June Huh is confident South Korean mathematicians can win Fields Medal in 10 years

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By Kim Boram

SEOUL, July 19 (Yonhap) — June Huh, the Korean American who was honored with the Fields Medal last year, expressed his belief Wednesday that South Korean mathematicians are competitive enough to win the prestigious award within 10 years.

“There are so many outstanding postgraduate and postdoctorate mathematicians in South Korea,” he told reporters after the opening ceremony for the June E Huh Center for Mathematical Challenges (HCMC) in Seoul.

“Given a suitable research environment, they could accomplish great things within 10 years, not 20.”

June Huh, the Korean American mathematician who won the prestigious Fields Medal last year, delivers a lecture during the opening ceremony for the June E Huh Center for Mathematical Challenges in Seoul on July 19, 2023. (Yonhap)

Last year, the 40-year-old Princeton University professor, who also serves as a distinguished professor of mathematics at the Korea Institute for Advanced Study (KIAS), became the first-ever scholar of Korean descent to win the award given by the International Mathematical Union every four years.

The Fields Medal, first introduced in 1936, was created to recognize and support younger mathematicians who have made major contributions to the field of mathematics. Awarded to mathematicians under 40, the Fields Medal is often referred to as the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

KIAS set up the HCMC, named after the Korean American Fields Medal winner, to support Korean mathematicians and help them win the medal within 20 years.

“It’s a bit embarrassing for me to see a center named after myself,” he said. “But I hope it will play a role in helping Korean mathematicians carry out long-term research projects in a more stable way.”

He said he will be staying in Seoul this summer and is willing to do some joint research if he gets a good chance.

Huh was born in 1983 in California but grew up in South Korea. He majored in physics and astronomy as an undergraduate at Seoul National University and studied mathematics at the university’s graduate school. Huh obtained his mathematics Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2014.

June Huh, the Korean American mathematician who won the prestigious Fields Medal last year, delivers a lecture during the opening ceremony for the June E Huh Center for Mathematical Challenges in Seoul on July 19, 2023. (Yonhap)

brk@yna.co.kr
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