Huh June, a professor at Princeton University, arrived at Incheon International Airport on late Tuesday morning, casually dressed in his denim shirt and shorts. His seven-year-old son hugged the professor with a bouquet as he came out to the greeting area. When the professor was asked to advise young Koreans, he said, “I’ve learned a lot through trial and error just like the people in their 20s and 30s. In hindsight, the road I took did have a lot of bumps and cracks, but I think it was the best road for me to get to where I am as fast as possible.”
Mr. Huh didn’t go through the ordinary path that mathematically gifted students take such as studying at science high schools. He dropped out of a general high school and took the GED to get into college. He later changed his major to math from physics and became the first Korean-American mathematician who won the prestigious Fields Medal.
“If Koreans (in their teens and 20s) loosen up a little and continue to carry on slowly but steadily in a step-by-step manner, they will have good results,” Professor Huh said
“They will often be told to never give up and continue for 10 years or 20 years but learning to give up at appropriate timing is also very important,” the professor added for aspiring mathematicians. “Knowing when to give up has to do with your intuition, therefore, instead of being obsessive with questions that are difficult for not only you but also for humanity, you need to loosen up a little, and be nice to yourself, and have fun with your study and research.”
Professor Huh said that he believed his winning was thanks to Korea’s academic advances, following the footsteps of the already successful Korean culture and economy. “I am a bit heavyhearted as the role I have to play for the advancement of the Korean math field has become bigger, but overall I am happy and delighted," said.
The professor will be working at the Korea Institute for Advanced Study this summer, starting with a lecture session at the institute on Wednesday. “In the meantime, I am very looking forward to my travel to Jeju island with my parents,” he said.