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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Herald on Sept.6)

All News 07:17 September 06, 2016

Science foundation
AmorePacific CEO commits to basic research

Suh Kyung-bae, chairman of AmorePacific Group, has committed to donate 300 billion won (US$268 million) of his personal wealth to a foundation he has established to promote basic research in life sciences.

The Suh Kyung-bae Science Foundation, which was established in July, plans to select three to five Korean scientists each year and provide each of them with a maximum of 2.5 billion won over a period of up to five years.

In a news conference held on Thursday, Suh said the foundation would encourage talented young scientists to venture into untrodden areas in life sciences and contribute to enriching people's lives with their groundbreaking discoveries.

He said he would sell part of his stake in AmorePacific Corp. to finance the operation of the foundation. He added he would increase his donation to 1 trillion won to ensure that the foundation could run for up to a century.

Suh holds a 51.34 percent stake in the cosmetics company, which is valued at over 8 trillion won. The stockholdings make him Korea's second richest man after Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

Suh deserves praise as he plans to use part of his personal wealth to foster basic research, an area where Korea is weak compared with other advanced countries.

The Korean government, not to mention private companies, has thus far tended to focus its support on applied research, which is aimed at developing technologies of immediate commercial value.

As a result, not enough support has been provided to basic research, which is geared toward advancing fundamental knowledge about the world and creating new ideas and theories.

This is one reason Korea has thus far failed to produce a single Nobel Prize winner in scientific fields.

Suh has decided to support basic research as the Korean government's funding for the area is hardly sufficient. He plans to provide long-term support to scientists to enable them to make sustained efforts over several years.

Suh said in the news conference that support for the beneficiaries could be extended beyond the initial period of five years if they displayed an outstanding performance.

Suh's foundation is expected to play a significant role in revitalizing basic research in Korea as it takes a long-term approach in providing support to scientists.

The foundation's push for basic research comes at a time when the nation needs to make a shift in its research and development strategy.

Korea has thus far made great strides by tapping into advanced scientific technologies developed by foreign countries. But this fast follower strategy has run its course as Korea has reached a point where it should develop new technologies on its own.

To become a first mover, Korea needs to revitalize efforts at basic research. It should encourage young scientists to venture off the beaten path to generate new ideas and knowledge.

Suh has set a good example of a successful entrepreneur returning his wealth to society. He said the science foundation represented his way of expressing thanks to people who helped his company thrive.

Suh's foundation should inspire other entrepreneurs to follow suit. They are strongly encouraged to set up foundations to invigorate basic research in areas other than life sciences.

Suh has expressed his hopes that some of the Korean scientists supported by his foundation will win Nobel Prizes. We hope his wishes come true.

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