KAIST President Lee Kwang-hyung speaks during a press conference at the university on Feb. 15. He came up with an idea of setting up a KAIST campus in New York. Photo courtesy of KAIST

Korea’s top science university strives to set up a U.S. campus

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) announced on Feb. 15 that the country’s top engineering university would try to set up a new campus in New York.

KAIST President Lee Kwang-hyung made the point in an online press conference timed with the first anniversary of his inauguration at the university in Daejeon, some 100 miles south of Seoul.

As a reason to build the New York campus, he quoted Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the writer of the Little Prince, one of the most-read books of mankind.

The French author said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Lee said that’s why KAIST should establish its presence in the United States.

“KAIST students would be able to study in New York. In addition, students who the New York campus recruited would be able to study in Korea,” Lee said.

“Then, our students can build startups in New York or carry out global joint projects. The New York campus would be a platform to make our students have a bigger dream.”

Toward that end, Lee said that he had met financial supporters since last year, and the talks are still undergoing.

The 67-year-old president, who gained his Ph.D. at INSA de Lyon and taught in KAIST for longer than 35 years, said that KAIST would join the rank of the world’s top-tier ivory towers.

“Our history goes back to just 50 years ago. But we have to compete with universities whose history stretches back to 100, 200, and even 300 years ago. That might not be easy,” Lee said.

“If we have confidence and cooperate, however, I think we can eventually achieve the goal.”

Kevin Chung studied literature in Seoul. He is interested in various areas. He can be reached at jumphigher55@aol.com or 82-2-6956-6698.