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[Korean Scholars ⑧]

Dr. Kim Myung-Ja

The Most-needed Intellectual in Our Time of Challenge

 

2022.08.01

 

Sparked by the climate crisis and COVID-19, environmental issues have been put at the center of global attention. Everyone knows the answer to them, but only a few practice. However, there is a person who takes a scientific viewpoint on such environmental issues – Dr. Kim Myung-Ja, one of the leading academics in the field of scientific technology in Korea. As a professor, Minister of Environment, and a member of the National Assembly, she has been playing a pivotal role in enlightening her students and the public about how science influences our lives and society. Moreover, she broke the seemingly hard wall of science by writing about twenty books. Following is the introduction of Dr. Kim Myung-Ja, who never stops making the best efforts in her given position, saying, “I want to be called a ‘generalist’ rather than being explained as a person from a specific field.”

 

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A pioneer that shows leadership as a human being

 

As a graduate of the Department of Chemistry at Seoul National University (SNU) and a Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in the US, Dr. Kim Myung-Ja has been cultivating talented to-be scientists in Korea as a professor at SNU and KAIST. She lectured on chemistry, history of science, environmental policy, science and technology policy, and was later appointed as the 7th Minister of Environment. Here she exerted her influence not only on students but also on the Korean people. Dr. Kim Myung-Ja was given the modifiers “the longest-serving female minister since the constitution” and “the longest-serving minister of the Government of the People (the Kim Dae-Jung administration),” and she received a presidential commendation for the best governmental department for two consecutive years from 2001 to 2002. Her career did not end here. She continued to carry out activities after she was elected to the National Assembly, and was elected as the first female president of the Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies (KOFST) in 50 years.
Even though she has been referred to as “the first woman” in many ways, it is not appropriate to describe her as a woman who broke the glass ceiling for only being a woman. To her, as someone who has been doing her best in the given roles in the given position, “gender” is just another “role.” Pioneers like Dr. Kim Myung-Ja, who shows leadership as a human being, apart from being a man or woman, are the most-needed intellectuals in our times where we need “emotional leadership” over authoritative leadership. Dr. Kim Myung-Ja, who has built a high career in the sciences, is interested in various areas around us, such as women, the environment, and the COVID-19 pandemic, and is engaged in social activities by serving as an advisor and chairman of various institutions. She has never put down writing among all other activities – she has written and translated countless columns and about 20 books.

 

The ceaseless challenge of being a scientist shown through books

 

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Pandemic and Civilization

 

 

While the COVID-19 virus has lost momentum, the world has entered the era of “post COVID” and “with-COVID,” but people are yet afraid of the virus’s re-emergence. It is true that the possibility is still open, but humanity will no longer be swept away by the disease as helplessly as before, thanks to the research of many scholars, including Dr. Kim Myung-Ja. For example, Pandemic and Civilization (Kachi Books), written by Dr. Kim in 2020, right after the outbreak of the disease, is like a guide for all global citizens caught in the black hole of viruses. This book looks back at the history of human civilization and infectious diseases, providing outlooks on public health in the era of the 4th industrial revolution. Through the book, Dr. Kim Myung-Ja took a quicker step than others in suggesting diagnosis methods for COVID, status and limitations of vaccine development, prospects and countermeasures against the virus, and public health.
Dr. Kim Myung-Ja published three other books as well, taking an interest in the nuclear power issue, a hot topic in the fields of environment and science. Even though she was not a nuclear specialist, she stood up to publicize the issue after the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima in 2011, after years of studying the history of science. The first book, The Nuclear Power Dilemma (Science Books), talks about what decision we must make when we cannot abandon nuclear energy. The second book, The Nuclear Power Trilemma (Kachi Books), includes insights to resolve the complexly entangled situation surrounding nuclear policies. Finally, the third book, The Spent Nuclear Fuel Dilemma (Kachi Books), looks at what we can do with spent nuclear fuel, which inevitably occurs as long as we run nuclear power plants, from various perspectives. It is meaningful that the three books offer a chance to share opinions instead of arguing a black and white logic.

 

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The Nuclear Power Dilemma, The Nuclear Power Trilemma, and The Spent Nuclear Fuel Dilemma

 

 

Dr. Kim Myung-Ja has written more than the books mentioned above, based on her broad field of view built on the history of science and the inborn knowledge of liberal arts. Also, her career has been recognized even until today in various fields, including the government, National Assembly, and the science and technology industry. In 2020, both of her books, Reading the World Histroy Through Industrial Revolutions (Kachi Books) and Pandemic and Civilization, were chosen as outstanding science books by the government, while she was designated as a Person of Distinguished Service to Science and Technology in 2021. As such, Dr. Kim has been a pioneer in the science industry; she plans to keep her balance as a scientist and make meaningful contributions to Korean society.

 

 


Written by Choi Ha-Yeong

 

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Choi Ha-Yeong

#Kim Myung-Ja#Pandemic#Nuclear#COVID-19
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