I first met Professor Taejong Kim during an admission interview as an interviewer. I was mesmerized by his kindness and gentleness even though I had less than 10 minutes to have a conversation with him. Since then, I have always wanted to take his course and get to know more about him.
This semester, I was lucky enough to take the ‘Quantitative Method’ course that he teaches and have the chance to interview him firsthand.
How long have you been at the KDI School as a professor? What do you think are the advantages of our school?
It has been sixteen years going on seventeen. Students, faculty, and staff at the KDI School are excitingly diverse and uniquely dynamic. The close proximity to the network of experts and generous availability of resources is an additional advantage for a student focusing on development policy issues.
Looking back on your 16 years at KDIS, could you share your most memorable moment or person with us?
I have a lot of respect for my colleagues in the faculty and staff. In recent years, I have been teaching a course, “Government Reform: Case Study Practicum”, together with two other professors. It has been a revelation to me to watch my colleagues interact with the students in the class with a level of deep respect, creating moments of deep learning through the interactions. We have no short supply of creative deep thinkers in the KDI School community, but Dr. Chunsik Woo of KDIS has long been an inspiration for me. He taught me the necessity of asking relevant questions, not just questions with answers you can concoct with relative ease.
What are the topics you are interested in these days?
Sustainability best summarizes the set of issues I am interested in. Sustainability requires replenishment of various forms of capital, including human, social, and natural capital. These investments can be easily neglected in the market mechanism, and public policy should promote these investments in these various forms of capital in a way that empowers vulnerable individuals and communities in a society. The key themes of my research these days are: what valuable lessons for sustainability can we find in our development experiences in South Korea, and what challenges lie ahead.
You have 3 daughters. What is the important value that you have emphasized to your daughters throughout your life?
I would like to think that I have been teaching them that one shouldn’t take oneself too seriously. You should remember that you are not the center of the universe, and that respect and affection for other human beings are the best things you need to take with you as you start to tackle life’s challenges. Recently, I have started trying not to teach them, but to learn from them. I think the change in my goals has been quite helpful in the management of my relationships with the girls.
How would you like to be remembered as a professor by your students?
I like all your questions, but this is my favorite since I have never thought about it. I realize this is a very important question for a teacher. I don’t expect many of my students to remember me for long, but I would be very happy if those who do can recall moments when I was of help for any of their quests, academic or otherwise.
Could you give us your last words/advice about life?
Nurture your appreciation for the fragile beauty of life and the world, and remember that the world doesn’t revolve around you.