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Oral-History:Jung Uk Seo

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About Jung Uk Seo

Born in 1934, Jung Uk Seo studied power engineering at Seoul National University, becoming an instructor of communications and electronics at the Korea Air Force Academy.Seo began studies at Texas A & M University in 1960, completing a master's degree and a doctorate with focus in electromagnetic field theory.  Returning to Korea in 1969, Seo joined the new Agency for Defense Development.  After thirteen years with this agency, Seo taught as a  Seoul National University professor before accepting an appointment as the government's Minister of Communication during its digital switching system development project. At the Korean Telecommunications Agency, Seo managed Time Division Exchange and emphasized quality assurance and quality management.  In the early 1990s Seo served a two year appointment as a Vice Minister of Science and Technology, followed by a government appointment as president of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology.  In 1993, Seo began work on commercialization of Code Division Multiple Access.

About the Interview

JUNG UK SEO: An Interview Conducted by Andrew Goldstein, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, 27 August 1996

Interview #317 for the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.


Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.


It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
JUNG UK SEO, an oral history conducted in 1996 by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


Interview

INTERVIEW: Jung Uk Seo
INTERVIEWER: Andrew Goldstein
DATE: 27 August 1996
PLACE: Seoul, South Korea


Education

Goldstein:
I'm with Dr. Seo at his office at Korea Mobile Telecomm on August 27th in Seoul. Dr. Seo, thank you for joining me.


Seo:
You're welcome.


Goldstein:
Let's begin with the start of your career, with your education.


Seo:
Yes, right. Well, I was born in 1934. Seoul is my home town. I started my elementary education in 1941 and Korea was liberated from Japan in 1945, the same time that World War II is over. So I started my middle school education, which is 13th grade of United States in 1948. But the Korea War broke out in 1950. That time I was a high school boy, so I took refuge down to [inaudible word] Korea at that time, our capitol was moved to Puson. I entered Seoul National University in 1953. That is the year we had a truce with North Korea. So I finished my college education in the areas of double-e, which electrical engineering, but that time we have two different courses in engineering college, one for the communication engineering, the other one is a power engineering. But I entered the power engineering department, even though I liked the communication engineering better. But I finished my four years curriculum, then I joined the Korea Air Force Academy as a instructor in communications and electronics.


Goldstein:
Alright. I'm sorry, let me back up a second. You said that you entered the power engineering program even though your interests were in communication?


Seo:
Right. Because I took both actually, because I felt you know even though I pursue the carrier in telecommunications or computer, etc., but I still like to have a energy or power background. Still I think I made a good decision. So I served two and a half years in Air Force Academy, so 1960 I went to Texas A&M to search advanced degree. But also I think I made a good decision at that time because I restart my undergraduate course at Texas A&M. I found many things I had missed when I got to Texas A&M, because the curriculum of a state university so impressed me much, so I volunteered okay, not to pursue the Master's degree right away, but instead  starting with undergraduate. That's why I finished my Master's degree faster than any other people, because some courses I took as undergraduate, that also reflect on the graduate program. So I finished my Master's degree in 1963 and came back to Korea and married and went back to A&M again. Because when I was finishing my Master's degree, I got two scholarships from United States Air Force and the Texas A&M. But I had a good, you know, the professors which I met when I got to Texas A&M the first time in 1960, that time frame. So I majored in the field of electromagnetic field theory, particularly nonlinear and antenna theory area. But that is my academics and all the trap, but as a person I am kind of the pioneering young boy even during wartime, ham radio. My code sign now is HL1-Bravo-X-Ray. At that time it was of course HM1-Bravo-X-Ray. Fortunately, the chairman of my degree program was also on the ham radio. His name is Dr. John P. German.


Goldstein:
German?


Seo:
Yeah, right.


Career

Seo:

So I finished my doctorate, you know, doctorate degree. In '69 I came back to my country, as you understand the situation at that time frame Korea was really under hardship in many ways: the threat from North Korea, they always had the militant threat to us. I still remember, at that time I was in the States, but North Korean and the militant people came to South Korea, even invaded our White House, which is our [inaudible word] at the time. So I decided to pursue the military defense electronics area. That is the way I can take two birds with one stone, because as you see most of the cases, defense electronics or military research and development is most update one, more than frontier technology. So I like to be that way, also I like to serve my country, because my country gave me such opportunity to get abroad, to get such a good education, and I have to serve my country, because I owe something. So I started my career, I was the charter member of the Agency for Defense Development, so I was in charge of electronics and the communications.


Goldstein:
This means that you were there when the Agency for Defense Development was formed.


Seo:
I was a Section Chief at that time. I was the youngest engineer in that group, but I pioneered that area, so I served thirteen years. I got out of the Agency for Defense Development as a president, starting the most youngest engineer became a president. First a civilian background, [inaudible word] to that time in most case a military background people managed that kind of research agency, but I was the first one from civilian background. The reason I am saying, because most of the cases the organization is managed by the military academy graduate people, but I'm not a military academy graduate.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
I'm from National, and Texas A&M. So after thirteen years of service, I returned to my alma mater, Seoul National University, to teach. So I taught one year as a professor of the electromagnetic field theory.


Seo:

But I got an invitation from the other side of the government, which is a Minister of Communication at that time. They had a big project to develop digital switching system development. At that time it was an almost impossible job to perform, because, as you know, the infrastructure of the Korean electronics at that time wasn't strong enough. But I took that job.


Goldstein:
Can you remind me what year that is?


Seo:
Yes, in 1984.


Goldstein:
1984, okay.


Seo:
Right. So I came back to my country in 1969 after my Ph.D., I worked for thirteen years for Agency for Defense Development. The president's job of the Agency for Defense Development was a very enormous job, because they [inaudible phrase] to support. I have support army, navy, air force, marine corps in support of the R&D, so a tri-service. So the president of the agency is ranking like a vice ministry or ministry level of the government hierarchy.


Goldstein:
I have more questions about that stage of your career. I don't know, maybe we'll go back?


Seo:
Sure, sure. Okay. Then I joined the Korean Telecommunications Agency under the authority. KTA means a Korean telecommunications authority, just like the Japanese A&TT. So I was a vice president, a senior executive vice president, but in charge of the, I was in charge of the both divisions digital switching system development and quality assurance system. Because the experience that I obtained from the military R&D area, I was so motivated to transplant such a concept into the civilian industry. At that time Korea didn't have much of the quality assurance background. Most of the Korean [inaudible word] wasn't sure when we sell to customer, so I just transplant very strong the concept, the quality assurance and the quality management. So I manage this TDX, TDX for Time Division Exchange.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
Then there's a digital switching system.


Goldstein:
I was just speaking with Professor Duck-Jin Kim, who was involved in the development of the TDX.


Seo:
Okay. Yeah. I was a total program manager, so he was one of the professors that helped me. I gave my job to the electronics and to the communications research, so I was a total program manager. So under my authority, university, research institute, manufacturing industry, and also operators of that. So that was a really thrilling experience, because I have utilized everything what I got from the experience of the ADD, Agency for Defense Development. So successfully done. At that time nobody you know believed that this could be done. But I was so fortunate, I had such young dedicated engineers. We have some engineers, but they are all trained how to operate, not how they develop, so I approached it in some sense a very radical way. I take all the old experience mainly dedicated in how to operate, I don't need such people; I rather need young, fresh brains, so I just recruited many just out of the school, young, you know, engineers.



Okay, right, uh-huh. So that I've done. Then I worked seven years for career at telecommunications authority, then I was nominated by the President of the Republic of Korea as a Vice Minister of Science and Technology in 1990. So the two years. Then after my Vice Minister job, the government assigned me to KIST as the president of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology.


Goldstein:
Oh, hadn't KIST been split up at that point into ETRI and its component parts?


