Interest in engineering and physical sciences has decreased among people.
“After the financial crisis in late 1990s, people started to avoid majoring in engineering for reasons of stability. They preferred practical studies, such as medical sciences, in which they can earn sufficient amounts of money and avoid the threat of sudden lay-offs that might occur at companies,” said Professor Kim Jeong-ho (Electronic Engineering).
When medicine departments started to change into medical schools, many engineering and physical science graduates lined up for admittance.
According to an inspection of the admission trends conducted last year by National Assembly by Congressman Kim Young-jin, 166 graduates from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) entered schools of medicine. The number is equal to 7.73 percent of the school’s total graduates.
“Students digress from their own fields and apply for schools of medicine. There is no point for the government to contribute a great amount of money to KAIST to nurture future leaders in engineering,” said a KAIST student who wishes to remain anonymous.
However, since the Lee Myung Bak Administration announced in January that the government will increase financial support to revive the fields of engineering and physical sciences, there has been some progress so far.
On January 7, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) announced that it will designate ten universities as specialized institutes for resource development. Those universities include five national universities as well as five private universities. Designated universities are allowed to rearrange their curriculums to include more practical experiments, and they will be able to form new departments. Also, the government will contribute two billion won to schools to develop programs for engineering and physical sciences. Private businesses also will promote matching funds to support universities and nurture leaders in these fields by providing scholarships.
In addition, on February 3, Kang Man-soo, the Minister of MKE promised to provide up to five percent of the GDP to the field of engineering by 2012.
Other efforts to support engineers include those of Kunsan National University, which tries to support engineering students by providing advantages based on the local environment. “In order to become a university that is growing in conjunction with the Saemangum industrialization project, we are ready to operate the Research Institute of Saemangum Development, which will precede several industrial engineering projects, such as shipbuilding,” said Lee Min-soon, a staff member at the Office of University Relations and Development at Kunsan National University.
Young Engineers Honor Society (YEHS), a group of students majoring in engineering, regularly holds information seminars for high school students who want to major in the sciences. “Its purpose is to deliver correct information to students and attract their interests. Our ultimate goal is to nurture future leaders in the field of engineering,” said Kim Jong-Hoon, a staff member of YEHS.
“Developing the field of engineering is closely related to people’s happiness and the prosperity of our nation, since it improves the standard of life in the current situation that Korea is facing. Korea’s lack of natural resources and high populated has created a high external dependence in the economy. In this case, there are not many options that Korea can take, but to revive the field of engineering,” said Kim.