THERE ARE many people in the world who have great leadership or respect, or have a very sharp educational background. But how often do you meet someone who has all these characteristics? One person who has these characteristics is the president of CHA University, Park Myung-jae ('68, Dept. of Public Admin.). He was always goal-oriented and he understood what his objectives were. From knowing what he wanted to do with his life, he was able to be a very successful leader.
What were your aspirations during your college years?
As a student in the public administration department, it was always my goal to take the civil service examination. At the time, however, I couldn’t say with certainty that I would pass the exam. In my sophomore and junior years, I focused on working towards expanding my knowledge in all areas of society - ultimately, I was voted president of my department. It was around this time that I began to lead on - campus student demonstrations. Maybe it was my belief that society was unjust, or maybe it was my outrage at an unjustness of society, regardless, my role in these demonstrations ended when I was drafted into the military. After spending three years in the army, my future path became clearer. During the second semester of my junior year, I began to prepare for the civil service examination. I passed the first part within three months, the second within seven - I was the top-ranking applicant to pass the 16th civil service examination.
College is a time filled with conflict and worries - you feel stuck between the idealism and reality. For instance, nowadays, there are many scholarships or other forms of financial aid available, but such programs were uncommon in those days. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and worked my way through college. These experiences taught me to never lose my ambition and drive - they also solidified my desire to become a public servant. Looking back on my college experience, I can’t say that I was 100% satisfied with it, but my time in college laid a good foundation to build my aspirations and quest for meaning in life.
What was your biggest obstacle to fulfilling your dream, and how did you overcome it?
I grew up in a rural town, and I mean really rural (laughs). I finished middle school there, and moved to Seoul for high school. Because I wasn’t financially well - to - do, I worked my way through high school by working at a pharmacy in the daytime, and going to school in the evening. In college, I was a private tutor for a family in exchange for housing and food. This way, I managed to put myself through school without aid from my parents. Getting through high school and college was a real hardship for me, but I took this experience as a valuable lesson in personal challenge and perseverance. It was an opportunity to cultivate my potential.
There is one very important difference between success and failure, whether it is in regard to an individual or a country: attitude. Those who succeed are always able to find opportunities and learn from even the most dire circumstances; those who fail will find fault in even the best circumstances. In the end, it’s very important that one concentrates on finding opportunities and potential in all given situations.
What was the most rewarding experience you had as a government bureaucrat? Do you have any regrets?
I am most proud of implementing the electronic government database system. With this new system, we are now able to access all certificates and registered information via a home computer. As a result, we were able to cut 1.8 trillion won in government expenditures per year. This system was even recognized as the best e - government system by the United Nations. In addition, I was responsible for changing the district-centered address system into one based on street names. As for regrets, I feel like I could have provided more aid and service to the country as a bureaucrat, but I can’t say that I have any regrets.
Politics and academia are fairly different areas - what prompted you to make the switch from bureaucrat to educator?
CHA University was born out of the former Cha Hospital. I’m the seventh president of this new university - up until the sixth, the president of this university was always a doctor. That is, I’m the first president without a medical background. When I was first instated as the president, there was a lot of concern about the university’s decision to take a person like me. But today’s CHA University is not just a hospital - it is a university, a research center, and an enterprise as well as a hospital. The role of CHA University’s president can no longer be limited to medical ability?in this day and age, the president must be a global leader, a frontier leader who has a wide and worldly understanding of current events. That’s why I was chosen to become the next president of CHA University, rather than another doctor.
So far, you have been a chief minister in the government and a university president. What are you goals for the future?
I’m not sure if I have goals for the future, but, at the moment, I want to do my best as president of CHA University. Now, I have two goals as president: first, I want to make CHA University the first college to produce a Korean laureate of the Nobel Prize in medical sciences; second, I want the university to become a forerunner in stem cell research and help develop new methods for people to lead a long and healthy life. In short, I want to do my best as president of the university to cultivate new frontier leaders.
What do you think are the most important aspects of leadership?
I think there are three questions we need to keep in mind: Who is a leader? What is leadership? What is desirable leadership/ who is a desirable leader? First and foremost, you must understand a leader is not born; he is created. A leader does not have innately superior abilities or potential; he is shaped through hard work, perseverance and circumstances. Who is a leader? Where there is a leader, there is a follower. As such, we are all leaders and followers. In the past, our society was strictly hierarchical, with the leader at the top. However, society today does not exist in a purely hierarchical form. In fact, there are three tiers of leaders nowadays: top leaders, team leaders, and functional leaders. Simply put, a leader’s role is not only to give orders; he must have the ability to involve all his followers to work towards a common goal.
Any last words for Yonseians?
Three things: first, take pride in yourself and your work. If you are a student, take pride in your school; if you’re an employee, in your job; if you’re a government, in your country. You need to believe in yourself and make every effort to achieve your goals. This brings me to my second point: set goals for yourself. Everyone has a mission, for example, as a student, your mission is to study, and you shouldn’t deviate from this mission. Third and finally, you need to challenge yourself. Challenge yourself in everything that you do. There will undoubtedly be many hardships to overcome, but always strive to do your best. And always remember, you make your own paths in life.