Seo:
No, no, no. KIST is one of the largest universities. That's not like ETRI. ETRI just dedicated only to telecommunications. This is a general, basic research and applied science and other environment, you taking up everything. Even agency [inaudible phrase] the same way. It's starting with everything, and rifle, gun, missile, and electronic warfare and telecommunications, power plant. That has every single of the items which is needed by soldiers need in that field. KIST is the same way. ETRI just is dedicated only to electronics and telecommunication. So then I had a second chance to go back to the university to teach after nice service, two years of service, in KIST. Then I had another call from the Minister of Communication that okay, we are in trouble. We started CDMA, which is a Code Division Multiple Access type of deal for cellular service, but we goofed. I'm in trouble. So like you helped me, helped us when we started to modernize the switching system, take care of the problem and start again. So I took that job in 1993, September. So coming September, a week later, it will be four or three years. So, also luckily I successfully managed this project, so it's now commercialized. We started our commercialization of the CDMA, this cellular service, really as a commercial service for the first time in the history. This is a civilian chronology from originally military chronology. But the Qualcomm company in San Diego, California, they commercialized as a basic idea, but we borrowed it to really make a commercial system, so we have now two hundred thousand subscribers now. So I will let you try the system later on. So this is a very quick brief up to now. But officially the IEEE, I was the student member when I was at Texas A&M. I am also the member of Etta Kappa Nu. It's a honor for an EE. So since then I have been member of the IEEE how many years, starting with 1960, that means what, thirty-seven years. I became a student member, then member, senior member, and actively. So when I was nominated as a fellow of the IEEE, there are several gentlemen who really helped me out, because at that time in Korea no single IEEE fellow.


Goldstein:
Really.


Seo:
Other Koreans who was, who has been IEEE member was all in United States based. There are many professors. But there is nobody in Korea. But that's why I was so thrilled. But your you know the Defense Secretary William Perry, he is also one of the gentlemen. He nominated me.


Goldstein:
Really?


Seo:
Yes. So because when I worked for the Agency for Defense Development, he was undersecretary for DOD R&E, you know, the defense engineering and research for DOD at the time. So I had also a good friend from the U.S. Army, Mr. Clyde D. Harding . I think he was the assistant secretary for R&D for the U.S. Army I think. He is also a fellow of the IEEE.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
So I had a good, really, relationship with the United States in the IEEE, you know, the community. So when I taught Seoul National University, Korea University, and Tuan University, so I've been keeping giving lectures all the time also. This regular one, also irregularly I also give some lectures to the Defense War College or Army War College, stuff like that.


Goldstein:
Well, you brought up a lot of subjects that are interesting to discuss. I'm interested in particular in your experience working for ADD and this process of transferring military developments to the civilian use.


Seo:
Right.


Goldstein:
Can we begin by talking about the sort of research you were doing for the military?


Seo:
Yes.


Goldstein:
And then the details of how that technology is brought over to civilian use.


Seo:
Right. When I was going to school in Texas A&M, as I mentioned earlier the professors, you know Dr. German, he was a army officer during World War II. He was a radar officer. He got specialized training from MIT. At that time radar was a top secret weapon.


Goldstein:
The Rad Lab that they had.


Seo:
Right. So that is the research lab, right? Then he was in the Burma front line, so he told me a lot of things about the military. When he got all the equipment through the air dropp, when he opened the boxes, everything is broken.


Goldstein:
Yeah.


Seo:
So he told me, okay, in military application of the technology or military research and development, even packaging is also important factor. So you have to have a built-in test equipment also built in reliability. Here is emphasizing the Ram-D concept: reliability, availability, maintainability, and also durability. And also I played with military communication equipment when I was a young child, because right after World War II I was a graduate of the elementary school, but you know, you can imagine after World War II I had played with the Japanese, you know, the military communication device, so I was really opened my eyes when I saw first time USA, that is U.S. Army's, equipment. I still remember, you know, the SCR-536 and the BC-611. That was a handy talkie developed by Garvin Manufacturing Company, the mother company of the Motorola of today. Mr. Garvin was the founder of that company. I played with it. But and also I played with many things, like SCR-693, that's a radio transmitter type of, HF radio. So luckily I just had a fully aware of the military hardware, how it was built and how to maintain, because at that time my English power is so low I couldn't read everything, but because of the circuit diagram and some pictures I can make sense just vaguely out of it. I wasn't sure what I was doing, but as fun, as a young child..


Goldstein:
Well, how did you as a young boy, as a civilian, how did you have access to the equipment?


Seo:
Okay. At that time middle of Seoul we call there is some black market, you know, area. If you go there you can find everything, starting with the military batteries and tubes. Some transistors came out to the market. I was more rather more fortunate than American kids, because over there unless you go to big military surplus yard, you can't find military gears unless you see some movies. But here, it's the front line of the you know United States Army or Navy, Air Force after World War II. We didn't have bombing like the Japanese islands, but still we were under the Occupation of Japan, we were influenced by the military in and out. So I was very fortunate to have access with really the top class technology in telecommunication area.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
I did not play with the A-bomb, but I played with the top class, you know, the equipment leaked through the military black market or surplus. At that time Korea didn't even have a battery company, I mean a battery manufacturer. Most of the batteries we couldn't use, just military, you know, khaki-colored BA-30 was this flashlight, now the D cell you know. And the BA-40 that goes to 1.5 volts for the [inaudible word] power supply, 90 volt for the [inaudible word] power supply, because we have two kind of [inaudible word] for the tube circuit.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
So in my house that's, and I appreciate my parents, because I am not really son of Mr. Rockefeller, but it was good enough to buy or enjoy this kind of stuff. But the Korean War really gave me a lot of disaster, because I lost all of my toys. Anyway, I was [inaudible phrase] well known to our townspeople full of junk, military junk, but they are all precious treasure as a toy for myself. So I knew about the top class, world class telecommunications devices without you know the trouble.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
And during the Korean War I took refuge down to Puson, like I said before. They are still getting a lot of military surplus and the black market stuff I just enjoyed again there. So even though I was a very young age, just like high school boy, but my intellect was of the electrical communication is concerned I sometimes even way ahead of any other kids. So I got in the university, you know, the Seoul National. So like I mentioned, my major activity, I spent most of my time in the communication area. So I was a charter member of the Korea Amateur Radio League in 1955. Up until that time, everything was undercover; means, illegal operation of the ham radios, you know. But we got together with my classmates, okay, and the government opened the ham radio to individually, but as you are well aware, the political situation at that time if you have a shortwave radio you have to report it to the Police Station at that time. You know what I am saying.


Goldstein:
You have to register it.


Seo:
Register. Because if you have a shortwave and they suspect you, maybe you can receive some signals from North Korea or something. You know that. But I was fortunate. Through the family background of some other Seoul National students, I was privileged to have almost a semi-ham radio operation. In Puson I got the permission. I got the license from the government. But they gave us a license for the ham radios, but they did not allow us to have stations. That was a really big problem. So we just did a lot of campaign or lobbying against the government. In the meantime I played with every kind of the electronic hardware devices, like the mega-transmitter and the model, [inaudible word] modify the army's radio, like that. With such a good background, I was selected by the professors in Texas A&M, because in most of the cases students from the Oriental area, they are very good at solving mathematic problems but they are not good at how to play with all the experimental hardware, but I was good at both. That's why I was getting very easily the scholarship. Until I meet Dr. German, I didn't know he was a ham radio operator, but later on, you know, Jung, why I chose you as my student, through your laboratory courses you did a good job so I need you; so are you going to stay with me so that I can give you my scholarship due to my students, then you can finish your Master's and Ph.D. Because my hobby really helped me a lot in professional work. So amateur is a hobby, right? Hobby. But this background strengthening my professional career. So I made my hobby and the job constantly well-tuned, correlated to the job. So even now I sometimes I play with the soldering irons and I make something like that. I still remember the Heathkit. You remember the Heathkit?


