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Parents donate survivor funds

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Park Man-chun, left, and Han Gye-ok, center, pose on May 31 after donating to the Air Force the 100 million won they received from a survivor’s pension for their son Gwang-su.Provided by the Air Force

A Korean-American student graduated with the top honor in economics from Princeton University last month, the first ethnic Korean to do so.

According to Princeton, Kim Jung-ho, 21, received the Halbert White Prize in economics at the May 31 graduation ceremony. The prize is given to the best economics graduate every year. Another 98 students graduated together with Kim from the Princeton economics department. His GPA in the department was 4.143 out of 4.3.

Princeton has one of the world’s finest economics departments, with alumni including Gregory Mankiw, former chair of the U.S. Presidential Council of Economic Advisers; Alan Blinder, former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve; the former Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs John Taylor; Harvard University Professor Edward Glaser; and Halbert White, the professor at the University of California-San Diego for whom the award was named.

The school’s faculty includes Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate in economics.

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Photographed above before his death in 1982.Provided by the Air Force

Kim said he will enroll in a graduate course in economics at Princeton on a full scholarship.

“I already took many of the graduate course classes, so I expect to be able to enroll in the doctoral program next year,” Kim said. Kim plans to study finance and macroeconomics and work as a full-time researcher - with opportunities for advancement.

“The short-term goal is to be a professor at a top-notch college, and the midterm goal is to get a John Bates Clark Medal,” he said. That honor is given by the American Economics Association to talented American economists under the age of 40.

Kim’s ultimate goal isn’t surprising: the Nobel Prize.

Kim said he has many role models in the economics world. Among them, he said, Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University and current director of the White House’s National Economic Council, is the most inspiring, he said, because Summers has made such a significant contribution not only to the academic world but to the real economy.

With a parent working through the various overseas branches of a large Korean company, Kim has acquired years of experience traveling overseas. He attended schools in Canada, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. That has helped him adapt to any culture or situation, he said.

“I had difficulty with my insufficient English skills when I attended middle school in Australia, but could overcome it by studying hard and dreaming of studying at a well-known U.S. college,” he said.

He said he first wanted to become an economist when he received the highest score on an economics examination in high school in Singapore.


By Choi Ik-jae [joe@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

1982년 순직한 공군 조종사 박광수 중위의 부모
28년간 한 푼도 안 쓰고 모아 공군본부에 전달
‘순직조종사 유자녀 장학 재단’설립에 사용키로


“큰 짐을 던 것 같아 홀가분하네요. 소중한 데 사용돼 훌륭한 인물이 나오길 바랍니다.”

28년 전 순직한 공군 조종사 고 박광수 중위의 아버지 박만춘(82)씨가 공군 유자녀들을 위해 써달라며 28년 동안 모은 유족 연금 1억원을 31일 공군본부에 전달했다. 6·25전쟁 때 수도사단(현 수도기계화사단) 수색대대 소속으로 참전했던 박씨는 아들이 군인이 되길 원했다. 아버지의 뜻에 따라 3남중 막내 아들인 고 박 중위가 공사 29기로 임관해 15전투비행단의 F-5 전투기 조종사가 됐다. 그러나 아들은 82년 동해에서 조종사 해양훈련 중 사망했다. 그 뒤로 국가에서 순직 군인 유가족에게 지급하는 유족 연금이 부모 앞으로 나왔다. 하지만 박씨는 이를 한 푼도 쓰지 않고 모아왔다.

“국가에서 아들을 조종사로 키웠는데 아들이 사망하는 바람에 임무를 다하지 못했어요. 그래서 국가에 항상 죄송스러운 마음을 가지고 있었습니다. 연금 또한 국가의 것이라 한푼도 쓸 수가 없더라고요.”

박씨가 아들 순직 직후 국가보훈처로부터 받은 연금은 월 9만원이었다. 시간이 흐르면서 연금 수령액은 월 58만원으로 늘었다. 그렇게 28년간 박씨가 모은 돈은 1억1603만원이었다. 박씨는 이 돈을 국가에 도움이 되고 아들도 기릴 수 있는 데 사용하겠다는 생각을 해왔다. 그러다 지난 3월 18전투비행단에서 F-5전투기 2대가 추락했다는 소식을 접했다. 그는 바로 그 순간 그동안 모은 돈을 공군에 기증하기로 결심했다. 그는 앞으로도 계속 연금을 공군에 기부할 예정이다.

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