Farewell, Professor Won!
Farewell, Professor Won!
  • Oh Nam-seok
  • 승인 2007.07.26 10:53
  • 댓글 0
이 기사를 공유합니다

   A total of thirteen professors retired at the end of last semester. A ceremony was held at Yeungnam University to farewell them at the end of August. Professor Won Chul from the Department of History was one of the professors at the ceremony who was about to leave. Before his time at Yeungnam University, Professor Won majored in history at Seoul National University and then worked for a newspaper company. After three years and a half at the Chosun Ilbo, he returned to university and studied more Western history. The Yeungnam Observer (YNO) conducted an e-mail interview with him in order to find out more about his life story. The following interview is based on that e-mail.

YNO: Hello, Sir. Could you please tell us first how you became a Yeungnam University (YU) professor, and then about the main differences you see between your past and the present?
Professor Won: Before becoming a professor at YU, I was a professor at Keimyung University. I accepted the offer of a contract here because of [YU's] liberal atmosphere. I think a big difference between when I first started working here, and these days is the current low rate of graduates' employment. This situation worries me.

YNO: Is there anything you regret about leaving YU at this time?
Professor Won: I wanted to translate and edit the diplomatic documents of the late Joseon Dynasty. Professor Lee Dong-soon, Director of the Institute of Korean Cultural Studies, who was keen on my thesis, had agreed to oversee a joint project with Professors Lee Tae-jin, Park Ji-hyang, and Ahn Byeong-jik from Seoul National University, but this project has been cancelled so I do regret that.

YNO: Why did you choose history as your major subject?
Professor Won: I was interested in geography at high-school, but my brothers and sister who were majoring in law and English recommended history. I talked a lot with them before I made up my mind and then made a decision.

YNO: We heard that you have studied Nazism in depth. What sparked your interest in it?
Professor Won: When I was an assistant under Prof. Yang Byeong-woo, I received an American history magazine which dealt with Nazism. I started to read more and wrote a thesis for my doctorate degree about the social basis of Nazism but I have more interest in the diplomatic policies of Germany and the Second World War. My master's thesis was about German diplomacy during the Moroccan crisis. At that time, I examined English, French, and United States diplomatic documents. Due to my being able to access all that material, I read two papers related to the Ulsa Protectorate Treaty in 2005, which was 100 years after the treaty was signed. They were published in a newspaper and the new information upset the established theories about that treaty. Furthermore, I studied not only Nazism but also imperialism, fascism, and the Second World War.

YNO: Your first job was a newspaper reporter, wasn't it? How did you get that job?
Professor Won: After graduating from my university, I applied for a job as a teacher at Ewha Girls' Middle School and for jobs at several newspaper companies. At that time most graduates could get a teacher's license. In the end, I decided to work for the Chosun Daily Newspaper.
  You know, all groups have an 'ethos' and reporters are no different. When we were on night duty, I often dropped by my favorite restaurant for some hangover soup. I remember it was good, and I still enjoy that soup; but I don't like chicken anymore, because of Kim Dae-jung, the former editor-in-chief, who said, "I gained weight and my hair fell out suddenly. I think this was because of eating chicken and centipedes in my school days." After I heard that, I started to avoid eating chicken.

YNO: You changed your career from reporting to teaching. Why did you change your job?
Professor Won: Everyone who works for a newspaper company knows that their job may not last long until retirement. Reporters worry about premature aging due to their profession. Most reporters who have worked for ten years can't maintain that pace of work and a good quality of life; so I decided to look for another job. I ended up lecturing at Sogang University and Ewha Woman's University.

YNO: The Chinese 'Northeast Asia Project' is more serious an issue than before. What do you think of all that?
Professor Won: Koreans cannot help worrying about the problem. We see that the Soviet Union and East Germany both managed to avoid a national crisis when their authority collapsed. This was possible because there was a silent and evincive agreement among powerful countries, but we can't be sure that South Korea will be able to deal with the power vacuum when North Korea loses its standing in international society. A few weeks ago, a reporter announced the possibility of a New Katsura-Taft Secret Agreement between the USA and China. I think we shouldn't repeat the same mistake as that which occurred 100 years ago.

YNO: Can you tell me about your plans for the future?
Professor Won: Historical research in the period from the Russo-Japanese War up to the Japanese annexation of Korea is almost a vacuum. It is being checked by scholars who participated in the International Science Council for the 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War.
  A few months ago, the Chosun Daily Newspaper published on the national background of the Japanese annexation of Korea. Professor Choi Mun-hyeong, the famous elder scholar, claimed that it had not been researched properly in Korea. I hope to study the domestic background of the Japanese annexation of Korea and the Korean decline along with contemporary Western history.

YNO: Finally, do you have any advice for YU students?
Professor Won: What I want to say is this: "Prevention is better than cure." These words can be applied not only to a country but also to students here and now in this information age - university days are too short to pursue social activities - use your time wisely and don't waste it. And please be a good friend of the library.

Although we won't see Professor Won in YU classrooms anymore, we hope to continue to read his name often in the newspapers.

삭제한 댓글은 다시 복구할 수 없습니다.
그래도 삭제하시겠습니까?
댓글 0
계정을 선택하시면 로그인·계정인증을 통해
댓글을 남기실 수 있습니다.