Goldstein:
Heathkit, sure.


Seo:
Yeah. I'm very sad these days it's gone, that company. But when I was going to school in Texas, I spent a good portion of money, income, to buy Heathkit sets. I can build receivers, transmitters, you know? Even color televisions.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
I got rid of it just a few years ago. Up until a few years ago I used to have a Heathkit at home, my hand wired the 43 inch color television. I treasured it. Of course the picture wasn't good like these days, but I built it 1959. I couldn't get rid of it, because I was affected so much by that particular set, because I built it, and also the first color set in Korea.


Goldstein:
Right, right, but there was no color broadcast until 1980.


Seo:
That's right, that's right. So I brought it back to Korea. With color set I saw nothing but monochrome. But there is one chance, and the U.S. forces in Korea, AFKN, they transmit color, two hours a day. That was the only time I watched some program like that locally here. And also I taught at Seoul National University the electromagnetic filtering course, and also, okay, and I also was the president of the Korea Institute of Telemetrics and Electronics, KITE.


Goldstein:
Right. They are having their 50th anniversary.


Seo:
Right. So I was president. So normally in Korean custom school professors almost never had a chance to become a president, but I was exception. When I was becoming president of the KITE in KoreaI was the vice president of the Korea Telecommunication Authority. So then also I also was the general chairman of the TenCon


Goldstein:
I don't know what that is.


Seo:
Region 10.


Goldstein:
Oh, Region 10 in the IEEE.


Seo:
Region 10 IEEE is a kind of world conference, so I was the general chairman of the particular


Goldstein:
Alright. What I was, I wanted to see if we could identify some of the projects that you were working at ADD.


Seo:
My first project was a handy-talkie. It's the first in history in Korea using phaselock, glue, PLL


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
You know the frequency stability. The first time in transistorized work, for a military hand talkie. The first time really militarily organized. I have utilized applicable every single military spec of United States: military standard, I had almost impossible testing evaluation, go down below minus 40 degrees, go up to 75 degrees Celsius, they can shake and drop it in water. So at that time I was treated like a crazy man, because nobody saw that kind of stuff like that. But I really pioneered that handset. This is the reliability of the military gears. Then I developed field telephone set, and also Manpek radio. Manpek radio was kind of a joint venture type of the United States and Korea got together so we developed and produced, and also delta modulation, multiplex stuff. At that time Korean Army normally adopt U.S. Army's standard, but I made a real one step farther; I rather took the standard of the NATO. I had a little friction with a U.S. Army friend, but I convinced him, okay, you guys going there, why shouldn't I go one step farther? So, okay, you are right. So I gave my information back to the United States Army, because I owe them normally so much information. So I have to give them back some which I owe from them. So that [inaudible word] you know patent, and also I developed telephone linking system. That means, through the radio you cannot transmit 20 hertz linking signal, so you have to convert it with a different frequency. So that's also I had as a patent. And also teletypewriter. I cannot use U.S. Army's because we are using a different language, so you have the software conversion. That's a lot of fun, you know, so I developed the field artillery compass or field artillery type of what you call, computer. You can feed in temperature, air pressure, and the range, direction, then you can find the numbers up until we have such a thing they use in big [inaudible word] that's very convenient. So I developed such a field army's calculator, portable calculator.


Goldstein:
How were these projects decided on? Who decided what projects should get developed and ?


Seo:
Okay. I am an engineer, I am not really MBA, but I knew how to develop different projects.


Goldstein:
MBA?


Seo:
The Master of the Business Administration.


Goldstein:
Oh, MBA, I see, yeah.


Seo:
Because you have to sell your idea to your army. Your army, your navy, your air force, your customer. You have to convince them first, so you have to impress them, so that I had to write a very beautiful proposal. Before that, I have to find out their needs. When I came back to Korea in 1969, I saw, so miserable feeling I have, because most of the radios are not talking or juve type. U.S. Army already abandoned it. Only Korean Army use it, no support from the United States, no parts, no technology. So they have a radio, but it doesn't talk! So if we have a war tomorrow, we're surely going to lose our war. So I told military general, , writing a letter, deliver some speeches, I mobilized all the communication experts. I sometimes made slides. In slides I showed them most updated use of army's equipment and such. You guys have many tanks, many artillery, many firepower, but without command and control how can you fight? I give talks, particularly to the infantry people. Okay, you guys are full of firearms, you have so many soldiers. Without command and control and communication and information, how can you fight? I threatened them really. And you have to preserve some of your money in the communication R&D. So that kind of thing, information like that. Finally I got the budget from the government. And also, the gentleman I mentioned, William Perry, and also Clyde D. Harding, he helped me a lot. When he was visiting Korea, he dropped in my laboratory, he paid a lot of interest. He told our defense top management, "I think Dr. Seo is right. He is really concerned about your fighting war capability. You have to modernize your command and control capability." Then I brought the concept of electronic warfare Of course electronic warfare really is not going to physical destruction, but that helps you protect. In protecting your communication channel, also jam any opponents communications system. So I brought this electronic warfare concept in our battlefield. I sort of was the father of the Korean eoectronic warfare. Even now I am doing similar thing like that. I'll show you later what book I am reading now. So I had enough money then I can spend.


Goldstein:
From the Korean


Seo:
After three or four years like that, I had much, much work from army or navy and air force, "Please develop this electronic jamming part for my aircraft, please, please, please." I was really astonished after three or four years of effort like this.


Goldstein:
People started coming to you with their own suggestions.


Seo:
Right, yes. I am giving lectures to the general ranking officers in army and navy, air force, how Middle East war, the Six Days War between Israeli and the Arabs like that, that time, how the missiles fought each other, why this missile has more power, why it was defeated by the shorter range missile, because of the electronic warfare capability, that kind of stuff. War capability addition, with value added effect of the electronic warfare stuff like that. So that can have a very successful result. So I had a full work, so my group is bigger and bigger, bigger, bigger. I have, starting with a small department became a big division, later independent research organization. Then I became the president of a whole organization.


Goldstein:
Did the projects that you worked on, did they routinely move over into civilian applications?


Seo:
Of course. They have a very thorough review process we call IPR, inter-process review. You have to write up ROC, that means a Required Operational Capability. You have to write on plan, for the plan. There are a lot of documentation work back and forth between myself and the army or air force or navy. And the test and evaluation plan, they review it, okay pass one milestone, second milestone, that means from the cradle to the tomb. Life cycle management concept. Take it from the cradle to the tomb.


Goldstein:
Well, but okay, does the tomb include civilian application of the technologies?


Seo:
Right. Yes.


Goldstein:
So go ahead.


Seo:
Okay. But the [inaudible phrase] wasn't common at that time, but out of the frontier. I do one in Korea, first full bit microprocessor with technical applications, field entry calculator.


Goldstein:
The Intel 4004 you mean?


Seo:
You know where I got it? TI-59, you know, a small hand calculator. I took the small chip out of those TI-59 black box. I reverse engineered input-output application like that.


Goldstein:
When did that happen?


Seo:
It’s 1976 or 5, that time frame. So I went to the United States for science exchange program at the U.S. Army's Automatic Data Processing Laboratory in Fort Monmouth in New Jersey. You know where is it.


Goldstein:
Yes, with the signal processing corps.


Seo:
So then after that from 4-bit, 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, like that, you know, double double like that. So my team, my group, number one group in Korea, how to deal with a digital process like that. Now everybody talks about computers, computers [inaudible phrase] what you call notebook type or [inaudible word] type. At that time you have nothing but big mainframe or minicomputer, like PDP-11]. When I got the first time in the States, 1960, my first computer was an IBM 650, all the machine assembly, machine language type [inaudible phrase]. You spend all night, you still don't work After [that] I found the FORTRAN. I was really I felt like I was flying from the machine assembler language type computer to the human can understand , FORTRAN formula translating system. Then I was graduating A&M, I was using IBM 360. At that time was the biggest and most top class of the computer.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
So it was fortunate to me where the group of the, in Korea, using microprocessor math for the calculation for the control and the military application, with a lot of baking, shaking, that kind of test. So with that kind of background, I developed military digital switch. At that time nobody believed it is that sixth switch; they still believed in mechanical or analog electronics. Electronics, but analog form.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
But no. We have to one step ahead, because Korea has behind technology infrastructure. That's why we must always go one step further. Then sometime later we can match to the American level. It's easy to say that, but it's very difficult to perform that way.


