The shelves next to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the International Center have recently been filled. The books, which are both in Korean and in other languages, were donated by Doctor Kew-Ho Lee, a former KAIST student and now a researcher at the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT).
Could you briefly introduce yourself and what you do?
I graduated with an undergraduate’s degree in 1977 from KAIST and earned a doctor’s degree in 1987 also at KAIST. Now I am the Principle Research Scientist in the Green Chemistry Division at KRICT, working in the Laboratory for Functional Membranes. I am closely affiliated with KAIST because a lot of my family members have also graduated from KAIST. I visit the school frequently and I’ve already donated two hundred books to the school before, which was almost ten years ago.
What is the story behind your donation?
When I visited my youngest daughter who is a current student at the Graduate School of Culture Technology in KAIST, I went to the new Coffee Bean at the International Center, where I noticed that there were big empty shelves. Coincidentally, I was moving houses at that time from the Hanbit Apartment near KAIST to a different house. I had a lot of books in my home that nobody reads anymore, so I offered to donate them to the school to be placed in these shelves.
The genre of books range from Korean fiction to travel books and are written in different languages. Did you have a particular thought behind your choice of books to donate?
I wanted to donate books that would actually interest the KAIST students, especially the foreign students since I noticed their number increased from when I was a student at KAIST. Thus I picked books in foreign languages about the Korean culture hoping that they would guide the students to settling in Korea and introduce them to new opportunities in the country. I also wanted to donate books more towards fiction and literature. Since KAIST is extremely science-oriented, I feel that it is necessary to create an environment that encourages students to explore the humanities and cultural works.
The libraries on campus only have science-related books. Do you think that there should be a separate library that has books related to humanities and literature?
I think that the shelves at Coffee Bean should be filled up first. If the students use the facility often and it engenders a positive response, then maybe a new library could be built but I know that the school has a budget and must consider the financial costs.
Do you think that KAIST students read a lot? Did you read often when you were a student?
When I was in KAIST, I hardly had any time to read because I was too busy studying. However, I had a lot of books in my house because everyone in my family, including myself, is an avid reader. But I think the current KAIST students read a lot more than they did when I was in school. I feel like the book café at the Digital Science Library, which was not there before, shows this. They have many genres of books and magazines, which is favorable in my opinion.
Do you have anything you want to say to current KAIST students?
I have many things to say as I was a former student. To one day become the leaders of Korea and the world, studying hard in your major and being experts in your field is important. However, this is a basic requirement. You must broaden your horizons by reading many different books in areas you are not familiar with. You must be cultured, well-informed students who are aware of social issues and are knowledgeable in the humanities. Also, I would like for KAIST students to visit research institutes outside the school since many are near the campus, such as KRICT. I would like for these institutes and KAIST students to have a close connection.
Also, I re-visited the Coffee Bean with my daughter after the donation. I noticed that the shelves immediately next to the café are still empty even after my book donations. I hope that soon the shelves will be filled with books from other donors.