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[Opinion] Centennial Anniversary

Posted May. 09, 2005 00:02,   


The word “baek,” which literally means “one hundred,” implies more than mere numbers. Above all, baek means “a lot.” Baeksung (people of a nation) came from “one hundred castles.” Baekga (many scholars) and baekgwan (all officials), baek-hae-moo-ik (all harm and no good), baek-bal-baek-joong (to hit everything right on the mark), and countless other words make use of baek. Baek also implies completion, fulfillment, eternity, and the extreme. In the old days, people considered age 100 a god-sent lifetime. A century, is also significant in that it represents the longest lifetime a human being can enjoy.

A century ago in 1905, the Joseon Dynasty lost its sovereignty to Japan when the humiliating Eulsa Treaty was signed. This year marked the beginning of Korea’s dark history. Globally, this year marked the end of the war between Russia and Japan with Russia’s loss in the Battle of Tsushima and the signing of the Portsmouth Treaty. Norway declared its independence in 1905 as well.

The year 1905 is monumental in the history of science. Albert Einstein published the Special Theory of Relativity and shifted the scientific paradigm. The Wright brothers made the first successful plane, and British biologist Ernest Starling first used the word “hormone.” Barnum Brown completely reconstructed the fossil of a tyrannosaur for the first time ever. The Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for Quo Vadis?

It was a significant year for Korea’s education as well. Under the order of King Kojong, Dr. Lee Yong-ik founded Bosung College, the predecessor of the present Korea University. Under the leadership of Dr. Son Byung-hee, the national leader, and then Dr. Kim Sung-soo, Bosung College evolved into Korea University, under the ideology of “saving the country through education”. The centennial anniversary of Korea University represents the elevated modern history of Korea. Korea University now spearheads the revolution in university education in pursuit of “Global Korea University”. I wonder how much the university and this country will have changed 100 years from now in 2105.

Hyun In-taek, Guest Editorial Writer / Professor of International Politics at Korea University/ ithyun@chol.com