[VIEWPOINT]Support our science Olympians

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[VIEWPOINT]Support our science Olympians

Koreans must all agree that most valuable reward from the World Cup was the self-assurance they gained. If Koreans have the strength and ability to beat Portugal, Italy and Spain, they can achieve much more than only on the soccer field once they put their minds to it. Such confidence will be an opportunity for Korea to actively contribute to world history as a unified country in the future.

In the history of science, C.V. Raman, an Indian Nobel Prize winner in physics, was renowned for his confidence. The fact that light waves reflect, refract and diffract was well known, but that the wavelength of light changes was unthinkable before Mr. Raman's research.

It is difficult to believe that blue light can be scattered and become green light. Mr. Raman, who once wanted to study at Cambridge University in Britain, decided to stay in India when his dream of studying in Great Britain was postponed because of health problems. Even with the very outdated research facilities in India, he discovered a new scattering of light, which is now known as the "Raman Effect," and became the first winner of the Nobel Prize in the science fields who was from and educated in Asia. There is an anecdote about Mr. Raman's self-confidence at a time when Europe was in the center of scientific research. Mr. Raman, fully certain that he would win the Nobel Prize, booked a place on a ship to Sweden months before the announcement of the winner of the prize, and publicly said that he would be receiving it. That certainly required a great deal of self-confidence and audacity.

When this country was surrounded by the World Cup fever in June, there were 20 young people who faithfully prepared for a global competition in intellectual ability. They are high school students who will joust with representatives from countries like the United States, Russia and China in the International Mathematics and Science Olympiads.

The test began on Monday with the Chemistry Olympiad, followed by the biology, math, physics and information olympiads. Moreover, this year Korean students will participate in the Astronomy Olympiad for the first time. I am hoping to hear some good news.

With the importance of science being highlighted, the olympiad originally started to encourage friendship between science-oriented students of different nationalities. Though it is difficult to deny that competition can become overheated, the event has a positive aspect of giving opportunities for talented students to prepare for more sophisticated problems and deeper study of mathematics and science. Above all, the International Science Olympiad, which is partly sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation, can be compared to an oasis in a desert for Korean high school students because the secondary education system of Korea is in such a state of disrepair.

Right now, Korean representatives in the Chemistry Olympiad are competing against representatives from 50 other countries in the Netherlands, the home country of former Korean national soccer team coach Guus Hiddink. Many participating countries have a longer history and more solid foundation in science, like Russia, the home of the renowned chemist Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev. I hope our four representatives, Kim Min-Hyeong, Kim Young-jin, Kim In-seop, and Lee Jong-heok, who are competing with contestants from nations with stronger science foundations, can bring good news to Korea. I selected, trained and guided them, and feel very confident because our representatives have strong science fundamentals, just like last year's representatives who tied for first place together with a Chinese team. Mr. Hiddink also emphasized strong fundamentals when he was coaching the national soccer team.

Let us not forget the enthusiasm we showed cheering during the World Cup games. We should pay attention at the national level to nurturing young talents who will shoulder the future of basic science in Korea. Though physical strength is also a source of national strength, the strength of a nation in the 21st century will depend on the level of science and technology that a country possesses.


The writer is a professor of chemistry at Seoul National University.

by Kim Hi-jun

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