For his exceptional record of achievement in engineering and management and for his service to his country, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award to Hichull Kim.
Chairman and CEO
BSME '59, PhD NE '67
On choosing engineering and Purdue
The Korean War ended in 1953, and it left the country completely destroyed. There were no school buildings and few qualified teachers. I was in high school at that time, and I decided to get my education in the United States. So
I left Korea in 1954 and spent my senior year in Monterey, California. During that year, I witnessed the dynamic economic growth of the U.S., especially in the form of automobile factories, so I decided to study mechanical engineering in college.
A friend from Korea who was already going to Purdue recommended I come there too. Until then I had never heard of Purdue! But I applied and got in. Even though it came about by accident, that was the most fortunate decision I ever made.
After four years of mechanical engineering, I went on to graduate school in industrial management (Krannert), which was just starting at that time. They were recruiting engineering students and offered me a fellowship so I could get a free education. My family was already in business, so I thought this would be another good opportunity. Once again, it was another fortunate time for me. After that, I thought I would return to Korea. But Korea had a revolution, so I stayed in the States a few more years. At that time nuclear engineering was a popular new interdisciplinary field, so I decided to study that for my PhD.
On coming to America
|For me, there were two major difficulties. The first was language-I missed a lot of homework because I did not understand that the teachers were giving us homework! The second was financial. My family was able to support me, but Korea had no dollars to send overseas-I was receiving only $65 a month, which just wasn't enough. So I had to work every summer and during the school year. I even worked as a dishwasher at the Union kitchen.
On memories from his Purdue years
My first year at Purdue I stayed at Harrison Court-a one-story, motel-like dormitory with eight rooms, one big living room, and no food. There was a great bunch of freshmen engineers from all over the country, and living with them was a great experience and memory. I still maintain contact with some of those guys after 40 years! I am really thankful that so many American friends took me in. They taught me about life in the States, helped me with homework, and took me to their homes during vacations.
Studying was my life. I had little or no social life. I went to a movie about once a week, and I attended church. That church helped keep me on course all the time I was at Purdue.
My last year at Purdue I met my wife, who was studying at Northwestern. I got my PhD degree, got married, and got my first job within one year-it was really a happy time.
On people who influenced him at Purdue
I had several professors whom I remember very clearly. In mechanical engineering there was J.B. Jones, an assistant head who knew how to teach by making students feel comfortable about learning. There was another excellent professor in ME named Allen Hall, who taught machine design. In industrial management was Dr. John Tse, who also had an engineering background. He opened my eyes to what the business world is really like. He is now retired and living in Lafayette, and we still communicate. My major professor in nuclear engineering was Owen Gailar. These were all personal advisers and excellent teachers who helped me get through eight years of Purdue education in three different fields. Another person I cannot forget is Mr. Art Tichenor, foreign students adviser, who tirelessly counseled so many foreign students on all sorts of issues.
On his father's influence
My father, I.D. Kim, is now retired. He had only a high school formal education, but he worked and worked all his life to build this organization [Byucksan Group] from zero and lay the groundwork for our current business. He taught me how to do business. My father's theory is that business is meant to have problems, and we are here to solve the problems. If there weren't problems to solve, then the company wouldn't need you-so don't complain about the problems!
On education's role in the world today
Current engineers should continue to study, because the world is changing, and if you cannot keep up with the changes, you cannot be competitive. In that respect, American companies have done very well. They have retrained their engineers. Here, In Korea, we don't do it as well. We are always catching up and cannot get ahead. If you don't keep up, you get left behind.
His view of the U.S. today
My long years at Purdue and in the States made me a very pro-American foreigner-not just sentimentally, but in real terms. The U.S. is the world's most influential country, and rightfully so, and I maintain the idea that in order for Korea to grow we must emulate the U.S. It's difficult to do, because the U.S. is a big and rich country, and Korea is the opposite. But at least in qualitative terms, we must look toward the U.S.
- Chairman, Byucksan Group, a leading business conglomerate in Korea with 16 subsidiary companies, 5,000 employees, 23 factories, 150 construction sites, and 300 global sales outlets. Total sales volume in 1995 was $1.8 billion (compared with $31 million when Dr. Kim joined the business in 1971). New areas of business include finance, computer service, distribution, multimedia, energy, environmental products and services, research and development.
- Named Honorary Citizen of Lafayette by Mayor James Riehle.
- Named Honorary Hoosier by Gov. Robert Orr.
- Vice Chairman, Byucksan Group. Core businesses include construction, construction materials, and agricultural machinery.
- 1979-81, 1985-90:
- President, Byucksan Corp. (subsidiary of Byucksan Group). Diversified firm's building materials product line to include insulation products, plastic pipe, raised-floor systems, and extruded cement siding panel. Increased sales and reduced costs through automation and relocation. In 1995, Byucksan Corp. had sales of $250 million.
- 1973-79, 1981-85:
- President and CEO, Tongyang Moolsan Co. Expanded production, set up overseas sales offices and new factories. Tongyang Moolsan has become a leading mechatronics company in Korea, producing tableware, rolled stainless sheets, agricultural machinery, and environmental products. It has played pivotal role in modernizing Korea's farm industry. By 1995, sales rose to $310 million and employment grew from 300 to 1,300.
- Executive Director, Tongyang Moolsan Co. Managed family company that manufactured stainless steel flatware and insecticide sprayers. Total sales volume: $31 million.
- Research coordinator in Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of Korea. Evaluated research proposals and helped formulate national science and technology policy.
- Assistant professor of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, University of Missouri-Rolla. Taught courses in thermodynamics, nuclear engineering laboratory and reactor physics. Set up new courses in reactor physics and shielding.
BSME '59, BSIM '65 Purdue; MSNE '63 MIT; PhD NE '67 Purdue