First mathematicians congress for Korea opens

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First mathematicians congress for Korea opens

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President Park Geun-hye, flanked by representatives of international and Korean mathematics societies, celebrates the opening of the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians at Coex, southern Seoul, yesterday. The nine-day convention is being held in Korea for the first time. [Joint Press Corps]

The International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) that kicked off in Seoul yesterday has shed light on the growing status of women in a very apt way: The first female winner of the most prestigious math award was presented the award by Korea’s first female president in the presence of the first female president of the International Mathematical Union (IMU).

Maryam Mirzakhani, a mathematics professor at Stanford University, was one of four Fields Medal recipients honored at the opening ceremony of the Seoul ICM held at Coex in southern Seoul. It is the first time the Fields Medal, often called the Nobel Prize for mathematicians, was awarded to a woman since the awards began in 1936.

“In particular, I highly honor and admire the great spirit of challenge and passion of Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani, the first female to be awarded the Fields Medal in its history,” said President Park Geun-hye in an opening speech after granting the awards.

Three other Fields Medals were presented to Artur Avila, a mathematician at IMPA (Rio de Janeiro), Manjul Bhargava, a mathematics professor at Princeton University, and Martin Hairer, a mathematics professor at the University of Warwick.

It is the first time Korea was the venue for announcing Fields Medal winners, who are honored at every ICM. Three other Asian countries - Japan, China and India - hosted the quadrennial event. India hosted the previous event in 2010.

Around 5,000 mathematicians from more than 120 countries gathered at the ICM 2014, which will be held for nine days through Aug. 21. Held under the theme of “Dreams and Hopes for Late Starters,” ICM 2014 is also putting a focus on Korea’s role as a bridge between developed countries and developing countries in the field of mathematics. Under a project called “Nanum 2014,” the host country invited 1,000 mathematicians from nearly 100 developing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Inspired by the Korean initiative, the IMU, which oversees the ICM, introduced a symposium on developing countries, its first, for the Seoul event.

The one-day symposium, “Mathematics in Emerging Nations: Achievements and Opportunities,” was held at Coex on Tuesday.

“Korea achieved remarkable economic growth within a short period of time and a parallel advance was achieved in the study of mathematics in spite of a late start,” President Park said, highlighting Korea’s fast elevation in status in global math circles.

Korea rose by two notches to the IMU’s tier 4 group, the second highest, in 2007, 26 years after the country’s acceptance into the lowest tier of the union.

Park Hyung-ju, chairman of Seoul ICM’s organizing committee, was also elected to become the first Korean member of the Executive Committee of the IMU during the IMU General Assembly in Gyeongju on Monday.

“I would like to ask the honored mathematicians gathered here to inspire our young generation to enjoy mathematics and grow up as creative and talented individuals with a sense of creativity, and rationality who ultimately contribute to the future of humanity,” Park said.

Korea, which declared this year as the year of Korean mathematics, is bidding to use the Seoul ICM to promote mathematics to its public. Various lectures and events to promote math will be held during the Seoul ICM.

BY MOON GWANG-LIP[joe@joongang.co.kr]

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