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Basics come before ambition, says Professor Paik

01 May, 2012 News Center 1,088

It is not every day that you get to interview the newest addition to the school’s outstanding faculty. I had spent a whole week rehearsing my questions, but by the time I was knocking on his office door I still managed to work myself into a bag of nerves. I immediately began to wonder whether my dressing was appropriate, had I overdressed.

I need not have worried. Just like every KDI School professor, Prof. Sung-Joon Paik was so friendly and welcoming. “Can I offer you a cup of tea?” His first words immediately put me at ease.  I delightedly said yes, and we settled down for an interview.

Professor Paik is a man of truly diverse and rich experience. I have discovered that he earned his BA in German language education. Serving the military duties brought him to realize the tangible significance of education, which led him to consider educational administration for his career path. Pursuing graduate studies at the prestigious Harvard University, he obtained a Ph.D. in Education Policy. Fluent in German, English and Korean, he has since worked for a series of renowned research institutes including the World Bank and Korean Educational Development Institute. He has also been involved in various consulting projects for government agencies.

Following the remarkable journey of his career, I became curious to know how and why he had found himself at the KDI School. ”Having closely observed at the World Bank the policymaking for various international development programs,” he noted, “made me want to work with an internationally oriented organization.” He said KDI School was an easy choice, with its unique mixture of international students and high calibre faculty. He went on to acknowledge just how supportive his KDIS colleagues have been since he got on board.

What is Prof. Paik’s advice to students hoping to get the most out of this one of a kind learning environment? “Do not be too ambitious,” he said.  I looked at him in disbelief. How could he say that when the media is awash with messages of setting the goal high and achieving more? I demanded explanation. “Many students make a mistake of being over-ambitious and end up not getting the basics right,” he analyzed. “Make sure you know the basics, the fundamentals; only then can you build a basis for your career,” he continued. “KDI School gives you that opportunity to learn the fundamentals, so learn as much as you can and then start dreaming big,” he emphasized.

Professor Paik is still in the thick of designing the courses he will be offering next semester. Having had the privilege of catching a sneak preview of his class, I will be the first one to register come summer term. As we wound up the interview, Professor Paik spoke highly of the role that KDI School can and does play in shaping the next generation of leaders. Recounting how happy he is to be part of the process, he gave me his parting words: “use this opportunity to the fullest and of course, enjoy Korea.”

Thank you Professor Paik, and welcome to the KDI School.


By Keith HAMASUTE (2012 MPP, Zambia)