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2021 New Year’s Address 2021.01.04

January 4, 2021

Beloved Yonsei Family,

The new year of 2021 has dawned upon us. The unprecedented turmoil of 2020 is behind us, but the threat of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues. Nevertheless, I hope all members of the Yonsei family will be happy and healthy in the new year.

On New Year's morning, I envisioned how history would define the year 2020. Future historians may record 2020 as the year COVID-19 took over the lives of humankind. But 2020 has also taught us a very painful but valuable lesson about how an ecological crisis can affect the planet and humanity as a whole.

Amid the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, every group, society, national value, system, leader, set of problem-solving skills, and, of course, individual's patience was brought to the test. Since I took office in February, Yonsei University has been successfully overcoming the crisis thanks to the collective wisdom and dedication of its members. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to the entire family of Yonsei University.

Over the past year, Yonsei University had to completely change an everyday routine that had previously been taken for granted. But, we can consider this situation a jump-start on what we had already been purposefully planning. In my inaugural address, I defined the year 2020 as a time of great civilizational transformation and called for us to create a new future for a new Yonsei together.

Yonsei University is driving efforts to turn this humanity-threatening crisis into an opportunity through university innovation. On the 135th anniversary of its foundation last May, Yonsei University proclaimed its VISION-YONSEI 150 to shape a new 150-year history by 2035. Advancing with our university motto, “Truth and Freedom,” in mind, we are taking steps based on three core values, excellence, innovation, and engagement, to foster “innovative leaders with community spirit” who will contribute to humanity.

Respected Yonsei Community,

For the past year or so, I have devoted the utmost effort to achieving the commitments I made before taking office as president while responding to the pandemic to ensure all members of Yonsei University come through the situation safely. As a result of our collective endeavor, Yonsei University has consistently performed well in external evaluations and has secured its stature as a world-class university in terms of social contribution and research achievements.

Yonsei University is ranked 85th in the world in the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, which are recognized as the world’s most-referenced rankings by global education consumers and stakeholders, including students, educational institutions, and governments. The university leaped 19 places compared to last year, reaching the top 7.2 percent of universities worldwide. It also ranked first in South Korea and 47th globally in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, the only global ranking that recognizes universities’ social responsibility and future roles and assesses how much they strive to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Also, Yonsei University scored a nearly perfect score of 98.9 in the industry income category of the THE Asia University Rankings 2020. An evaluation of activities that link innovative research results to the industry, the ranking and the score reflect the direct impact of Yonsei University’s research achievements on the betterment of humankind.

Yonsei University has also made remarkable achievements in the Brain Korean 21 (BK21) Phase Four project. Twenty-six research groups and three research teams were selected to receive 240 billion won in government support over the next seven years. The first-year project funds that the university received last year totaled about 63 billion won, the second-largest amount after Seoul National University. Mirae Campus’s four groups and six teams were also selected for the project, the second-largest in the Gangwon region after Kangwon National University. With the BK21 project, Yonsei University will provide scholarships to graduate students and research expenses to young researchers in new industries so next-generation scholars can concentrate on their studies and research. Our project achievements are the fruits of the collective effort of the entire university. Once again, I would like to sincerely thank all members of the Yonsei community for their hard work.

Dear Yonsei Family,

Over the past year, Yonsei University has laid an innovative foundation for future university education. We began to implement a next-generation information system optimized for university members through educational and administrative process innovation to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the COVID-19 pandemic. Called the S-Campus 2.0, this smart integrated information system is Yonsei University’s unique, open, shared, and innovative platform that integrates education, research, administration, undergraduate systems, and database structure. Using state-of-the-art technologies, S-Campus 2.0 will transform our education and administrative systems. Yonsei University is also building a smart campus environment in various forms, such as through signing an agreement with Kakao Corporation to provide services applying the latest IT technology to enhance student and faculty experiences.

In addition, Yonsei University is driving efforts to launch Y-EdNet, an online teaching and learning platform that will lead the educational transformation in the new media and digital era. The university also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Naver Business Platform to jointly build the online education platform. The Y-EdNet platform will open this January, beginning with a new non-degree program. Yonsei University will be the first Korean university to launch the Yonsei-Naver Cloud Data Science Program, an online data analysis course for non-professionals, in partnership with Naver Cloud. The university plans to provide degree programs on the Y-EdNet platform in February and launch other non-degree programs online, such as Korean language courses. By doing so, Yonsei University will use this virtual space to interact with education consumers worldwide and play a pioneering role in the global education market as the leading private university in Korea.

Respected Yonsei Community,

To lead the bio-centered industry, a key sector in the post-COVID era, Yonsei University is collaborating with governments, domestic and global bio companies, and research institutes to build a world-class, collaborative bio-ecosystem between industry and academy. To create a research environment for the development and production of biopharmaceuticals, Yonsei completed the Yonsei-SL Bigen Institute at the International Campus. Also, the university was selected to establish the Korean version of the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training in partnership with Incheon City. The university will receive about 60 billion won of government support funds over six years to build the largest training center in the Asia-Pacific region by 2023 to produce more than 2,000 bioprocessing experts annually.

These achievements in winning government-led research projects that have rapidly shifting priorities in preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution reflect Yonsei University’s research capabilities. Being selected to launch an artificial intelligence (AI) graduate school, the university will receive nine billion won for five years to foster AI talent with advanced, converged, and entrepreneurial skills. Thus, Yonsei University will realize its vision to establish an infrastructure to provide universal AI education and expand AI education and research to various majors. Yonsei University was also chosen for the Korea Initiative for Fostering University of Research & Innovation project, which will nurture doctoral research talent for developing materials, parts, and equipment technologies for future automobiles with government support funds totaling 6.4 billion won. The Yonsei Makerspace located at the International Campus is expected to become a leading lab for ICT industry makers with its specialization in the software fields of IoT and VR. In addition, Yonsei University displayed its academic prowess by continuously securing major research projects in 2020, including the society-centered Leaders Industry–University Cooperation program, next-generation AI core technology development project, and smart construction technology development project.

Beloved Yonsei Family,

I believe that all of our hard endeavor goes beyond research and education in the ivory tower to valuable academic achievements made by all Yonseians who have endeavored to serve our society and the world with love and devotion. I am confident these projects, which have been steadily laying groundwork throughout 2020, will bring more tangible results and visible changes in 2021.

Last year, there were many difficulties both inside and outside Yonsei University, and some of you may have unintentionally been disheartened in the process. This year, I will do my best to directly support every one of you so the Yonsei family can communicate more and work together to bear fruit. As the poet Yun Dong-ju said, we must walk together to “Cross the creek to the woods / Climb over the hill to a village / A road I travel, yesterday and today / … a new road.”

Although we have yet to resolve the COVID-19 pandemic, there seems to be a visible light at the end of the tunnel. The word “disaster” is derived from “dis-,” expressing negation, and “astro,” meaning star. Disaster means a starless state.

In this starless era, I sincerely hope you will bear Yonsei’s spirit in your heart and fulfill your mission of being the light that provides direction, no matter where you are or who you accompany. In 2021, we face a vast, endless sea and a rough storm that threatens to devour us entirely. However, Yonsei University will advance forward. This year, we will continue our brave voyage toward truth and freedom with the calling of the heavens to lead humankind into the light. And the heroes of this mission are all of us Yonseians.

May God’s bountiful grace be with you and your families in 2021. Happy New Year!