Goldstein:
Sure.


Seo:
When digital switching system required by the Korea Telecommunication Authority research [inaudible word] ETRI, electronics and [inaudible phrase], they started with a [inaudible word] of eighty, which is a big microprocessor. I said, when I saw the first time, no. Put in the garbage. I was shocked. Okay, you can make it, but it's going to be a merchandise. We are going to put in this market, everybody use the entry 16-bit [inaudible word]. If you make it, you have to start with a 32-bit microprocessor. Of course thirty-two is not available now. But you have to design it that way. Okay, now you have a 8- or 16-bit, but you make it harder that way, but then system-wise you have to design it 32-bit pieces. When you finish just your development, then maybe if you are lucky 32-bit microprocessor will be in market. So I have predicted that much, because I have some friend from Motorola. He told me already they have developed now 32-bit, which is a six to eight thousand series of the microprocessor. I was asking when, I'm sorry, maybe six months later, again, again six months later, I was really under pressure, depressed, of course. But it came in. One year later than I expected. So I put those in TDX.


Goldstein:
Okay. That's interesting. So the TDX project you're saying you designed a 32-bit architecture for it in anticipation


Seo:
No. I designed with a 8-bit system, but I converted to 32. In a way revolutionalized. I skipped the 16-bit.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
You know why? There is some time lead. I need the time to finish the development. I must [inaudible word] myself. I can go safely 16, but I go one step further. So when I finished my TDX, nobody using 32 bits: AT&T, Nortel, which is Northern Telecom, everybody uses 16. Only crazy guy is using 32 bits. You can't imagine the level of skill of the software. There is no way to catch up to American AT&T. I know that! But you can impress the people, because you are using much roomier, that means the 32-bit has more memory, more functions, so your system can grow. So when I bought that in the market, it may be childish, but if time goes by the software package [inaudible word] getting fatter, fatter. So now it's almost the same level like the AT&T products. That's my strategy. I know the capability of Korea, because I do not have so many Ph.D.s, so many dollars, so many time, I mean so many years and so many facilities like the United States, the AT&T. I don't have nothing almost here. But idea was [inaudible phrase]. So system grows by time. So I start very small. But because I have a 32-bit microprocessing system, I can grow such a big, wide picture, whatever I do. That's my approach.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
Strategic approach. I made it successful.


Goldstein:
Tell me, when you developed the TDX, can you describe the market for them, who you sold them to and the like/


Seo:
At that time Korea Telecomm was a monopoly. At least I have an internal market, but I pursue that. Southeast Asia, Russia, China, we build a market. I told them. They were laughing at me. I am crazy! You cannot even at home. Okay, you laugh now, so you will be shocked. So we worked day and night, and also I tried every single like military organization level. Because the environment, operation, conditions such a country like Vietnam worse than ours. They do not have a really good electrical power quality. What I am saying, electrical power quality, means frequency stability, voltage stability.


[end of Tape 1, Side A] [beginning of Tape 1, Side B]


Seo:
...[inaudible phrase] was during the midnight. Go off 150 volts during daytime.


Goldstein:
Okay. I'm sorry. The tape just flipped, so I want to just repeat what you just said. You said because your experience in the wartime when the standard voltage was 100, but it would dip to 50 at night.


Seo:
Because of the demand is bigger than supply, so line drops. Very bad transformers. Even power plant doesn't have enough power, so that everything was all overloaded. So the commercial 100 volts, it says that way, but actually if you measure it, 55 volts. Then everybody [inaudible phrase] every home. Makes things worse. And in this situation maybe country like China or Vietnam or Cambodia, then how can you do that? You have to build in capability to absorb such a hostile environment. That's why a good company like [inaudible word] failed in Vietnam. I won the game.


Goldstein:
We've been hopping around a little bit, so I want to try to fill in the gaps. Let's see, you're talking now about the development of the TDX.


Seo:
Yes. Right.


Goldstein:
What came just before then?


Seo:
Before? Military system. Single side band radio transmitter and receiver, radio teletype, and also seismic detector for night vision, observation.


Goldstein:
Alright. I guess I was wondering, the technologies that you developed there, were they classified, or did the things you learned ?


Seo:
At that time it was classified.


Goldstein:
So it didn't spread out into


Seo:
No way. Because some technology we exchange between United States and Korea, provided not exposure outside.


Goldstein:
So was there an imbalance between the growth of Korean industrial electrical technology and Korean military electrical technology?


Seo:
A lot of discrepancies.


Goldstein:
It was a big imbalance?


Seo:
Imbalance. I cannot even use the word imbalance. Nothing like that. Two extremes coexistent, same time, same place. That's how it was a happy new job in civilian life, I mean a civil sector life.


Goldstein:
Did the military electronics effort have the same problems with supplies, I mean good suppliers and reliability too ?


Seo:
Yes, of course.


Goldstein:
I thought maybe there would be a way around it.


Seo:
I'm not bragging, but we are the first group in Korea brought real reliability evaluation environment in Korea. I brought a lot of temperature cycle test chamber, you go down -50, go up +70 or like that, the humidity up to the 100 percent humidity, what dry conditions, all kinds of hazardous environment. Up until that time we use it manually. It's not precise. But after that enough money, I bought it from, I was overseas, this temperature cycle test chamber, the shake and bake type. And the G tests, drop it like that, our peeling test for the painting, like that. Sometimes you have some kind of the, what, except nuclear [inaudible word] test, I have done every single item what is written in military specs. I'm proud of that. Even some military, they skip it. But I did not, because I had two missions: one, supply good hardware to the military, second, I have to educate, I have to educate Korean people in industry. I was impressed when General MacArthur, he was the general headquartered in Tokyo after World War II, he has a military government at the time because unconditional surrender of Japan, everything under his management. He found infrastructure of Japan so horrible. Railway, electric power supply, I mean the power, postal system, telephone system, everything was broken or burned or destroyed, and also has a very you know low reliability. He invited Mr. Demming from the States to Japan. You know Mr. Demming.


Goldstein:
Sure.


Seo:
Mr. Demming came visiting every single plant of the Japanese industry, teach them. You know, very funny you know, Mr. Demming wasn't that welcomed by the American people, but he is treated like a king in Japan!


Goldstein:
I've heard that.


Seo:
But I have read every single his activity. So the Japanese newspaper or magazine, like that. I did same function. During evening I show them best of curve, why military handle 217 like this way, why you have a sampling nestled like a standard 201-D or E, something like that. Because I learned myself, I teach them to what I have learned. So that was my life.


Goldstein:
Okay.


Seo:
That really helped me when I doing, when I got involved in the developing CDMA, TDX and the computers. So I had three major programs. I became a [inaudible phrase] TDX, and the Korean indigenous minicomputer system we call Tiger system, thirdly CDMA which I am doing now.


Goldstein:
Alright, let's talk about that, the Tiger, the TICON project. Can you tell me how it was organized and how it was executed?


