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Vol. 30 No. 4
July-August 2008

The 2006 Year of Chemistry in Korea

by Choon H. Do

Logo of the 2006 Year of Chemistry in Korea.

As IUPAC begins planning for an International Year of Chemistry in 2011, it may be helpful and inspirational to consider the success of South Korea’s Year of Chemistry, which took place in 2006. Timed to coincide with its 60th anniversary, the Korean Chemical Society (KCS) held many nationwide, local, and international activities for students and the general public in celebration of the Year of Chemistry.

The Year of Chemistry was part of an effort by the Korean government to enhance science in Korea. The Ministry of Science and Technology initiated a Science Korea Project and declared 2005 as the Year of Physics, 2006 as the Year of Chemistry, and 2007 as the Year of Biology.

The events and activities that comprised the year of chemistry fell into three broad categories:

  • academic, including annual meetings of KCS, symposia, international conferences, and publications
  • mass media, including TV documentaries on chemistry and newspaper articles
  • educational, including a mobile chemistry museum, a chemistry shock exhibition, and demonstrations for students and the public

The most popular activity of the year-long celebration was the mobile chemistry museum, which was unveiled at the KCS Spring Annual Meeting, held in Kintex in Ilsan, Gyunggi-do in April 2006. More than 10 000 people visited the museum in each large city in which it stopped, including Seoul, Busan, and Daegu. The more than 2 000 attendees at the spring meeting were among the first to experience the large, multi-domed structure that housed the museum. Filled with air and shaped like a benzene molecule, the museum included 16 compartments with 10 rooms dedicated to different functions such as exhibitions, lectures, workshops, and chemistry demonstrations and shows. The purpose of the museum was to show students and the general public that chemistry is a central part of daily life, is integral to new technologies and materials, and is an interesting subject to study.

Another activity that proved popular with students was a chemistry poster contest in which more than 900 middle and high school students participated. The contest encouraged kids to think about the roles and effects of chemicals and chemists. The wining posters were shown during the Fall Annual Meeting of KCS.

 

Each local chapter of KCS produced its own Year of Chemistry events such as chemistry camps, chemistry exhibitions, and symposiums. Two highlights were the very successful Young Ambassadors for Chemistry workshop put on by the Gwangju-Chonnam Chapter and held 20–24 February 2006 (see Sep-Oct 2006 CI, p. 25), and a chemistry quiz competition called the Challenge Golden Bell in Chemistry, held 19–29 May 2006 by the Chonbuk Chapter.

Participants in the Challenge Golden Bell in Chemistry present their answers to a chemistry quiz.

In order to emphasize to the public the role of chemistry and chemical compounds in improving our quality of life, KCS collaborated with a major TV station, the Korean Broadcasting System, to produce and air special documentaries. KBS 1TV aired two two-part documentaries, one in August and the other in November 2006. Part 1 of the first documentary, entitled “Searching for an Elixir of Life,” dealt with the development by Swiss and Japanese scientists of medicines intended to extend the human life span. One of the examples in the documentary involved a study on the effects of Korean ginseng. Part 2, entitled “Secret of Invisible Cloak,” discussed the role of chemistry in developing new materials.

As part of a science festival, a chemistry exhibition was organized in front of Seoul’s City Hall.
A plenary lecture at the 19th International Conference on Chemical Education.

The second documentary was related to natural toxins and the development of new medicines. Part 1 “Chemical War in the Wild” dealt with the development of medicines from animal poisons. Part 2, entitled “Future of Life: Keep Toxic Species,” dealt with the development of medicines from natural products obtained from plants. Nakjoong Kim of the Department of Chemistry at Hanyang University and others served as advisers to KBS during production.

Theater and science mixed as the public was treated to two plays involving chemistry that were part of the Year of Chemistry celebration. Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, attracted more than 1 800 people to performances held 28 and 29 December 2006 at Paiknam Music Hall of Hanyang University, located in Seoul. The 90-minute play, composed of five acts, followed the original story of Aladdin’s adventure, but with chemistry demonstrations at key junctures. It was adapted and directed by Bookee Hwang and produced by Junghoon Choi, both of Hanyang University in Seoul.

More than 14 000 people saw the other featured play, Oxygen, written by chemists Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffmann, during its 19 showings in six cities. The play was translated into Korean by Chul-ri Kim and directed by Kwangbo Kim.

Poster for the play Oxygen, which was seen by more than 14 000 people during its 19 showings in six cities.

There were a variety of academic activities during the Year of Chemistry, including the Forum on New Chemistry, Academic-Industry Collaboration Symposium, and My Story Related to Chemistry, which featured famous chemists discussing their lives and research. All of these events were open to chemists, the public, and news media.

The following international chemistry conferences incorporated aspects of the Year of Chemistry into their events: 19th International Conference on Chemical Education (Jan-Feb 2007 CI, p. 32), 38th International Chemistry Olympiad (Nov-Dec 2006 CI, p. 22), and the 18th International Symposium on Chirality. A number of chemistry-related organizations also participated in the activities of the Year of Chemistry, including the Korean Union of Chemical Science and Technology Societies, the Korean Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Polymer Society of Korea, the Korean Society of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, and the Korean Ceramic Society.

South Korea’s experience with the 2006 Year of Chemistry demonstrated that students of all ages, the public, administrators, and legislators will support the chemical sciences if they are exposed to chemical facts and activities and educated about the benefits of chemistry. However, it is necessary to maintain the momentum and energy behind this effort to continuously enhance the chemical sciences.

Choon H. Do <choondo@sunchon.ac.kr> is a professor in the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at Sunchon National University, Sunchon, Korea. He is a member of IUPAC Committee on Chemistry Education (CCE), the Subcommittee on Public Understanding of Chemistry and Subcommittee on Polymer Education.


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