental degradation. From a sociopolitical viewpoint, people around the world are suffering from severe loneliness due to social identity conflicts and inequality issues. An analysis of the findings of global research survey institutions throughout the last 50 years indicates that the level of happiness has even further declined since the end of the Cold War and its ideological warfare. This result attributes to the weakened sense of solidarity and coexistence among people living in today’s international community.

The higher education environment in Korea that Yonsei University currently encounters is also complicated. Universities must compete against autonomous higher education institutions around the world while facing the intense pressure of governmental regulations and the education industry. In particular, private universities must bear the task of preserving their school identity while conducting significant research and education amidst financial constraints.

Yonsei community members!

Since its founding, Yonsei University has never once encountered complacent and comfortable conditions. How could it have been possible during its history, when its predecessor Jejungwon pioneered modern medicine in Korea by producing the nation’s first seven doctors, Yonhee College students risked their lives to restore national independence and protect the spirit of the Korean people, and the University was continuously challenged throughout the country’s industrialisation, democratisation, and informatisation eras?

I will strive to overcome the challenges we currently face and lead the advancement of Yonsei University. First, I will prioritize efforts in providing education to nurture “innovative leaders with a communal self.” We cannot pioneer the 4th industrial revolution which values “sharing.” This is a very different feature of the future society, whilst the former industrial society was based on individuals’ self interest paradigm. I will strategically revamp the residential college (RC) program in the International Campus in Songdo, so students will be able to develop their communal spirit. I will also utilize the high-tech environment surrounding the campus in an effort to trigger the education of innovative leaders. You cannot practice leadership skills solely in the classroom – it is something you can learn, but cannot teach. I will create a campus environment where students can enthusiastically aspire, experience, and learn on their own.

In the context of education, we must focus on in-depth learning methods and the digital revolution. The traditional text-based approach to education is rapidly transforming into a multi-dimensional approach that utilizes images, virtual spaces, and AI. The changes in methods and tools of education is changing the contents of learning. We will also inevitably face the popularization of knowledge and the changing role of universities. Therefore, Yonsei University will soon launch and implement Y-EdNet, a virtual educational platform, to initiate interaction with higher education consumers around the world. This approach will place universities at the forefront of the global education market, and Yonsei University will further fulfill its leading role for the higher education in Korea.

I also plan to expand international student recruitment. The percentage of international students is relatively low compared to our capacity and priorities. By actively identifying and recruiting global talents from each country, I will respond to the era of globalization and contribute to strengthening the University’s competitiveness.

Research is another major factor that positions a university's academic excellence. I will address the University’s need for a more research-focused environment by reforming our research policies including administrative support, research space, and joint research opportunities. This will help us to achieve our research performance. Yonsei University’s central administration will provide insightful guidance and timely support for our researchers so that research labs can better pursue technological innovation, conduct world-leading researches, and develop key technologies. All these will contribute to the advancement of our footsteps.

In this light, I plan to strategically strengthen research areas that can lead the future society, such as artificial intelligence, software, and big data. Recruitment of world-renowned leading scholars is needed for that. I will support active joint research and collaboration by sharing research information among researchers and expand research support funds up to 100 billion won. I suppose that a large-scale industrial-academic cooperation will be necessaty for this.

I will also support the cutting-edge development of Yonsei University Health System (YUHS), a valued asset of the University to enhance its capacity as a global hub with strategic medical technologies. Combined with advances in IT, biomedical, and nano-related researches at the Sinchon, International and Mirae Campuses, Yonsei University will thus gain a new competitive edge. We have already started to review the development of the biomedical convergence research complex at the International Campus through cooperation of YUHS, Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority, and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Yonsei community members!

After the inauguration ceremony today, my first administrative work will be to establish a special committee for University development. The committee will assume the authority to review, evaluate, and reform Yonsei University’s vision and competitiveness and to call for action. Thus in four years, all of us will be able to enjoy the fruits of our passion and hard works.

As President, I will do my best to respect and protect all students, faculty members, and staff. I will devote all of Yonsei’s means to ensure our students’ safety, education, and growth. I will also take immediate action to improve compensation plans for our faculty and staff, which has been stagnant for over ten years, as effectively as possible under the University’s current financial constraints. At the same time, I would like to seek the support of all students, professors and staff. It is my sincere hope that the entire Yonsei community will willingly take part in the hard work, sacrifice and dedication required to advance together as a University.

A university is a place that produces public goods. We must always bear in mind that Yonsei University should be a place of impactful action and achievements that contribute to the development of our society and humankind.

My fellow Yonseians!

We all remember Horace Grant Underwood and Horace Newton Allen. Both were only 26 years old when they ended their long voyage at sea and first landed on Jemulpo Port – Allen in September 1884 and Underwood in April 1885. Yonsei University is thus bound to forever sustain the youthful spirit of its founders. We are destined to inherit their vision, to become devoted pioneers on this campus that embraces the legacy of their young hearts and souls. Therefore, we cannot ask what Yonsei can do for us. Instead, we must ask what we can do for Yonsei to fulfill the noble calling of its founders.

Today, I commence my vast 1,460-day voyage. Let us all come aboard to row and witness the glory of reaching milestones together. May the grace of God be with us throughout our journey, in the name of Jesus Christ. Thank you.