Go to contents

Kim Jae-ik scholarship fund

Posted December. 04, 2010 14:25,   


On Oct. 9, 1983, then South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan was set to visit the tomb of Myanmar independence hero Gen. Aung San upon arrival at Yangon on the first leg of Chun`s six-nation tour of Southeast Asia and Australia. Just before Chun’s arrival, a bomb exploded at the cemetery. Chun was safe but 17 Cabinet-level members were killed and 14 others suffered severe injuries. North Korea staged a terrorist attack with three agents aimed to assassinate South Korea’s head of state.

Lee Soon-ja, professor emeritus at Sookmyung Women’s University and the widow of the late former presidential economic adviser Kim Jae-ik, has donated 2 billion won (1.7 million U.S. dollars) to Seoul National University, her husband’s alma mater. The money will be used to form the Kim Jae-ik Fellowship Fund, which will provide scholarships to young government officials from developing countries, including those from Southeast Asia and Africa and South Africa, to study advanced policy at the university. The master’s program on international development policy at the school invites around 20 government officials from developing countries. Seoul National will increase the number of course beneficiaries through the scholarship fund. The program will likely offer visiting foreign officials the chance to learn Kim’s economic philosophy and recognize the brutality of North Korea’s attack.

Kim’s family donated the money in compliance with his will. Kim barely managed to study economics with scholarships from the University of Hawaii and Princeton University in the U.S. The scholarship fund is meant to provide young officials from developing countries the chance to study and contribute to the economic development of their respective countries, just as Kim did. He joined the Economic Planning Board (now the Strategy and Finance Ministry) in 1974 and spent his life as a public servant. At the time, the South Korean economy was in tatters in the aftermath of an oil shock, with crude prices quadrupling from the previous year. The wife of then President Park Chung-hee was also shot to death by assassin Mun Se-kwang that year.

Working for the Economic Planning Board for six years, Kim had three notable achievements. He introduced the excise tax to lay the basis for national finance; changed the phone switching system from mechanical to electronic, thus resolving the problem of excessive busy signals; and set the foundation for the information and telecommunications era of today. Kim also contributed to the construction of four nuclear power plants to usher in the nuclear energy era in South Korea. At a time when the North continues to stage aggression on the Korean Peninsula and economic crises plague the world, the South needs devoted government officials like Kim armed with strong patriotism.

Editorial Writer Park Yeong-kyun (parkyk@donga.com)