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[Opinion] Heroes of the SNU College of Pharmacy

Posted March. 08, 2007 06:42,   


In any circumstances, there are always organizations faring well and those lagging behind. The reasons for lagging behind can be countless, ranging from past history to the fault of someone else. In 2005, the management-consulting firm McKinsey conducted a survey of 700 businesses in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany to identify factors contributing to their success. Chosen over business sector, policy, culture, and geography as the first and foremost contributor was “management.” When a manager clarified his goal of aiming for the best, emphasizing autonomy and backing up workers with education and training, the company’s productivity improved by six percentage points.

Though not a business, the “State-Designated Laboratory on Cancer Development Mechanisms and Molecular Cancer Prevention” of the Seoul National University (SNU) College of Pharmacy can be considered one of those well-managed companies. Every year, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) gives awards to 50 scientists out of over 20,000 worldwide applying for the “Young Investigator Award,” whose awardees the laboratory at SNU has produced for eight consecutive years.

Professor Seo Young-jun, the lab’s academic advisor, has taken on global competition from the very beginning. He invited large numbers of foreign professors and encouraged researchers to attend international symposiums and write papers for international journals. As he frequently introduced world-class theses to researchers, the levels of study themes they voluntarily picked naturally got higher, too.

Dr. Na Hye-kyung, who has received the award for five years in a row, stated, “As I attended international symposiums quite often, one day I began to understand English, which I had not done before.” Dr. Lee Jung-sang, receiving his third Young Investigator Award, said, “I think we made outstanding results because we could focus on respective areas where each of us has strength.” Would the results be the same if the laboratory neglected the international stage and did not push for globalization of research?

McKinsey said that when it came to productivity, German and French workers were as good as their U.S. and British counterparts. This means the two countries will be able to enhance their competitive edge dramatically once they adopt and put into practice Anglo-American management systems. Though frightening and exhausting, global competition is a turbo engine for further development. Professor Edward C. Prescott, the 2004 Nobel laureate in economics, recently wrote in the U.S. newspaper the Wall Street Journal, “Openness to competition is key to increased wealth.” We need more managers like Professor Seo—not to mention young scientists like the researchers at the SNU College of Pharmacy.

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com