Seo:
Okay. That was a responsible Also the, you know, this is the problem. Always research institute, they started something but they get out in the middle. They couldn't finish. Why? They did not have such an engineering background. Computers, okay and so-and-so. That's not it. If you are making real merchandise, you have to be sure of every single item of the engineering discipline you have to worry about. Even small hinge of the computer door, shock absorbing mounting, some cooling fan or dust window, I mean filter, every single item must satisfy total system. Otherwise you are comfortable with that. And experience more problems from the mechanical side, not the electronics. But if the mechanical goes wrong, your computer is out of order. Digital switching, computers, television, even telephone set, mechanically well designed, mechanically stabilized, even such a polymer is the things [inaudible word] by the chemical engineers, but as a designer, as a product manager, I have to worry about it myself. I had a really trying problem with the chemical engineering. it gave me a lot trouble when I developed the handy talkie-- water leaks, O-rings, the quality of the rubber, silicone rubber. It's not [my major field. Even the cotton back, you dip in water, the trunks, you can take your [inaudible word] out, because so tight like that. If that happen in the field you are going to lose your war! Even belt. Battery leakage. That kind of stuff. Antenna design. I supposedly using antenna this way, but they never use that way. You know, they normally held the antenna [inaudible phrase] broken neck. And without antenna, there is no radio. Right? This is the, every single item one engineer must understand before getting a project.


Goldstein:
The reliability of all the parts and system, the need for that should be evident to anybody who follows the project over its entire life cycle, so why was it that you had such troubles making the need for that clear to everybody?


Seo:
Up until that time, no single person in Korea had such an experience. Nobody required such a need, because most of the military gears donated or aided by United States. I drove a Cadillac. I drove a Mercedes. But I do not know how it's been made. It happens. Right?


Goldstein:
So this was, the problem was that Korea didn't, still lacked experience in


Seo:
Not only experience, they just have an infrastructure, you know, the knowledge base. Most of school they teach them just based on the textbook. There is no industrial training. The time I joined this project, the only company in Korea at that time the Gold Star. They got license from Japan to produce, I'm not going to use the word produce, assemble Japanese tube radio, or six transistors radio.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
Little later then, they brought tube type, black and white monochrome television set from [inaudible word] or Sanyo from Japan. So what can you expect? Most of the things are from the United States. Exported or imported or smuggled, whatever. They are good stuff, but they now did not know the background how it was made.



And they couldn't understand, but it was fact. So I drove top class automobile, but I do not know nothing about engineering background or production background. This was a real hard problem for Koreans. Japan rather lucky. They started from scratch. You know, I was really amazed when they exceed the speed limit, 50 kilometer an hour, they celebrate, the whole country. But there is no single Korean did that, because yes automobile goes up to 120 kilometers now. It's natural, it's given, taken for granted?


Goldstein:
Oh, I'm not sure I understand.


Seo:
The first automobile in my life, American jeep, American you know the truck, and American sedan, run smooth.


Goldstein:
Oh, okay, I see what you mean.


Seo:
But Japan, they started with their own products. So they know if they go a certain level of the speed, the vibration resonance make all the dashboards fall down. Unless you experience it, you cannot imagine it. The automobile, the radio, the guns, everything you saw in your life first time, everything is made in USA at that time was top class.


Goldstein:
So the Koreans were oblivious to the need of taking


Seo:
Particularly the military guys. Their uniforms designed Korean way, but material American fabrics. They wear boots thats American. They carry gun, grenade, belt, whatever. They are all American Army's supply. Maybe you are too young to understand that, but you understand that.


Goldstein:
I think I do.


Seo:
So all of a sudden military aid was cut. Then we have go on our own. We got in all sorts of trouble. That is the time frame I got involved. You understand that. Military battery, American battery, this is the battery, has expire date August 1996. Two years later, it still works good. But Korean battery dated December 1998, use it, doesn't work.


Goldstein:
So was this, the problem you are talking about, the unawareness of the need for managing the reliability of each of the components was that a popular topic of discussion and did people appreciate ?


Seo:
No, it's not popular. No, at that time they even [inaudible phrase] against me. That is the guy killing me why they say, industry people. Because I'm asking too difficult job. They think it's an impossible job. He's going to kill us. But now they understand now. They are telling me, "Without your such hard training, demanding order with this, today's could not be"


Goldstein:
Well when did the turnaround take place, and how did it happen?


Seo:
About five years ago. Five years ago.


Goldstein:
Was it just a matter of accumulated experience?


Seo:
Some companies even gone. They goofed. The guys at least who followed my instructions, they survived now. That's the evidence. That's why they appreciate me. It doesn't necessarily mean they like me. Ha-ha-ha-ha. You understand that. Appreciation is one thing, liking or dislike is another thing.


Goldstein:
Right.Can you tell me about when you were in the Ministry of Science and Technology? And when was that?


Seo:
That's 1990-1991. Right.


Goldstein:
And how did you come to that position?


Seo:
Okay. There was some need in our country. Korea is a developing country. They used some money blindly. Whatever says R&D research, they give money. The same thing could happen in the United States too. So that's why your defense R&D or some other R&D committees are always criticized by the media too. Government is spending money, and in the U.S. DOD they are buying some ashtray for several hundred dollars, you know, that kind of thing like that. It is not all the time right, but there is some trends you know like the same here. So they asked me to make some little law and order in our R&D system.


Goldstein:
Who is "they" who asked you to help out in this way?


Seo:
Government, at the time President. Because we are spending a lot of money, but I am not sure whether it is really spent the right way or wrong way.


Goldstein:
Well, who did you know in the government who knew you who could, who recommended you?


Seo:
At that time is the Blue House or the Minister of Science, science and technology, Goldstein:
Oh, I actually mean the names of the people.


Seo:
Oh, name the people? Oh, Kim-Jin Hiang who was the former Minister of the Science and Technology. He became President, and he became my minister. He asked me join in as a vice minister. With the permission of the government


Goldstein:
So what did you do to try to straighten it out?


Seo:
Well, straighten means at least I have to classify the honesty of the report or proposal. Some committee, review committees, you know, or third party review. School A must review School B's, School C's must review School D's, that kind of third party new set of rules.


Goldstein:
So did total R&D go down?


Seo:
No, no, I didn't go down. I'd rather spend more, but more neatly, more discipline. I am not stingy in using money, because there are a lot of ways in the political arena I am not stingy to give money to the scientists and the engineers, but I am asking them rule of game, yes. I am asking all the time to budget different government, give money, but I'm telling my people that, "Use it right."


Goldstein:
Right. So what's ?


Seo:
I don't squeeze.


Goldstein:
Can you think of any examples of


Seo:
And now even in our country 9 percent of the total annual budget goes to R&D. Without it, we cannot finish the CDMA. For this I am a generous man in money. But in doing business, very tough. Do you understand?


Goldstein:
Yes. Can you think of any examples of research proposals that you thought were wasteful and needed to trim down or straighten out?


Seo:
Well, there are so many, really so many. Really so many. I even changed the institute manager. I give you this money, your institute, not for that guy. Because I got a report. I do not know every single one personally, but I based on report give away some, you know, third party evaluation. I am not depending, I do not depend, I don't depending on one single person, just various ways like that. But they know each other well anyway. And they know who I am. So they are very honest .


Goldstein:
Can you tell me about the CDMA project?


Seo:
Yes.


Goldstein:
How did that get started and ?


Seo:
The CDMA in 1990, very early part of 1990, is Korea really going around the world to get some technology for the digital cellular. So they [inaudible phrase] first time TDMA, which is GSM. But they [inaudible word] reluctant to give any help, so Korea got stuck. So [inaudible phrase] with some, any other way to get some [inaudible phrase] out of [inaudible word] digital, but CDMA based, [inaudible phrase] give them some, but still excited. They brought the technology in. That was a good start, but they did not manage the project right. Even though it's a good start, a good project, a good way, good approach, just like I said, I have a good bread, good ham, everything, but I do not make a good cook. That happens, right? You have a USDA you know like you know the Grade A good steak, everything so perfect grocery, but you are a good cook, I am a very poor cook, the result is different. Just like that.


Goldstein:
Well, when you were saying "they" went to GSM, who is "they"?


