Interview with Chung Bang Yun, Qiushi Chair Professor,Zhejiang University

Chung Bang Yun is Qiushi Chair Professor at Zhejiang University’s Department of Civil Engineering. He obtained his PhD at Columbia University (USA) in 1978 and has since contributed to more than 300 papers, including 120 SCIE journal papers. Throughout his career, Chung Bang Yun has held many additional roles alongside his core employment, such as serving as Editor-in-Chief for an international research journal and holding the presidential position for a number of academic societies. Currently, he is a member of both the Korean Academy of Science and Technology and the National Academy of Engineering of Korea.

Why did you choose to work in China?

I had a long-term dream to work in China for a short period, such as a few years.  Korea and China have been neighbouring nations for more than 5,000 years. The two countries have been living, cooperating, competing, and fighting with each other throughout their long history. Korean culture, numerous traditions and customs originated from China. I have had many chances to visit China, mainly for technical conferences, and have made many good friends there. I saw excellent potential for valuable international cooperation between the two countries, particularly in my area of civil engineering.

What attracted you to Zhejiang University (ZJU)?

ZJU is based in Hangzhou, which is one of the most beautiful and liveable cities in China, with beautiful landscapes, lakes, and rivers; a long and rich history; and nice people. I knew that ZJU was one of the best universities in many academic fields including civil engineering in China.

How do you find the higher education sector in China?

I have had many opportunities to meet the leading civil engineering professors in China at international conferences. I knew that the leading Chinese universities, including ZJU, had world-class academic programmes with a strong vision for innovation of their graduate education and research programmes through international cooperation. I met the chairman of ZJU’s civil engineering department at a conference four years ago, where he suggested that I should join ZJU.

Zhejiang University

Zhejiang University

What do you enjoy most about living in China?

I have enjoyed working with world-class faculty and excellent students at the beautiful ZJU campus. I have also enjoyed walking around the city of Hangzhou, which has many attractions with a rich, historical heritage. I’m very happy to be able to work with nice colleagues and excellent students, I’m currently co-supervising three PhD students and five graduate students. They have been working very hard and published 10 international journal papers co-authored with me over the last three years.

How has working overseas helped your career?

I’m enjoying my extra career at ZJU after retiring from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Before joining ZJU, I had many chances to collaborate internationally with world-class scholars in the US, Europe, Japan and China. Those activities have not only helped myself, but also my department at KAIST, to achieve international recognition in a relatively short history of 40 years. Since joining ZJU, I have been working with them on international collaboration programmes with leading universities in Asia, the US and Europe. I’m very much enjoying having the opportunity to work with many outstanding researchers at ZJU and making meaningful contributions to their globalisation activities.

What hours do you work and how do you achieve a work-life balance?

On working days at ZJU, I usually work from 8:30am to 6:00pm. On Saturday, I usually make short visits to scenic and historical places in Hangzhou or nearby cities, such as the West Lake, Suzhou, Nanjing and Hwangshan. On Sunday, I attend service at a Korean Christian Church in Hangzhou. I don’t do a lot of physical exercise, except walking around campus for about one hour every day, which keeps me healthy. Overall my daily life at ZJU has been very simple, but healthy and happy.

Zhejiang University

Zhejiang University

Do you face any particular challenges?

I can find it challenging to speak in Chinese. I can understand most of the Chinese characters, but I read them in the Korean way, which is very different from the Chinese one. So I cannot communicate well in Chinese, but I speak in English with my colleagues and students. I have almost no problem inside of the campus, but it is very difficult for me to get taxis in Hangzhou, because I have to call them by phone and speak to the driver in Chinese. However, my students are always happy to help in these situations.

Have you got any advice for other academics planning to work in China?

I would strongly recommend looking for academic opportunities in China. I have found many government sponsored programmes for open-minded and talented scholars from around the world, such as the Thousand Talents Program. They would typically start with a part-time appointment, such as one month per year. I think such academic collaborations will be very rewarding, because there are many excellent and hard-working professors, scholars and students at the leading universities in China.