Kaist elects new president in wake of Suh’s legacy

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Kaist elects new president in wake of Suh’s legacy


Kang Sung-mo

Kaist, the country’s top science and technology university, located in Daejeon, elected a new president yesterday to lead the school for the next four years.

The 15-member board of the top science education institute elected Kang Sung-mo, former chancellor of the University of California, Merced, as its new president.

At least eight out of 15 votes are required to be elected president.

The 68-year-old engineering scientist is an alumnus of Seoul’s Yonsei University and earned his doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkley.

Kang is known to have been the first Korean national to head a four-year university in the U.S., when he was appointed for the top post at UC Merced in March 2007.

The Yonsei graduate also served as head of the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, prior to his chancellorship in California.

Under Kang’s leadership, Kaist is expected to put an end to the controversy and internal conflicts surrounding the academic policies introduced by its outgoing president, Suh Nam-pyo.

Since his appointment in 2006, the 77-year-old president has carried out competition-oriented policies under the philosophy of upgrading the school to a high global level, drawing heavy criticism from students and faculty members, especially with a rash of shocking student suicides.

One of the most controversial initiatives implemented under Suh’s watch was a grade system in which students were required to pay tuition if their GPA fell below a certain level.

The former professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology was also criticized for his lack of communication with students and school staff.

Suh, who is in his second four-year term, was slated to carry out his top post until July 2014, but tendered his resignation in October last year amid a conflict with the school board regarding the direction of the school.

The embattled president of Kaist will leave for the U.S. later this month after the graduation ceremony scheduled for Feb. 22.

“Kang was considered as a person who could put forward needed reforms for Kaist and communicate well with those involved,” said a school official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Lee Yun-seok, president of the Kaist student council, also welcomed Kang’s appointment and expected him to “better communicate with the students.”

Kang will be sworn in as president on Feb. 23 to serve a four-year term.

By Kang Jin-kyu, Yun Suk-man [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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