Logo: University of Southern California

A USC and KAU Tree Sprouts in Korea

May 20, 2007 —
Dean Yannis Yortsos signs the official guest book during his visit to KAU.
Yannis Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and Junku Yuh, president of Korea Aerospace University, recently marked the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by planting a commemorative tree outside the KAU’s new Administration Building in Seoul. The MOU outlines a commitment by the two schools for joint academic activities that will “begin at a modest scale but will grow over time.”

Yuh and Yortsos said the new tree represents the potential for increased cooperation in the shared interests of computer science, electrical engineering, robotics, aerospace engineering, and materials science.

Yuh is no stranger to American universities, having served on the staff of the National Science Foundation immediately prior to his appointment to lead KAU. He sought the collaboration with USC based on the Viterbi School’s established reputation as a world-class engineering research school. He also knows some of the Viterbi School faculty quite well, including Senior Associate Dean for Research Maja Mataric and Prof. Gaurav Sukahtme, both globally renowned robotics experts with whom he has worked in the past. USC’s robotics expertise was a leading factor in Yuh’s decision to seek a partnership with USC.

KAU was founded 55 years ago as Hankuk Aviation University. Hankuk is the Korean language name for Korea. Yuh recently chose to rename the school.

“The school aims to become one of the most competitive aerospace-focused universities in the world,” he emphasized.

President Junku Yuh and Dean Yannis Yortsos plant a commemorative tree outside the new KAU Administration Building symbolizing future growth of the KAU-USC academic partnership
The university began during the Korean War after Communist forces had been driven out and the border between North and South was again secured. Chartered by the Korean Ministry of Transportation, its purpose was to educate students in science, technology, and management related to civil and military aviation. In addition to its College of Engineering, College of Aviation and Management, and Department of English, the school boasts its own runway, a fleet of training aircraft, and an aerospace museum.

Today the school conducts research and education in nano-satellite technology, unmanned aerial vehicles, avionics systems, design/manufacture of air and spacecraft, air traffic control, aerospace law, aviation logistics and management. The school is also well known for its Korean Air Force ROTC, flight training, and English programs.

KAU has been closely linked for decades to Korean Air, now one of the world’s top ten airlines, and the world’s top air cargo service. In addition to its Seoul campus, KAU operates the Korean Air Flight Training Center at Jeju Island, a subtropical resort at the southernmost extreme of Korean territory. The center provides the final phase of advanced multi-engine jet training for all Korean Air pilots.

After checkout in the Cessna Citation Flight Simulator, Dean Yannis Yortsos (right seat) inspected the historic Lockheed Super Constellation, Korean Air’s first aircraft type at the Korean Air Flight Training Center on Jeju Island.  Angus McColl, Viterbi’s executive director of corporate and foundation relations is in the left seat.
Korean Air is unique among the world’s great airlines in operating its own dedicated Flight Training Center. All new Korean Air pilots first attend primary flight training in the United States. Then they join the Flight Training Center as resident flying cadets in a paramilitary training regimen that lasts up to seven months. All pilots receive final all-weather certification in flying the twin-engine Cessna Citation executive jet. They are then sent to Korean Air to begin flying as co-pilot First Officers.

As part of his introduction to KAU, Yortsos traveled to Jeju Island and toured the Flight Training Center as well as some tourist destinations. However, he readily admits “Jeju is a beautiful place, but I had the most fun that day flying the Cessna Citation flight simulator.”

Yortsos and Yuh look forward with satisfaction and optimism to the growth of the KAU-USC partnership. The two schools are already collaborating under a joint research institute in conjunction with the European aerospace company Airbus and Korean Air. The two leaders envision other productive ventures as the commemorative tree they planted in 2007 continues to grow.