On September 19th, 2014, the KAIST Graduate School of Information Technology awarded Tae-kyung Yoo, CEO of Lumens, the ‘Alumnus of the Year’ award. Lumens is a Korean LED company that does business in various fields such as phosphorescent substances in LEDs for LED TVs, smartphone flashes, automobiles, and recently in LED lightings. Dr. Yoo received his master’s and Ph.D. from Department of Electrical Engineering in KAIST, started his LED company 2000, and dived into the phosphorescent substance business in 2009 with the introduction of their TV LED light sources. Starting with its total sales at about 60 billion KRW at the time, Lumens has constantly been growing to the point where, in 2014, its sales charted at around 500 billion KRW, putting it in one of the top 10 LED companies in the world. We were lucky enough to have an interview with Dr. Yoo who has been raising the name value of KAIST alumni through Lumens for this fall issue of EE Newsletter.
Q. Could you tell us about your experiences in KAIST as a student?
A. I graduated college in 1983 and started my years as a master’s candidate in KAIST on the Hongneung Campus. At the time, KAIST was the nation’s greatest graduate school, had the latest high-tech equipment funded by the government, had numerous renowned professors coming in from abroad, and had the nation’s vast resources at its disposal for the advancement of science and technology in Korea. Not only that, they offered the coveted benefit of military service exemption, leading to a very competitive application process against amazing intellectuals for me to get through. Back then, KAIST was built on the sheer amount of intellectuals, professors, national resources, and widespread support. The entire nation was suffering from poverty and everyone had a sense of duty to the country in making Korea a successful nation. Everyone burnt the midnight oil studying and focusing on research and development. The Hongneung campus only had the graduate school program, so the campus was very small, to the point where the security guards recognized students by face, and so security naturally was tight. It probably still is today, but the rows of gingko trees leading up to the campus entrance and how they turned yellow in the fall was a sight to behold.