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Kim Hee-okFormer Constitutional Court justice has started his career as the 17th president of Dongguk


There was a student who boldly articulated his vision to become a judge and an educator later in an interview with the school paper when he entered the university as a top student in 1968. Fulfilling his dream, he became a Constitutional Court justice in 2006. And five years later, he came back to school to realize another one of his dreams. The man, Kim Hee-ok, became the 17th president of Dongguk University. A reporter from The Post sat down with Kim, who at last achieved his final goal, a day before his inauguration ceremony and talked about his outlook on life and his plans for the school.


▶ Overcome all hardships with determination and a positive attitude.

Kim has had an outstanding career. He graduated from the School of Law at Dongguk, and he earned a Master's degree of Communications from Korea University. Moreover, he passed the bar examination in 1976 and worked for the Ministry of Justice for approximately 35 years.

It seems that he had no difficulty in building his career. However, he revealed that he also had difficulty in his life. "When I prepared for the judicial examination, I suffered from tuberculosis," he said. "It was not easy for me to keep studying hard because of the illness.

 However, my firm had paved the way for me to keep focused on my studies and accomplish my goal. Life is full of challenges. Today, finding a job can be challenging, but the key to achieving this goal rests on each person’s own drive and determination."

Kim also encouraged students to think creatively and actively when confronted with  problems. He said, "There are tons of ways to solve problems.

 If one option ends up in smoke, give it another shot! Even failure can be a valuable opportunity for you." Then, he introduced an anecdote about Robert Rubin, the former U.S. Treasury Secretary, who converted failure into another chance in his life.

After graduating from Harvard, Robert Rubin sent a letter to the dean of admissions at Princeton. "I gather that you are interested in how the candidates  you rejected are doing. For your information, I have just graduated from Harvard with honors."

Then, the dean replied: "Every year at Princeton, we find it our responsibility to reject some of the best students so that Harvard will have good students too." (Extracted from In an Uncertain World, a biography of Robert Rubin) As this anecdote illustrates, Rubin regarded rejection from Princeton as a stepping stone to putting in more effort and concentrating on his studies at Harvard. I

n the end, he became a renowned economist. Kim Hee-ok explained in detail, "Don't stick to using one key to unlock the door to the world! Just find a myriad of ways to open it up. I hope students keep knocking on the door and embark on a journey toward the world."

▶ Establish your own perspective on life, society, and religion.

While we are university students, how is it that we don't know the importance of strong determination in order to survive in this society as Kim highlighted? Unfortunately, it seems that it is not easy for many students to take a stand with their own points of view in a hectic society.

As the job market is growing fiercer every day, students are easily obsessed with competition and spend less time questioning their own spiritual and moral underpinnings, not to be encumbered by the temptations of the world. In this sense, Kim obviously said that educational institutions, such as Dongguk, have a strong responsibility to support students in forming and staying committed to their own beliefs consistently without confusion.

 "I don't think that a university only provides students with a high level of expertise. Another principal role of universities is to drive students to establish their own perspectives on life, religion, and society," said Kim. He added, "I will lead this university which enables students to equip themselves with these two aforementioned factors. This objective stems from my experience at Dongguk. I also developed my view of life by attending classes such as 'Introduction to Buddhism' taught by the late professor Jong-dong and Vajra-Sutra taught by the Venerable Tan-won.

Buddhism, in particular, which has had a pivotal influence on me, enlightens the meaning of living together harmoniously with others. While in college, students should do this!" Kim expressed his opinion calmly, but his voice was resolute.

Although Kim saved the words related to the specific plans for the university, which he will officially announce on March 18, he revealed his opinion about reinforcing the international curriculum at Dongguk. Kim said that he will put emphasis on improving the quality of English classes by hiring more professionals. Also, he spoke of his aspiration to implement a systematic curriculum for foreign students.

▶ "Eile mit Weile."

Before finishing the interview, Kim abruptly ripped out a sheet of paper and wrote something to the Post reporter. "Do you know German? This is a German proverb. It means "be busy at ease." People who work towards their dream for the long term may be busy doing work, but they are not anxious because they are always prepared for the future. I recommend that students keep this in mind," he emphasized lastly. Ending on this note with utmost sincerity seems to reflect his life experience and philosophy.

Kim has lived a life, struggling to achieve his dream without worry or anxiety as he has been prepared for each step of the way. It remains to be seen how Dongguk will design its future. However, the evident fact is that Dongguk will keep developing busily but with ease.



Park Ji-hyun  bungaeo0@dongguk.edu

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