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2023 Matriculation Address 2023.03.03

Our honored freshmen class:

It is a pleasure to meet you. A new springtime is abroad in the air, and, like the awakening new season, you arrive anew at our campus. On behalf of our school, I sincerely welcome you, who I know represent the harbingers of a wonderful forthcoming season at Yonsei. You must be excited about your upcoming college life. Indeed, just like you, we are all thrilled to see the campus in bloom once again, finally released from the long winter of COVID-19.

Congratulations to all of you who stand here today in your honorable places due to your hard work, perseverance, and talent. Please take pride in what you have accomplished. Also, we should never forget those who have supported you through your studies. Thus, let us thank your parents and families for their endless sacrifices as well as everyone else who has taught and nurtured you, day and night. I would like to express my respect and gratitude for your devotion.

Today’s matriculation is a highly significant and meaningful event, looking back upon the past epoch of our university and then looking forward to the future. Yonsei, with its roots in Yonhi College and Severance Medical School, established over 100 years ago by Missionary Underwood and Dr. Allen, has long stood as a lighthouse to guide Korea through the dark tides of its history. Bolstered by the efforts of our predecessors, Yonsei continually shouldered the burden of all the historical highs and lows of Korean society. In this light, it stands tall as the best university not only in Korea but also across the entire continent of Asia. Freshmen students, I have faith that the brilliancy of the new history you write from this moment forward, succeeding your seniors, will be second to none.

When you participate diligently and truthfully in college life and academic programs as Yonsei students, you will begin to master the art of being considerate and respectful to other members of the community. Also, by thoroughly reviewing the methods that have been used to this point, you will learn to solve various problems with creativity and critical thinking. For this, you will be educated at the Residential College, which is our pride and joy, throughout the upcoming year. Rather than studying on your own, you will constantly cooperate with colleagues around the globe through offline and online routes. Moreover, by encountering and discussing diverse opinions, you will learn how to navigate the vast web of knowledge within social networks. Ultimately, you will be able to adopt the important values of the future society, which include intellectual generosity, empathy, and consideration for others, allowing you to acknowledge the possibility of alternative answers.

The educational model of Yonsei is intimately related to the global transitioning period of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Represented by big data, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence [AI], it is expected to mark a pivotal turning point. Among these, the emergence of new technologies, such as the recent generative AI model of ChatGPT, have startled the entire world. In response to these developments in technology, university communities are required to reset the entire educational paradigm. Instead of casting artificial intelligence away, on the grounds that it attempts to exceed human capacity and speed, we must steer toward it. In other words, this world calls for the need to adopt “AI literacy,” which will help us to use such tools effectively and thereby enhance creativity beyond human imagination.

Along with the ability to employ new technology freely at will, a humanistic insight is imperative. We must reflect upon how humans are different from or similar to AI and upon what kind of existence we lead. This is because all technologies are developed not to limit humans but to improve them. Hence, the competence for the future that enables humans to exist as human beings lies in the very qualities of a community spirit, which include sympathy, consideration, cooperation, and mutual understanding.

Our beloved Yonsei freshmen class!

You are the generation that will tread the future that is yet unimagined. I implore you to take part in creating Yonsei’s new history, leaping forward with the spring of prospective preparation. Currently, our school is girding for the new future. In order to build the aforementioned universe of knowledge, Yonsei has established an online university education platform, LearnUs, and continues to expand our worldwide lecture system. Furthermore, the school has set new records since its establishment in various world university rankings last June. We achieved the feat of ranking first among all private universities in Asia. In addition, Yonsei ranked 27th in the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which use social responsibility as the primary indicator. Research capacity has increased dynamically as well. Thanks to the hard work of our world-class faculty and researchers, the sum of our research revenue exceeded 500 billion won. Also, we signed a contract with IBM last year to import a quantum computer in the first half of 2024, making South Korea the fifth nation to possess a quantum computer after the US, Germany, Japan and Canada. Moreover, our Severance Hospital has been nominated for the honor of best institution by the International Hospital Federation, which represents around 20,000 hospitals globally. At the same time, Yonsei’s Particle Therapy Center for Cancer, which was constructed last year and will be in operation starting this March, will go down in history as a momentous step in humanitarian contributions toward the conquest of cancer. In this regard, our strides in creating a new history are steady and incessant.

Our beloved Yonsei freshmen class!

You are now proud members of our Yonsei community. Poet Yoon Dong-Ju, who was still a student then, shielded the Korean nation’s literature and manuscripts from the bullets of the Japanese Empire, singing his poem Heaven and Wind and Stars in this Garden of Yonsei. Here, the first national article written in pure Korean was also published by the student newspaper, Yonsei Chunchu. Likewise, there are countless seeds of possibilities that you can grow into a new history as students of Yonsei. I would like to recite an excerpt from Yoon Dong-Ju’s poem Spring:

Spring flows like a stream in the veins

Stones, stones, on the hillock near the stream

Golden bells, rosebays, yellow canola flowers

After enduring three months of winter,

I blossom like a clump of grass.

I see beautiful flowers blossoming as the spring flows in like a soft stream after the cold winter. You, who enter the Garden of Yonsei today, are our spring. May your beautiful buds burgeon on our Yonsei campus.

I pray that the Lord’s love and grace will always be with you.

February 28th, 2023

President Seoung Hwan Suh