Seo:
Well, the ETRI and our industry people.


Goldstein:
In response to a government initiative? I mean


Seo:
Oh yes, with the government initiative, of course.


Goldstein:
You see, I don't even know whose idea it was. I don't know what happened in Korea that stimulated this interest in cellular phones.


Seo:
Well, there is no stimulation, it's needs. Seoul is a small bowl. So many people using so many cellular same time. With analog system there is no way to communicate with each other. It's not a stimulation; it's a must, like in this problem. They don't know, they don't even argue about the need or don't need.


Goldstein:
But when you actually figure out who sent memos to who


Seo:
Oh, the government. Our government, the Minister of Communication.


Goldstein:
The Minister of Communication.


Seo:
Yeah. Asking, asking, because asking ETRI or industry, "How can you improve this poor quality of the cellular service?"


Goldstein:
So then what happened? Did ETRI submit a proposal and maybe also some ?


Seo:
Yes, submit a proposal. Okay, CDMA could be some [inaudible phrase] asking GSM technology, but there is no way to get it. So okay, then you go ahead, you guys go ahead. So, it was a beautiful start.


Goldstein:
But you said that the Ministry of Communication asked ETRI what they could do about this problem.


Seo:
Right.


Goldstein:
They asked industry what they could do about this problem.


Seo:
That's right, that's right.


Goldstein:
Well did ETRI and industry supply alternate solutions?


Seo:
No, ETRI was the project leader.


Goldstein:
Okay, so the Ministry of Communication actually only went to ETRI.


Seo:
Right. No. They actually asked industry, and assigned ETRI as a program manager.


Goldstein:
I see.


Seo:
Yes. Because ETRI is part of the government organization, in theory. Right.


Goldstein:
Okay. So ETRI is the project manager.


Seo:
Right.


Goldstein:
They have their own staff.


Seo:
Right.


So waiting and again, again, but no result came out. And also industry they [inaudible phrase], because they saw, oh no, with your help I'm not going to. I'm washed out. I give my money. The amount of the money, I forget it, because there is no hope for the future. That's why I got involved in 1993.


Goldstein:
And what did you do when you got involved?


Seo:
Well, I clean up the, take all the ETRI out of scene. But they are no longer in the position to help anything. They are just a middle in between government and industry, just wasting, as a time lagging, is obstacle. Pick this out. Entirely different situation from TDX. In TDX case, they are the [inaudible phrase]. But this time, just obstacle. Right?


Goldstein:
Okay. Alright, can you, so we were talking about TDX and the Tiger computer and


Seo:
Right. Tiger is the same way. Tiger was also, it was a response for whole project. But they didn't proper work for industry what they need. In this day and age some merchandise to sell, make money, right? That's was for us. We needed. So time goes by, no result, then it is losing their leadership. Then also asked me how can you do it. Okay, let them work. Let leaders to have leadership. In 1970 time frame, maybe government] may have leadership. Now we have progressed so much, we don't need such a government, bureaucrat leadership anymore. Unless we are a Socialist country. If you go to a country like China or Russia, still government funded research institutes, they are doing everything. That's why they don't produce good merchandise. You can't [inaudible word] the ugliness of the Socialist countries' products and you know some countries like Japan or United States. That's the built-in nature of the human being, built-in nature of the society. But as a developing country, sometimes we can imitate Socialist country approach when you started. So when I was in the Agency for Defense Development, that is the time frame that it works. No longer now. You have to understand that.


Goldstein:
Well, how does a country know when it's moved into that next phase?


Seo:
If you measure the capability of the industry, you can tell right away. I can measure, because I have been living with those guys from the baby with diapers has grown up. You cannot treat a man just as if he was a baby. He is now grown up. Otherwise he is dead. You can't treat your children like that. No way. Right? You can only recall through the album picture.


Goldstein:
But is this a judgment thing, or are there ?


Seo:
My own judgment. I wrote, write a report sometimes very harsh, a strict report to the government. Sometimes I am not very popular based on my questions. I am not a god. I do make mistakes myself. But as long as I think I am sure of the time frame, I write, everything written. Later on if I find my mistake, I made a mistake, I must correct this one. Yes, I do. That's the way I do such things. I don't care about the evaluation at that moment. I would rather put more attention evaluation afterwards.


Goldstein:
Alright. What I was getting at a minute ago was, I wanted to try to get a complete list of the milestones in the growth of Korean electrical technologies. For instance, you are talking about the TDX or the Tiger.


Seo:
Well, TDX started actually 1982.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
But they wasted two years without any result. Well, some the stuff, the research, laboratory demonstration purpose not really common sense, not really like a commercial sense. So I joined in 1984 Korea Telecom. That's why I joined. That's the only reason at that time. I have nothing to do with the Korea Telecomm Authority.


Goldstein:
Oh, that's an interesting thing. Do I have this right? Was Korea Telecomm Authority a government function that was privatized?


Seo:
Before. Oh, privatized, of course. But I hate to use the word privatized. It's still owned 100 percent by government, just a different management more freer than bureaucratic government style.


Goldstein:
I see. When did that happen?


Seo:
1982 they became like a independent organization from government itself.


Goldstein:
Do you know why?


Seo:
Well, because of the competing environments coming, so that they like to give more freedom. Because in salary, if you operate your telephone system under government, you cannot pay enough money to your employees. Just like a military pay. Then you lose your good engineers. That's why I decided okay, that's a different account. That was 1982.


Goldstein:
Did that improve the operation?


Seo:
Part of it, yes, of course. And but they don't have to budget every year to the government. Because they have a independent account. They can invest the money when it's necessary. If they were under the government regulation or government control, you have to fight Congress ever year, every season, so no hope. Otherwise we do not have such a good telecommunication service like today. That's one good thing; our government made a really good decision. Otherwise I have no chance to get involved with those guys. I had to become such a poorly paidI was well paid in research institute. I don't want to cut down my salary. No reason.


Goldstein:
So they were turning away, or they couldn't attract, the quality engineers that they needed.


Seo:
And also they have no independence, self-reliant management. You have to go to every single question you have to ask the government, what to buy, not to buy. No way.


Goldstein:
So when it did go independent in 1982, was there anybody who opposed that move? Was that a controversial thing?


Seo:
Some people, but the major people, for instance I admire Mr. Om Yung . He is now president of the Daily News, he used to be Vice Minister of Communication at that time. He's a good friend of mine. Actually he invited me over to the KTA. He knows me well. So he got in trouble, he thought I'm the guy to clean up that garbage. But this is just between you and myself. You know, otherwise I have no relation with the Korea Telecom.


Goldstein:
Tell me, when did you go to KTA?


Seo:
January 1984. I served the full 7 years, I got out of it, went to the Ministry of Science and Technology. So during 7 years I made the TDX and the Tiger computer, yes. Garbage cleaning job. [laughs]


Goldstein:
Alright.


Seo:
Right. So I started my life in Agency for Defense Development 1970, I got out of it in 1984, '83. From '84 to '90 I work for the Korea Telecom. Then 1991 I was the Minister of Science and Technology, and then '92-'93 KIST and joined again Minister of Communication, and then I took over this company last May last April.


Goldstein:
Now you keep talking about these garbage cleaning operations. It sounds like what you're saying is that one of the most serious problems in Korean electrical technologies has been mismanagement or lack of focus.


Seo:
I do not use the word mismanagement. Learning process, but there's no single person has been going through entire life cycle management experience. I'm not a king, I'm not all, I'm just nothing, but only thing I have, at least I have a complete one cycle life cycle management experience and also basic knowledge about how to treat project, how to develop, how to think about one system must be developed.


Goldstein:
And so you've tried to introduce that


Seo:
I was trying to introduce them, but they asked me to introduce to them. This may be fair way to express.


Goldstein:
I see.


