- Yonsei University's 135th Commemorative Address 2020.05.09
May 9, 2020
President Seoung Hwan Suh
Dear Yonsei community,
This year, Yonsei University celebrates the 135th anniversary of its establishment. On behalf of the university, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the honorable Chairman Hur Dong-soo and members of the Board of Trustees, former Yonsei Presidents, and our alumni, faculty, staff, and students for joining us in heartily celebrating this joyous occasion.
“Spring flows into blood vessels like a stream … / As I have weathered three cold months, I begin to flourish like grass.” We are currently spending our days yearning for the spring serenaded by poet Yun Dong-joo. With the unfolding coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic this spring, we have been facing challenging times. Each new day brings new questions and we have had to think about our own futures, the future of higher education, and the future of Yonsei. Yonsei has strived to take immediate measures to combat the spread of the virus and has continued to adjust to the realities of remote learning and working. This storm, too, shall pass, and humankind will survive. However, our response to the crisis will determine the future of the next generation.
During this period of a global crisis and great civilizational transformation, I often reflect on my calling to become President of Yonsei University and our key institutional principles and values. Yonsei University’s motto, “The truth will make you free,” was not only meant for the hearers of the Gospel in biblical times. These values have proven crucial in facing these challenging times and guiding our response to this critical moment in history. Therefore, I hereby proclaim “Yonsei: Toward Truth and Freedom” as the new Yonsei vision for a new future.
The vision, which has led Yonsei University for the past 135 years, calls for us to educate future leaders who can change the world with the divine truth that frees humanity from its problems. We have once again confirmed through the pandemic that the world is one community that faces the same destiny. In response, Yonsei University will devote the utmost effort to pursuing our mission to cultivate Yonsei students who are “innovative leaders with a community spirit.” We will continue to vigorously persevere in our mission of nurturing future leaders, and our immediate goal is to initiate systematic and concrete plans that we can reach by the year 2035, the 150th anniversary of Yonsei’s founding.
This new vision, “Yonsei: Toward Truth and Freedom,” will be based on three core values: Excellence, Innovation, and Engagement. Yonsei University’s first aim is to provide excellent academic offerings to trailblaze research and pioneer the world’s way forward. Yonsei will constantly renew itself as a place of global learning, creating knowledge that can solve challenges facing the planet and humankind. We must cultivate talent that can do more than simply become the best of the best; they should be able to engage in setting the future direction of the international community as changemakers. Yonsei will provide a rigorous curriculum and research infrastructure that addresses the issues facing our society and the world. We plan to apply a truly interdisciplinary education model to our undergraduate and graduate programs, one that combines extensive knowledge across the humanities and sciences with the digital capabilities required in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I had already presented my vision to implement the virtual educational platform Y-EdNet prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Yonsei inevitably decided to conduct virtual courses this semester as a precautionary measure, but from another perspective, I expect that this situation could initiate a paradigm shift that could advance the future of university education by 10 years. Through educational innovation such as Y-EdNet, Yonsei students, as well as any other prospective learners, will be able to access Yonsei’s resources and knowledge.
The second aim of Yonsei University is to shift the university paradigm to creativity and “Innovation” that has a global impact. In this era of blurred boundaries and hyperconnectivity, anyone can change the world with a creative idea. Yonsei University will soon operate an open innovative platform where education and research can directly connect innovative ideas with the world beyond our campus. We plan to strengthen convergence research that can impact the world and promote technological innovation that can be ventured into a business model through boosting cooperation between academia and industry. Yonsei will initiate the Global Impact 3/4/5 project, which will support research for five (5) years in three (3) fields in the humanities and social sciences and four (4) fields in science and engineering. With this project, we will build a world-class convergence research group that will become Yonsei’s flagship core research hub. By establishing an innovative ecosystem of education and research, I will make every effort to ensure Yonsei has a widespread positive impact with forward-looking, creative ideas that can make real change in society and the world.
Yonsei’s third core value, “Engagement,” correlates with the spirit of Christianity, the founding philosophy of Yonsei University. In the summer of 1886, a year after Yonsei founder Horace Grant Underwood arrived on Joseon soil, thousands of residents of the city of Busan were killed by a cholera outbreak. The epidemic soon spread to Seoul, taking the lives of over 6,000 people in just 10 days. Underwood even witnessed uncovered corpses tossed to the ground outside Seosomun Gate. However, he did not leave the country, despite the threat to his own safety. Upon Underwood’s return to the US, his home country, several years later in 1891 on his first sabbatical, he presented Joseon’s tragic situation to the Protestant Missionary Union. He stated that the theology students were left fully responsible for the Joseon people, who knew nothing of the Gospel and were in complete darkness due to the plague, imploring them to join the Korean mission. Remembering the noble will of our founders, we Yonseians must play a pioneering role in leading Korean society and humanity while pursuing social inclusion and sustainable coexistence based on the Christian spirit.
Esteemed Yonsei community,
Over the past 135 years, Yonsei University has steadily developed into a world-class university. As a result of continuous social contribution, Yonsei ranked first in the world in the University Impact Rankings announced by Times Higher Education—a compiler of world university rankings—in 2019, and it also placed high globally in 2020 as a socially engaged university. I will strengthen efforts to realize the social responsibility of Yonsei University. In the steadfast spirit of our founders, I will do my utmost to form a social contribution network encompassing all members of the Yonsei community, including our 350,000 alumni all over the world, to fulfill our divine mission as a socially responsible university.
I am well aware that Yonsei University currently faces financial difficulties and various challenges. I will do my best to lead the advancement of a new Yonsei to overcome these challenges and uphold the honor of the Yonsei community. Yonsei has been recently selected for the state-funded graduate program for artificial intelligence projects. We will spare no effort to attract large-scale government projects. In particular, I greatly appreciate the collective efforts of our many faculty members working devotedly to be selected for the Brain Korea 21 FOUR (Fostering Outstanding Universities for Research) project of the Korean Ministry of Education. By actively responding to domestic and global university evaluations, we will be well prepared to ensure that Yonsei’s capabilities are justly recognized. We will also devise a scheme to restructure Yonsei’s administration to better support our community, including students, faculty, and alumni.
Yonsei University’s vision, goals, and policies can never be achieved with only the efforts of its President and senior administration. YONSEI VISION 150 is a collective initiative that calls on us all to shape a new 150-year history of Yonsei University. We will continue taking on greater challenges in the pursuit of truth and freedom, which I am sure will further advance Yonsei’s illustrious history.
Beloved members of the Yonsei family,
The proud spirit of “Yonsei: Toward Truth and Freedom” has persevered throughout the waves of modern Korean history for the last 135 years and will continue making strides. We Yonseians are all the head captains standing together at the starting point of this voyage. Only when we eagerly row together as a community can we witness the glory of reaching milestones. The Yonsei community that unites together will continue to carry the legacy toward a glorious future.
On such a joyous day of celebrating the 135th anniversary, I am heavy-hearted that we cannot gather together on campus. However, I share great joy with all of you, for my soul feels the invisible bonds of affection and trust among all those who deeply love Yonsei. May God’s grace be with us throughout our courageous voyage so that our aspiration, passion, and hard work may bear fruit. Thank you.