[EDITORIALS]We can learn from foreignersRobert E. Laughlin, professor of Stanford University, has applied for the presidency of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, or KAIST. This comes after the current president, Hong Chang-sun, was elected to the National Assembly as a proportional representative of Our Open Party in last month’s election.
Mr. Laughlin is said to compete with two other candidates recommended by the faculty of the university for a four-year term.
This is the first time that a person outside of the school has applied for the presidency. Moreover, he is not just any outsider ― Professor Laughlin is a Nobel Prize laureate in physics and a distinguished scholar of quantum physics.
This is indeed unprecedented and astonishing. Since we entered the 21st century, many sectors of our society have shown efforts to escape from narrow-minded (“frog in a well”) management.
Korea First Bank hired the nation’s first foreign bank president and chief executive officer, Wilfred Horie, in 2000, and the current president, Robert Cohen, is also a foreigner. So is Korea Exchange Bank’s CEO, Robert Fallon.
In sports, Dutchman Guus Hiddink led our national soccer team to fourth place in the World Cup, and after him, Humberto Coelho took over the national team.
In March, the Seoul metropolitan government hired its first foreign public official in an open competition. All these examples show that it is not something new to have foreigners working in every part of society.
And education is no exception. In an era of global competition, our education system is perhaps the most backward in the world. By opening up our education system, we can upgrade our competitiveness to a higher level.
Our universities are extremely closed. Why else would the Ministry of Education assess a school based on its ratio of foreigners on the faculty? KAIST is one of the three top science schools of our country, along with Seoul National University’s engineering school and Pohang University of Science and Technology. We hope this will become a chance for our universities, society and culture to undergo a radical change in their mindsets.