Seo:
I'm not really church leader. I am here, but they came back, okay, please, I am watching you so many years so far, I believe you must join us, please take care of this stuff, we are in trouble. That may be a very fair way of expression. I am not going, "Hey look, follow me." I'm not that kind of person. Because I always like to come back to [the] university which is my alma mater, I would really like to be a professor myself, but for some reason I always drafted through the industry people.


Goldstein:
Right. While you were with ADD, during that period, could you see what was happening in civilian electrical technology ?


Seo:
Yes, of course.


Goldstein:
What were some of the important developments at that time?


Seo:
Because I'm on the defense industry side, that is everything classified. By law you can't even talk about it.


Goldstein:
Right.


Seo:
But everything is done in same company, same production line. Just like infiltration. That's a new concept. Suppose some company has some job. For my office he has developed some radios like that. Heat, cool, all kinds of crazy tests, this guy is looking at them. "What are you doing?" "Oh, I'm not sure." "I'm asking you, so are you crazy?" Yes? So this kind of thing automatically transfer to do this because he is building all in a civilian, you know, the radio or washing machine or vacuum cleaner, whatever. So they are becoming aware of, this could be done in here. Otherwise we cannot reduce the role defense. They are developed by the military community, but it is used by everywhere. You understand that?


Goldstein:
Yes.


Seo:
They are borrowing this knowledge. Then, after all, they have such a hard time because of me, but later on they had less defects, they got more income, more profit. This guy is following his knowledge. Then they have internal personnel change, this guy taking over this plant. That's why I was saying, Korea electrical industry grew based on defense electronics. We spent a lot of people's tax money of course, but the amount we have used I pay them back with a good result I am proud of. I never be shy. I have used, I have spent some tax money, but I pay them back with a lot of interest.


Goldstein:
So you're talking about, right now, the transfer of skill at the factory level, the know-how.


Seo:
Right.


Goldstein:
Now was there any administrative or legislative system for transferring?


Seo:
Yes, of course. Ministry of Commerce and Trade. Ministry of Communication. They copied my project management, some what should I say, program development methodology. Because I lectured them.


Goldstein:
Methodology? Is that the word you are saying?


Seo:
Right. Well, it's not my own. Every advanced, every developed country used it. What I am saying, I haven't done anything peculiar. I haven't done anything unusual. To me it's a common sense, but the guy never saw, never experienced, for them it's a kind of shocking experience.


Goldstein:

Apart from the things you are talking about now, were there particular events?


Seo:
Yes.


Goldstein:
Okay. So now I'm talking about during the period when you were in ADD.


Seo:
Right.


Goldstein:
I'm wondering whether out in the civilian sector whether there were certain events or milestones.


Seo:
Of course. I am sitting in some committee, advisory committee to other civil sector [inaudible word]. I'm always invited for some reason, I don't know why. My name is always there. So I give them some critique. Sometimes admiration too. I think you are doing better than I do. Military guys are wasting money here. I am telling my people too of course. I am not telling they are always doing wrong or I do all the time right. Sometimes I learn from them too. Because particularly the good discipline in the civilian company, I visit this plant, I said aha, this guy is smart. With same result, he spent less money, less time, less material. Then I humbly beg his help to transfer this technology to military production line. . That's why they invite me over there. But I give them also some advice too. ? Why don't you do it this way? I know you don't have a facility. Okay, come over, you can use my facility. For sampling tests, it's okay. At least for the sampling tests I can let you have my facility and my technicians help you. I charge you of course. I charge you the expense too, yes, that's what I did. Now it's everywhere. The equipment, the environment which was only strictly military purpose now is common everywhere. That's why Korea became top class in supplying DRAMs.


Goldstein:
Could you tell me more about that, like explain what you mean there?


Seo:
In 1986 or 8, that time frame, Samsung, at that time Gold Star, [inaudible phrase], we got together. How about semiconductor? No way. That is the market for Japan and the United States. For Korea, as you see, you are always emphasizing tous we don't have a good background, we are very sloppy, quality-minded, like that. No. You can do it, I said. That's the 1988 time frame. We got a proposal from industry. They ask to borrow some money from government, in the low rate. What do you think about that? Well, it's very risky business, but maybe one out of the three chances we succeed. But we have to do it. Otherwise we get stuck. So the companies had the good money, but I also gave them some warning. You stick on only one item, you will be down. You have to find some [inaudible word]. Now is the downgrade already. I know that much. I am not a god, but I am looking at all the history of all the industry development by your country, or some in Japan, like that, you know, such a famous, you know, the TRW and AT&T and Texas Instruments, Motorola, once they are on the top now. Sometimes they lost the leadership to Japan, but Japan is now losing to Korea. Just like a turning around. There is no one single country is dominating one technology, but United States has a built-in power once go to top maybe use this top item, some other country take it, find a new item as a top. That's what I learned from my experience, educational experience in the States. Your land grant school system is a beautiful one. After Civil War Abraham Lincoln, he really had a farsighted educational visionary to make really America strongest country in the world. He had so many places to put money, but he decided to go ahead with the science and technology. That's what I learned.


Goldstein:
Right. Rutgers University is one of these land grant schools.


Seo:
Yes, exactly. So there are so many good schools, like Harvard, Yale, Princeton. . But real strength in your system is your land grant college system. This will provide all kinds of service to the community. In national crisis like war, they become automatically an officers training camp, ROTC. This is what I learned from your system. America is a really great young country because they are converting school, just like that, [into] army barracks if war happens. Normal days, they are helping local community. I have seen so many extension services: engineering extension service, agricultural extension service, medical so many services to the community. So a professor, he is seeking academia like ivory tower, but on side he is also helping his community. That's why school has a good support from the community. Not only that, you are training all the leaders from all over the world with your own taxpayers' money. That's unfair, right? I saw long, farsighted vision. America is smart enough. If you train somebody else, leaders, he will be your help; he will be your friend too, like myself. That's what I am telling my people, you know. So Korea must, we can’t build Rome in a day, but at least we have to appreciate spirit. Why do they spend your taxpayers' money for nothing? I don't think it's for nothing. They will return in some way. If you train world leaders, everywhere they go that's a part of your leadership. Am I right, or am I wrong? That's what I believe about the American education system.


Goldstein:
To go on with the chronology of your story


Seo:
Yes.


Goldstein:
Well, tell me how you got involved with KMT.


Seo:
Because of CDMA. CDMA, everybody was looking very suspicious. Oh, no way, they are going to waste money. But time goes by, just some vision, some hope. But KMT has gone through the process of privatization, so they got rid of old management. Sungya group take over, but they need one guy who have learned this company. Not only accounting, not only marketing. Somebody must take care of the CDMA to be commercialized. So they asked me, "Can you join us?" I said with the condition such-and-such and that, okay. Not to bother with the R&D fund. Okay? You promise this much? Yes sir. Not to bother manpower for this development. Yes sir, you can have. With that condition I took this job. So, as soon as I finish a beautiful job, maybe I may move to another endeavor. But this is my baby, third baby, or actually fourth baby. First baby was the military stuff; second baby was TDX; third baby, Tiger; this is my fourth baby. So I have been living a horrible life in a way. You know, worked day and night. But I think that's a built-in mission of an engineer, particularly a guy like me, born in this country, throughout the Korean War I lost so many friends but I survived. What can I do? I have to return something which I owe for my country, and also I have to return something I owe from your country, the United States. That country gave me more length in college education. Then what I have to do. I have to be a good engineer so that I can utilize American resource


[end of Tape 1, Side B] [beginning of Tape 2, Side A]


Goldstein:
You can finish up what you were saying.


