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A Recollection on the Dawning of APCTP
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A Recollection on the Dawning of APCTP


S .H .Kim(past president) B .H .Lee(current president) V .H .Nguyen(Inauguration member)

20th Anniversary of APCTP.

I was asked by the Editor-in-Chief of the Bulletin about my recollections of the dawning of the APCTP. I took it to be a request for unofficial history based on my personal recollections. I am sure that there are several articles in the magazine of the Korean Physical Society on APCTP. I emphasize again that this article is my unofficial personal recollection. There might be some wrong recollections on dates, but the flow of the story is certainly real and faithful.

Let me start my recollection on the dawning of APCTP. In the early days of 1994 I was consulted by Professor Y.M. Cho (Young Min Cho) of Seoul National University (hereafter called S.N.U.). According to him, Professor K.K. Phua (the editor of World Scientific Press), Professor Y. Yamaguchi (particle physicist and internationally known as the chairman of IUPAP) and Professor A. Arima (in addition to his fame in nuclear theory he served many important administrational positions such as President of the University of Tokyo, Minister of Education and Culture, etc.) initiated discussion on the establishment of a theoretical physics institute, similar to the ICTP (International Center for Theoretical Physics) in the Asia-Pacific region. Professor Y.M. Cho further suggested the possibility of having it located in Korea.

Professor Arima visiting S.N.U.

He was in the room next to my office in the physics department at S.N.U. at that time. I thought that it was a good idea. As a theoretician, Professor Cho was not an expert on practical matters. In order to propose something to the international community, we needed two actions: 1) Government consent and 2) Funding. Fortunately I had the connections in relation to both. Let me start with the government connection. To explain this connection, I need a small detour.

Y.M. Cho


Minister S.J.Kim

Ben Lee with M.K.Gaillard

In 1975 S.N.U. had obtained a loan of five million dollars from USAID (United States Agency for International Development). The condition of the loan was that the payback period was twenty years with an interest rate of 1%; it was practically a free donation. The expectation in those days was that it should be used to improve mathematics and physical science (physics, chemistry, life science etc.) at the College of Natural Science at S.N.U, which would move to a new Kwan Ak campus from the old campus in downtown Seoul. There were five advisors from U.S to help the implementation of the plan. The late Benjamin W. Lee came as the advisor in physics (there were four more advisors in mathematics, chemistry etc.). I was assigned as Ben Lee's counterpart. After the project planning was over, we asked the Korean Government for a continuation to the USAID project. The Government agreed and established a committee of Basic Science. Professor Shijoong Kim was the chemistry member and I was the physics member of this committee. Professor Kim became the Minister of Science and Technology later. When we brought up the idea of APCTP he helped by promising a building for APCTP. I thanked him on this occasion for his support once again.

Let me come to the next subject of 2) Funding. I was actually persuaded by Prof Y.M. Cho to join the project to realize an ICTP-like center in the Asia-Pacific region, especially somewhere in Korea. We needed to contact physicists in the Asia-Pacific region. Prof. Cho organized several conferences to attract physicists to Korea. The first meeting was held at Sokcho, a seaside town in the northeast near the 38th parallel, which divides North and South Korea. As I recall, Professor 't Hooft, a Nobel Prize winner, was one of the keynote speakers at the meeting (see photo) Several workshops and conferences followed.

Finally, we had the inaugural conference on June 4-10, 1996. There were so many distinguished physicists from all over the world. Just to name a few there were; C.N. Yang, John Ellis, Schriefer, Arima, Kobayashi, Laughlin, Wess and Smoot. We needed the funds to initiate these meetings.

The 1st meeting for APCTP at Sokcho.

Fortunately I was working at KOSEF (the Korean Science and Engineering Foundation) as the chairman of the science committee that decided funding for scientists. The late Mr. Chin Ho Park was the chief of the agency. (He passed away untimely at the age of 66) (see photo at the end)

Mr. Park came up with 5 million dollars for the meetings and other necessary preparations for starting APCTP. His decision in relation to this initial funding gave the green light to the APCTP program. Without this initial funding, APCTP may not have started. Even if it did, it may most likely have been located outside of Korea, maybe in Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam or Australia. I consider him the real initiator of APCTP. The Government of Korea didn't like his action, though.

From left to right, the second one is J.H.Park.

Our initial funding was audited by the Government for possible violation of Government Spending Rules, but they could not find anything wrong and/or ineffective management. J.H. Park carried on through all these difficulties. May he rest in peace in heaven without worldly worries. I have much more to say but leave it for another occasion if it comes.


Jewan Kim is the professor emeritus in Seoul National University. He has been a research professor at University of Illinois, visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University. He served Presidential Science Committee and awarded Science Award of Korean Science and Technology. He is currently working as Honorary Chairman of Association of Advancement of Scientific Culture.