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Child prodigy admitted to SNU as youngest ever

‘I don’t just want to be a person who knows nothing but study.’

Nov 29,2008
Lee Su-hong, 15, the youngest-ever freshman admitted to Seoul National University.[YONHAP]

A 15-year-old high school boy made the headlines on Thursday when Seoul National University announced he had been accepted into the prestigious university - the youngest ever to be admitted in the school’s long history.

Lee Su-hong, who applied to the math department of Seoul National University through the university’s special admission for gifted students, received early notice of his success in the entrance examination, breaking the previous record set by Han Hye-min, who entered the university in December 2000. Han was 8 months older than Lee.

But what drew people’s attention was the relatively normal schooling Lee had received, consisting of elementary, middle and high schools that were not elite institutions such as foreign-language or international schools.

Amid a climate where prestigious foreign universities such as America’s Ivy League schools are idolized, they wondered why someone as gifted as Lee chose to attend a local university instead.

“I don’t just want to be a person who knows nothing but study,” Lee said when questioned on his choice of schools.

“It is a great pleasure to meet people and make friends with them,” giving a hint of his values which extend beyond the classroom.

Lee’s talents were recognized at an early age. As a 10-year-old he entered the special education center for gifted students at Seoul National University of Education - then also the youngest student the school had ever accepted. He continued to show his giftedness by participating in the International Mathematical Olympiad last year, winning a silver medal before going one better this year and picking up the gold.

But behind this mathematical genius lies also a musical talent - he once dreamed of being “the next Chopin.” After he began piano lessons at age 6, Lee was soon able to play Beyer and Czerny. Today, Lee still loves classical composers such as Jean Sibelius. But his musical taste also extends to include U.S. rockers Linkin Park.

Lee’s biggest inspiration nowadays is Terence Tao, a 33-year-old Chinese-Australian mathematician. Tao took a gold at the International Mathematical Olympiad aged 13 and received the Fields Medal at age 31. “I am overwhelmed by his amazing passion,” Lee said.

Aside from mathematics, Lee plans to explore various other fields of study while at SNU.


By Kang In-sik JoongAng Ilbo [spark0320@joongang.co.kr]






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