I often got asked why I chose to do my PhD in Korea, not in some other countries more famous for their technological advances. So here’s the story.
My first encounter with Korea was in 2003 when I attended the annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Metrology Programme (APMP). APMP is the regional forum of national metrology institutes in the Asia Pacific region, and the institute where I work is a member of that organization. In the 2003 meeting of the APMP in Singapore, I saw a presentation by an expert from KRISS, the national metrology institute of South Korea. That was the first time I learn anything about Korea, and my first impression was that the South Korean metrology institute was quite an advance one, on par with the most advanced metrology institutes in Asia-Pacific region.
My second encounter was when I attended a three-week course in Korea about standardization, sponsored by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in 2004. The training program consists of classroom lectures, technical tours to industry, cultural experience and sight seeings (in approximately equal proportions). Naturally after spending three weeks in a country and exposed to its culture and nature, and eating the food, you’d grow a fondness of the country, right? To summarize, in three weeks I learnt that South Korea is quite an advanced country with interesting culture.
During the course I had a chance to visit KRISS, and I met again with the expert who made the presentation at the 2003 meeting. His name was Dr Chu-Shik Kang, and he was the head of the length metrology laboratory of KRISS, so he was my counterpart. He gave me a special tour of his lab.
Then in 2005, my institute got a visitor from KRISS, whose mission is to foster cooperation with national metrology institutes in developing countries. I was informed that KRISS had a special link with the University of Science and Technology (UST) in Korea, which enables people to get a postgraduate degree from the university by doing research work in KRISS.
The good thing about doing postgraduate study at UST is that students work mainly in the partnering research institute, doing research as well as routine work in the host institute. UST has this cooperation with several Korean research institutes. The host institutes provide stipend for the student, as if the student was an employee of the host institutes. They also pay the tuition fee to UST. The allowance is quite generous too.
I got further opportunity to work with Chu-Shik when the APMP organized an interlaboratory comparison activity for metrology institutes in developing countries. I was the coordinator of the comparison, and Chu-Shik was my mentor or coach. During the four-year program I met him several times. He was also appointed as a consultant when my institution had a major development program.
Sometime in 2006 I asked Chu-Shik about the possibility of doing PhD at KRISS/UST. Unfortunately at that time, he said that there was no research project in his department that could accommodate such undertaking, so I hold back my desire to get a PhD.
Anyway several years later, I asked him again about this idea. This time — I’m not sure whether an opportunity has been opened up in his department, or because he took pity on me — he answered that there is a possibility to do PhD in his department. So in 2014 I put in the application to UST, and was finally accepted. So here I am now, doing PhD in Daejeon, Korea, in the field of Science of Measurement.