Writes Kim Ji-soo of the Korea Times (courtesy of the Korea Times) –  Perhaps only someone of Professor Moon Chung-in’s stature can deliver a lecture entitled “Why I’ve Failed as a Professor.” On Tuesday, the 65-year-old political science professor at Yonsei University in Seoul and political brain during the Kim Dae-jung and the Roh Moo-hyun administrations shared his thoughts in his last class.
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“Looking back, I realize that I have no big project in which I put in four to five years of research and study,” Moon said.

He thinks he could have produced two projects on the developmental nation theory and on national security in the third world.

Moon, however, said that in his eyes he failed to select and focus; he did not say no to the many requests to write papers or give lectures, and consequently, much of his work was in response to such requests than on his own initiative. He cited that he may have stuck to the scholarly passion of his younger days rather than shift to working on inter-Koreans relations and the South Korea-United States alliance after he returned to Korea to Yonsei University in 1994 from United States. “It was in demand, it was easier and I became a generalist who moved away from my studies in my younger days,” Moon said.

Back in Seoul, Moon became politically active; he was the only civilian to partake in both the first inter-Korean summit between the late President Kim Dae-jung and the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000 and the summit between the late President Roh Moo-hyun and the late Kim Jong-il in 2007. Moon also served as chairman of the Presidential Committee on Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative and was deeply involved in the foreign affairs and security policies of the Roh administration. In his last lecture, Moon said the Roh administration also offered him the job of chief of National Intelligence Service. Moon turned it down.

When asked about inter-Korean relations and unification during the question and answer session, Moon said a systematic mechanism would work better than a policy created by a political administration. He criticized the current administration’s failure to define “unification,” when it promotes unification as a bonanza. He said policies such as the inter-Korean policies of the Kim Dae-jung (1998-2003) and Roh Moo-hyun (2003-2008) administrations should not be dismissed; rather, the kernels of truths in such policies should be sought by the current and future administrations.

“I think as a professor, one has three roles — to research, to educate and to serve,” Moon said. “The best allocation of energy among the three roles is 50, 40 and 10 percent. But in my case, I spent about 30 percent on research, 20 on educating and 40 on service,” he said.

Moon said his activeness in politics was never for fame. “We should worry about our reputation but never pursue fame,” he said.

It was somewhat unusual to hear an otherwise confident professor admit perceived shortfalls of his academic career. But after a while, it became clear that such an admission might be his way of posing questions about issues that he wanted his students to ponder. “I do not know what it is that I know and how deeply I know it,” he said.

Moon will continue to teach as an honorary special professor for five years more at Yonsei University.