SNU’s first female vice president sets a new goal

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SNU’s first female vice president sets a new goal

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Park Myung-jin

Park Myung-jin is known for achieving many firsts.

She was the first female president of the Korean Society for Journalism and Communications Studies and the first chairperson of the Korea Communications Standards Commission. On July 23 she added another title to her collection when she became the first female vice president of Seoul National University.

As if that weren’t enough, she is also both a celebrated teacher with an in-demand class on film theory at SNU and was the host of the KBS program “TV and Talk About Books” for two and a half years.

A month following her appointment as SNU vice president, Park took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her life and career.

“I’m actually surprised that there is still a need for the expression ‘first female,’” Park said. “Still, the president of SNU took a rather bold step in appointing me. It’s likely he faced pressure from the lingering influence of conservatives, especially from national universities.”

Park was one of very few female professors hired during the 1980s. She started working at SNU in 1980 in the newspaper department, now the communications department.

“There has recently been an increase in the number of female professors here, but only a few are able to participate in administrative and decision making processes,” she said.

Park came to her new post a year after she resigned at the Korea Communications Standards Commission.

Between jobs, she enjoyed a blissful vacation writing books and enjoying the beauty of the slow life, which was just what she needed to recharge her batteries before assuming her current position.

She said that one of the benefits of her new position is that it allows her to continue her passion for cultivating bright young minds.

“I want to be able to expand the definition of human rights and find ways for people to co-exist in harmony with our differences,” she said. “I especially want to focus on cultivating kind-hearted students who work for social justice.”

Although this may seem like a difficult goal to achieve because the current admissions process is primarily based on exam scores and academic achievements and not on a student’s place in society, the vice president confidently proposed a different approach.

“We are in the midst of revising our admissions policies,” she said. “Yale University, for example, admits less fortunate students, even if their SAT scores are lower, because the university sees potential in those students who excel even in less-than-desirable circumstances,” Park said. “We want to foster students who are not only ‘studying machines,’ but also those with hidden potential.”

She said she also hopes to educate students on gender equality and sexual discrimination.

“Gender equality can widely be seen as a human rights issue,” Park said. “I think I will be able to handle the sensitive aspects of sexual discrimination that have remained unresolved because male educators and administrators were just unable to understand. More than 40 percent of Seoul National University students are female, 5 percent are foreigners, and we have 70 or so students with disabilities.”

Park seems to have succeeded in having it all - with not only a prominent career but also a loving family. Her husband, Lee Kyo-il, was once a fellow SNU professor at the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering. Her daughter received a master’s degree from Colombia University in arts management. And her son is involved in developing new and renewable energy sources.

“We established a system of giving full support to the member of the family who needed it the most at the time,” she said. “We focused on my son and daughter when they were seniors, on my husband when he started a new job and now I get their assistance.”

But things weren’t always that easy.

“My husband spent all his time at research facilities while I watched movies and dramas for work. It was hard for any of us to even catch a glimpse of each other,” she said. “We were only able to take a family trip after my daughter and son grew up, and that is when I realized how delightful my children are. I felt like I had gained a whole new family.”

Park experienced another major milestone in her career when she was appointed the head of the KCSC at the age of 61.

“I loved teaching and wanted to do it forever. But the [KCSC] job was about protecting fairness in our broadcasting systems,” she said. “I took it as my personal duty to uphold the things that I taught and believed in.”


By Lee Jin-joo [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

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