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Address delivered during FORUM III

by by Prof. Hwe-Ik Zhang
Seoul National University

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At the turn of a new millennium, it is legitimate to say that science plays a critical role in the history of human civilization. During the past few decades, we have witnessed unprecedented growth in material wealth and lifestyles through scientific and technological progress.

The information and technological revolution has been the driving force behind the emerging ‘universal civilization’ and this new age, in which computers can beat humans in chess games and humans can identify and predict their own biological destiny, has begun to define our modern existence.

Such recent progress of human civilization has been accompanied by serious issues concerning ecological health, social justice, and human dignity. The exponential growth in technology and manmade developments has by far surpassed our reasonable comprehension of its consequences. This discrepancy has, in turn, left us in a state of profound intellectual despair.

The human costs of technology are so dramatic that excessive consumerism and materialism have left people devoid of spiritual fulfilment and respect for other creatures. The stability of the ecosystem is so shaken that the whole life-support system is threatened.

As humanity moves toward the 21st century, we are left with no choice but to re-examine the benefits of industrial civilization and to search for alternatives to harmonize our materialistic pursuits with the finite carrying capacity of nature and the intricate interconnectedness of all creatures. Under these circumstances, it is imperative to seek a fundamental change in our paradigm for development.

Despite such adverse effects and limits of scientific progress, no alternatives deny the fact that science will still be the key determining factor in shaping our future. The only viable alternative at the moment dictates that the world of science should be restructured in such a way to produce a comprehensive picture of our universe, life and ourselves, and to seek a wisdom, never dreamed of in our precedent cultures, to live harmoniously in a single interconnected world of global life.

Today, the world's eminent scholars, policy makers, educators and journalists have gathered here to re-evaluate the scientific progress of our time and to seek the principles and guidelines for the new millennium. It is quite timely and monumental that UNESCO and ICSU have organized this World Conference on Science at this historic moment.

Since Korea was admitted to UNESCO in 1950, UNESCO has played a significant role in the initial stage of our industrialization. For instance, the UNESCO journal ‘Impact of Science on Society’ has been published in Korea and it has provided our citizens with a better understanding of science.

Korea continues its effort to participate in the leadership of UNESCO to deal with specific scientific issues. Recently, UNESCO adopted the ‘Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights’ to express its position on the issue of bioethics. The Korean government considers this action to be very proper and gives it our full support. The Korean government understands the crucial issues of science and tries to reset the goal of its science and technology (S&T) policies from the economy-driven development toward a more sustainable development. It would not be easy to make such a transition, but we will work hard to accept our accountability in an attempt to provide a solid basis for sound economic, social and cultural development.

Considering that the achievement of ‘sustainable development’ is a very complicated and difficult task which requires concerted effort on the part of all members of human society, I believe that individual efforts must be enhanced through building networks within and among groups of civil society, and governments, industry and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

On this special occasion, I would like to re-emphasize the need for promotion of international cooperation and sharing of the outputs of research and development (R&D) outputs produced by public investment. In particular, information and technology on such global issues as environmental pollution, resource depletion and human welfare should be exchanged worldwide, in order to facilitate joint efforts aimed at ensuring a more sustainable future. In so doing, the benefits of technological expertise and experience of developed countries should be shared with developing countries in a global context.

Korea's impressive progress in S&T and industrialization during the 1960s and 1970s can be accredited to the help from advanced economy as much as to the hard-working Koreans. Now, I assure you that the Republic of Korea is determined to devote its expertise and experience as a responsible member of the global community to achieving the common prosperity of humankind.

In this regard, I am proud to say that we are implementing various support programs to help developing countries in terms of S&T manpower training, information sharing and technology transfer.

Our government proposed at a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation for Development (OECD) Science Ministers' Meeting that Korea would host an International Symposium on Promoting International Exchange of the Results of Public R&D’. The symposium would provide an opportunity to share the opinions of the world's eminent scholars and find feasible ways of implementing them.

Before I wrap up my speech, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to UNESCO, ICSU and the Government of Hungary for their dedicated effort to host this meaningful Conference. I firmly believe that the Declaration and Agenda adopted at this meeting will be a milestone for future science and techonology. I sincerely hope that our commitment today will lay a solid foundation for ‘greening’ science and thus ensuring a more sustainable future for the global community in the new millennium.


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