Have a fabulous 2012


Gaga: Rest in Peace (b.2002 - d.2010)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Professor Kim, Jaechun

Professor Kim is one of the star professors that I have come across in Seoul. He wasn't a teacher but a wonderful, patient friend of every single student irrespective of their major, origin, color and race. A  beautiful soul.

He completed his studies at Yale and joined Sogang University in 2003. I met him in 2004 for the first time. His PhD thesis is entitled: 'Democratic peace and covert war: A case study of the US covert wars', and you can read his paper:

The First American Secret War: Assessing the Origins and Consequences of Operation AJAX in Iran

 Anyhow, while looking at his Facebook page that seems dear to him, I'd like to share his post (date: December 29th. 2011). It is very sentimental... I 'like' it..

 Dear friends,

The year of Rabbit is drawing to a close. From the very beginning, this year has been an uphill battle upon another for me and my family. One of the many woes that have been eating away at me this year was my dad’s deteriorated health.

A couple of years ago, my father, now long retired from 18 years of journalism and then 20 years of politics, had to go through a surgery to remove about one third of his prostate gland.

The surgery itself went well. But the ensuing complications and chronic kidney trouble had kept him bed-ridden for several months. Early this year, it looked so obvious to everyone except my dad that he reached the end stage of kidney failure. Doctors recommend an immediate treatment of dialysis for the end stage renal failure, but my dad has been refusing to receive it doggedly. “I am feeling so well. Why do I need a dialysis?” replies my dad. My dad’s health situation and also his stubbornness exacted heavy tolls on my mom’s health as well.

At times, my dad can be as stubborn as a mule, but I still have great respect for him. There is no denying that my dad’s career and lifestyle exerted great influence on mine.

When my dad was the editor-in-chief of Chosun Daily, he used to bring home daily copies of all the major Korean newspapers with him. One of the hobbies that I developed during my formative years was to peruse those newspapers for hours and hours until my mom yelled at me to get back to regular school work.

As he entered politics circa 1980, I became what they would call a political junky. What’s transpiring in political arena – both local and international – was what interested me the most. My early exposure to the world of journalism and politics surely affected my later decision to call it quits with the Bankers Trust Company and embark on Ph.D. level study of politics.

My dad is a quintessential self-made man. He was born into a poor family as the eldest son of four children. Upon entering the college, he became the sole bread winner of his family. With small salary of junior reporter, he had to put his younger brothers and sisters through college education. My dad, a true patriarchal figure, was feared as well as revered by our entire family. In fact, he was more feared than revered by me when I was little.

Being a traditional male from Kyongsang Province, my dad lacked skills to communicate effectively with his wife and his three kids, although he had the uncanny knack of socializing with others once he stepped outside the family boundary.

But nevertheless he is remembered by many as the man among men. When I was younger, I felt completely overwhelmed by his manliness. And I hoped that someday I would become half the man he was.

Dad, I know that you have been a fighter all your life, but I want you to fight this fight in smart manner. Please go on a dialysis treatment right away, otherwise you will be losing this fight! I can’t say this to you in person, because I become such a bad communicator in your presence as you have been a bad communicator with your family, but it really breaks my heart to see a man like you deteriorate this way…

Probably, the highest moment of this year for me was the time when I took a business trip to four European countries in May. I want to express my deepest gratitude to my counterparts in our partner universities in Europe and our exchange students there for making my trip such an enjoyable and enriching experience. The trip to Europe has given me yet another chance to appreciate the power of Globalization and to realize how closely we are connected to each other’s lives.

Globalization has been a buzzword of our generation that entered the vernacular of both journalism and academia, but without universally acceptable definition. For the proponents, it is the synonym of global prosperity as well as international security, but to the opponents, it is just another manifestation of imperialistic struggle of great powers on global scale. To me, Globalization is all about sense of connectedness among people.

