[FOUNTAIN]Degrees of Political PowerKim Hong-il, eldest son of President Kim Dae-jung and a Millennium Democratic Party congressman, recently received an honorary doctoral degree from Mokpo University. The university recognized Mr. Kim's contribution to politics and the local community, and his scholarly achievement in writing more than 20 books and theses. This is his fourth honorary doctoral degree but he still has a long way to go before he catches up with his parents. President Kim has 10 honorary doctorates and a real doctorate in political science from a Russian foreign relations academy for a paper on the birth of Korean democracy and its development. The first lady, Lee Hee-ho, has seven honorary doctoral degrees on subjects including education, philosophy and literature.
However, the number of honorary degrees received by the Kim family pales by comparison with the tally of the Buddhist priest Seo Kyong-bo. Reverend Seo collected 102 honorary doctoral degrees until his death at 81 in 1996. That record has yet to be broken. Buddhism says greed must be cast off, but Mr. Seo could not help his desire for degrees. The Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, 83, honorary president of the University of Notre Dame, received 141 honorary doctoral degrees, winning him a spot in the Guinness Book of Records.
Honorary doctoral degrees are usually given when the university decides that the recipient has made a notable contribution to academic development and the betterment of civilization. Since Seoul National University was founded in 1947, 98 people have received such degrees. The first recipient was General Douglas MacArthur in 1948, commander of the Far East, and the second was Lieutenant General John R. Hodge, commanding general of the U.S. armed forces in Korea. The notorious Congolese dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, also received an honorary doctoral degree from Seoul National University.
Starting from Syngman Rhee, the first president of Korea, to President Kim Dae-jung, Korean presidents have been awarded a total of 27 doctoral degrees, most of which were honorary. President Park Chung-hee alone got none. President Kim Young-sam was awarded seven such degrees from four countries during his tenure.
Kim Jong-pil, honorary president of the United Liberal Democrats, is also in the league with 11 honorary degrees, outpacing both Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam. As prime minister of the coalition between the MDP and the United Liberal Democrats, Mr. Kim grabbed four such degrees within two months in the fall of 1998.
President George W. Bush will receive an honorary doctoral degree from Yale University, his alma mater, this month. It seems political power and degrees go together like a needle and thread.
by Bae Myung-bok