Seo:
Okay. As an engineer, he must decide his own destiny. Either remain in the United States, enjoy like yourself or some other American colleagues, or come back to my own country, even though poor payment, very you know hectic living environment. But I made the decision, because the country as a people, [the] schools of the United States are built that way. I have read your history, because I took undergraduate program in your university before Independence War. As a colony of Great Britain or United Kingdom, you had all kinds of trouble, all kinds of hardships. You know, once an American family invited over during the holidays of the Thanksgiving. They celebrate Thanksgiving with the turkeys and pumpkin pie, etc., etc., but the man who invited me over, he is a very aged gentleman, a retired professor, he told me about his own experience when he was young. Everybody thinks America was like today even two centuries ago. Throughout such hard work, for a whole season, sometimes nothing left for winter season; that means the lack of, shortage of the food. But nobody really realizes that. He said, "Even my grandson don't understand that," he says. So that reminds me of my situation. I am telling my kids, "You guys don't waste money and time. During Korean War your daddy had a hard time, without even enough food, or the threat of the Communist threat, like that. . Even American families such a story between generations. That shocked me. But they made it. Since Independence War, 220 years, after a hundred years or so Civil War broke. Confederacy, Union, they fought together. General Grant, General Lee, they are classmates at West Point. They fought together, but they concluded their war, not peacefully, but the best way they could. They became really United States. After that United States became a world leader. Civil War was over, not really many American born scientists there. Everybody is an immigrant. But, but please do not underestimate the American power. Everything seeded since Civil War. If you seed one small seed today, you are not going to have next day's [inaudible phrase]. That is the time frame, fit into 1945 or '50, just like a computer history. Anyhow, just fifty years old or so, right? So since then America really becoming world leader. Even they had a hard time with some wars, Korean War, Vietnam War, but they grew up more maturely.


Goldstein:
I had maybe two other things I wanted to talk about briefly. You were just talking about the seeds, and I wonder if you can point to what you think the seeds of Korean economic prosperity have been over the last thirty or forty years.


Seo:
Right. Like in any other country, there are always the very farsighted group of leadership and also the very nearsighted. Because normally the farsighted people fall in also trouble too, almost like a [inaudible phrase] idea. Because it's far away, I don't care. But nearsighted people, they like to accomplish just everything just their own way. But I like the components two extreme just in the middle. I cannot tell my people okay, please trust me, I'm going to show you. Ten years later I can do that. But trust me making sure next day, that's wrong. I ought to take the happy medium. So Japan went through, well, the relationship between Japan and Korea is not really easy one, but there are many things we have to learn from them. I'm rational. I'm also one of the victims of their colonialism, but okay, that is one thing. But as a man, I love my own country, sometimes you have learn a lot of things from your own enemy too. Not only your friends. So they planned the restructuring, of reengineering their country since the Meiji era.


Goldstein:
1868 I think, isn't that right?


Seo:
Right So I compare two countries, Japan and United States. As far as the length of the history is concerned, Japan is a lot older country, but opening the eyes of the Western culture at the same time. So they borrow a lot of things from you, from France, from Russia, from England. So Korea is no exception. So our ancestors, our forefathers, they also sacrificed their own destinty, also their own country. You know, they sacrificed their lives, everything. But it wasn't a systematic way. Too much emotional thing, just under the hatred of the Japan. So be rational, be cool. So I have many friends, because there are so many things I have to learn. Also the United States, the most important time in my lifetime I spent over there. Then I must do something for common interest, mutually beneficial, things like that. That's why. I have the good spirit of the American engineering, American industrial but not into this country. Why? If I do, that automatically connects our industry with American industry.


Goldstein:
Okay.


Seo:
That's my basic philosophy. That's why I have so many associations with the American community, even Defense. Now it's the telecommunications sectors.


Goldstein:
Well, that leads into my final question. The philosophy that you are describing now, and your style, seems very different from than many of the others that I've talked to since I've been here.


Seo:
Right.


Goldstein:
And I wonder if you can describe what that difference is in your eyes.


Seo:
Okay. I may be deep in pragmatism. I don't talk, but I cannot be responsible. I cannot promise what I cannot perform. I am very conservative. So I do not compromise, means suppose somebody gave to me some problem, okay can you do it for me for two million dollars? No. I need two and a half million dollars, otherwise forget it. Because I don't like to compromise the quality of work. Because the reason I'm asking him more than he can afford, I like to be more responsible. But many scientists and engineers, they go the easy way to take away money. That's why the government's money is sometimes very easy money. So I am asking my junior class people, okay, you should be able to make successes from industrial contract money, not from the government money. Have some similar things in the States too. But if you wanted to become a real engineer, good engineer, productive engineer I mean, you have to go very hard way, not easy way. America is a rich country. They may afford it, but we can't.


Goldstein:
And do you think there had been a tradition among Korean engineers of trying to ?


Seo:
Just superficial, for the sake of R&D. They do not produce I mean. I am not treating scholars, you know, the professors like a work force in the labor union, but what I am saying, produce commercially.


Goldstein:
Now have you seen any change now that Korea has taken off industrially?


Seo:
Yes. Because of the TDX, because of Tiger, or because of the CDMA, I give many [inaudible word] kind of shock. They don't talk. But as a man responsible for such a thing, I have to give them some shock and listen. They must be reborn in a way. They've been wasting government's money, government's time, like that. Because we cannot afford such things like that I never belonged to the majority of the people in a way, but I don't mind. Salt is not really big volume in weight and the value, but without salt there is no taste in food. Suppose you have a chunk of good, great steak, cost you about fifty dollars like a couple pounds, a small bit of the salt cost you maybe less than a penny, but such a even small penny worth value seasoning you can have a nice steak that's like that, even a nice small effort. Economically it doesn't have any real value, but without those efforts, no progress.


Goldstein:
Now, the trouble with endorsing a philosophy that's so different, that's such a shock to people, is that it's difficult to set a corporate culture based on it.


Seo:
But I had confidence. Without real support and help, my project would never be successful. That means like that way I have real support from the guy really influential. I deal with the garbage. Even small number of people--essential key persons from the government, essential leaders from the industry, the essential leaders from academia. That's why I have good money, good students, good manufacturer realizes my dream. I do not run any production line at all. My ideas already become real because of the good students, because of the government's financial support, because of the good manufacturing discipline and support. Without those helps, nothing can be done. So that's why sometimes left out feel lonesome, but I don't feel that way. I need real help which is necessary. I'm not really bubble-like popularity. It doesn't count at all. I don't pay attention. Without real help, I can do nothing. So whatever I have achieved a little bit, that is not just because of me. Of course I did myself, but whoever gave me time, money, and real help to make my dream realized, so what else can I ask? Because I am really grateful. Even the guy opponents in ideology, whatever, still is important to me. Otherwise I couldn't exist. I'm not a king. I'm not a dictator. See? So sometimes I am asking myself that, "Why do you go such a harsh way? Why can't you go such a lonely way?" No, I am not alone. If I am really alone, nothing could be done. Right? There is always proper guide, help, check, from all sides. Friendly advice, yes that's good help. So, that's the way I should follow. I have done something. That's why whenever I interview people to work with, ask people to depend on him, how his character, what he has done, he did something, okay, I trust him. Whatever he has been successful, small or good things, that means what he has done is valuable, that means he knows how to cooperate with other people. Not just a bubble-like popularity. That's my personal belief. So I don't really care. Because farsighted vision may not always fit into the existing people's desire. So this is a built-in problem for democracy. Votes sometimes mislead. Number of votes. You understand, right? So there is up and down. This is an election year, everybody concerned about Dole and Clinton. Pretty interesting.


Goldstein:
Okay. I think that's it. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?


Seo:
Well, I always appreciate my friends in your part of the world. I always come back to feel like my home. As a matter of fact I was awarded the Distinguished Alumni from Texas A&M last February. I was very thrilled. Also that's the honor, the man they produced so many years ago, they still recognize me. They didn't forget about me. So I got the letter you are nominated Distinguished Alumni of 1996, like that. So I went, my wife and daughter, to receive the award.


Goldstein:
Congratulations.


Seo:
Thank you.
[end of interview]