Originally funded by the US Department of Defense as a project to build a robust, fault-tolerant computer network that could survive nuclear wars with the Soviets, internet has brought about such a fundamental change to humankind that saying so now sounds like a real cliché. Smartphones and SNS like Facebook have become indispensable parts of every man’s life, even a life of computer illiterate like me.

Who now says man’s best friend is a dog? Facebooking has become my best friend, an integral part of my daily life, and also my lifesaver when I find myself on the verge of being swept away in the whirlwind of emotions. Communicating with my facebook friends and the advice and courage I gleaned from it was what sustained me all through this year when self-pity and lack of self-confidence was grinding me down to a heap of self-blaming lonely soul…

In our lives, we oftentimes encounter seemingly insurmountable hardship.

This year, I witnessed how the ‘system’ could render such a small institution of Sogang GSIS completely defenseless. Sogang GSIS will be moving to a new building in January next year, but with less space and fewer professors. Founders of modern democracy invented a number of institutions to tame the tyranny of majority, but I witnessed the tyranny of majority infringing upon the very basic rights of minority in this university where we teach and learn how democratic institutions ought to function.

This year, I witnessed how the system could render such a fine person like Stephen Kim’s life utterly incapacitated. Stephen, I understand if you feel the damage done is virtually irreparable. But this is the moment when you will have to whip up the courage and keep fighting on. Please do not lose faith in you, because we all have unflagging faith in you, too.

I make a living by teaching and researching international politics. Maybe for this reason, people around me oftentimes ask me whether I am a realist or liberalist (or constructivist for that matter). The question always bewilders me. It is a question to which I don’t really have a good answer.

I am a big believer in human progress. To that extent I consider myself liberalist. I believe that people can learn from the past mistakes and make a progress. Being able to learn from the mistakes and to progress through education and institutionalization is what separates human beings from the rest of the creatures on this planet. I don’t think Germans and French would ever fight wars again because they have learned, because they have adopted good institutions. International politics does not have to be the same damn story over and over again as some realists like Mearsheimer would like us to believe. Our world is so full of contradictions and distortions, but it is my firm conviction that you and I can better this imperfect world no matter how grueling the process may be.

When I was doing my Ph.D. work in 1990s, my ultimate objective was to get it done as soon as I can and move on to the next stage of my life, and then quickly to the next... From New Haven to New York is normally a two hour driving, but it only took me about an hour to complete that trip. I was driving really fast as if I was in real hurry. But going into the fifties in several years, I find myself slowing down a little bit and trying to enjoy the little things along the way. I guess it’s the sign of maturity or sign of aging.

I am not as edgy as I was before and my mind is not as nimble, but the maturity has taken over my life and turned it into a whole new nature...

I am a father of two great sons and a husband to a devoted wife. I have many friends who sincerely care about me. All in all, I am a very well-loved man. I obtained the highest academic degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the world and teach at one of the better universities in Korea. Maybe this should be more than enough for me... No need to struggle to pull off anything extraordinary... no need to change a thing from here...

But more often than not I dream that there are two lives apportioned to every man’s life... or that every man is allowed his ‘avatar’ and the planet of ‘Pandora.’ I dream that every man has the luxury of leaving this earthly world for Pandora and Neytiri... I dream that every man can choose Pandora and Neytiri to become his real world, as Jake Sully does in the movie... Pandora to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs...

“Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before…” Then you can finally say, “I see you... I see you… I see you…”

The more I get older, the more I find it exponentially difficult to make good friends. That’s why I cherish our friendship (though it’s on-line most of times) from the bottom of my heart. So please stay on-line and drop me a line or two on my wall every now and then. And do not hesitate to find me in times of your deepest trouble as well as utmost joy. I will also remember you and your family in my prayers, quiet times, and meditation.

I am taking a short trip to Jeju island for two days tomorrow. I will meet you all again on-line in year 2012.

Happy New Year Wish

your facebook friend, Jaechun