Contributed to the technological development of semiconductors and digital equipment via path-finding vision and research
Established effective industry-academy cooperation be creating a research culture focusing on problem-solving and fostering engineers
Honorary Professor of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) (1942~)
- Academic background
Dept. of Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering, Seoul National University
M.S. at the Dept. of Electrical Engineering, Columbia University, USA
Ph.D. at the Dept. of Electrical Engineering, Columbia University, USA
- Professional career
1970 ~ 1975
Fairchild R&D Lab., Member of Technical Staff
1975 ~ 2008
Professor of the Dept. of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, KAIST
1995 ~ 1997
Vice President of the KAIST
Order of Civil Merit, Peony Medal
godfather of the semiconductor industry who led the technological development by problem-solving research and education
Professor Choong Ki Kim is the godfather of the Korean semiconductor who established research into state-of-the-art semiconductors in Korea and raised the 1st and the 2nd generation leaders who led the semiconductor industry’s technological development.
Born in Seoul in 1942, he spent his boyhood in an environment full of the spirit of an engineer focusing on problem-solving. This was the influence of his father who graduated from Gyeong Seong Industrial High School and was an engineer in fiber at Gyeong Seong Textile. However, after graduating from the Dept. of Electrical Engineering of Seoul National University and until he received his Ph.D. degree with research on semiconductor theory at the Dept. of Electronic Engineering of Columbia University in the USA, he had been an academic and typical exemplar student. The research experiences at his first job at the Fairchild reminded him of his engineering spirit that was familiar to him during his boyhood.
He joined Fairchild, one of the best semiconductor companies in the USA, in 1970. It was just after the development of the core semiconductor device, charge-coupled device (CCD). CCD is a part to change light into an electric signal. Using this, we can realize light information as an image on a display. Joining the company, he participated in the research of CCD, the state-of-the-art technology that time. And, based on the basic research on CCD and the technology of CCD image recognition devices, he accomplished the development of a 500 pixel CCD linear image recognition device for the first time in the world in 1973. The technology was commercialized. He was recognized for his specialty among his coworkers, being called “the professor of CCD”. Also, he experienced the engineer’s attitude by which they focus on actual problems always and the communication techniques by which they freely speak their opinions and discuss things together.
An educator who fostered 1st and 2nd generation leaders of the semiconductor industry equipped with both theoretical knowledge and practical technologies
In 1975, he stopped his successful research career at Fairchild and returned to Korea to become the professor of the newly established Korea Advanced Institutes of Science (later, changed into the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) at the Dept. of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. In the backdrop of this decision was his hope to contribute to the development of the Korean semiconductor industry other than personal reasons. In the early 1970s, the Korean government recognized the importance of the semiconductor industry and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology performed research on the manufacture of LEDs, the laminating structure of silicone, and the manufacture of ICs. However, there wasn’t any systematic research or education on semiconductors. He installed semiconductor IC manufacturing equipment for three years at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science. This enabled Korea to have state-of-the-art semiconductor research and education with both practice and theory balanced.
Throughout the 1980s, his research lab became the de facto center for Korean semiconductor research and many talented students gathered there. First, people shared the idea that the semiconductor was the core of the most up-to-date electronics industry. Second, his lab was nearly the only university organization equipped with facilities to accommodate the government and corporate support for semiconductor research. Third, above all these, there were his expertise and his talented students’ eagerness, accomplishing great research performances. For example, domestic graduate students wrote excellent papers to be published in globally renowned academic journals. His students joined major Korean semiconductor companies and contributed to the development of the Korean semiconductor industry to become a major player in the world.
In the 1990s, his lab began a new challenge to diversify research topics, especially preparing for the future. This was because there were enough research made in corporate institutes as per the problems faced in industrial practice. For example, his lab domesticated the infrared video camera for national defense by developing a cooling method infrared video image recognition device. Also, at that time, the students who began the study of new topics such as TFTs or LCDs under his guidance have played a core role in Korean companies becoming the best in the world in the area of displays.
Pioneer of developing core semiconductor devices for digital electronic appliances and video equipment
In the history of the Korean semiconductor, professor Kim is the person who effectively performed the right jobs at the right time as a researcher and educator. He returned to his home country with the most up-to-date research career at a time when there were no experts to speak of, even though the semiconductor industry’s importance was recognized. His pupils, equipped with problem-solving capabilities, became leaders of a company in the practical technology development from the beginning of the semiconductor industry. Since 1975 to 2010, he taught 72 masters and 38 doctors all of whom took a core role in the Korean semiconductor industry in its growth. The government appreciated his meritorious contributions and awarded him the Order of Civil Merit, Peony Medal in 1997.
Considering the significance of memory semiconductors and digital appliances using semiconductor devices as core parts of the Korean economy, we can easily understand how great his role was, as he performed the essential research and fostered human resources during the initial stages of the Korean semiconductor industry. This is why they call him the godfather of the Korean semiconductor.