On behalf the local organizers of Seoul ICM, I am truly excited to welcome our colleagues from around the world to this Congress. You have come from more than 120 countries in the world, and many of you are also attending one of our 51 satellite conferences. I sincerely thank the International Mathematical Union for the help and support it provided during the past years, which saved us from many mistakes and pitfalls.
For this Congress to be realized, it took many years of preparations by dedicated members of the Korean math community and the level of support from the government and corporations of Korea has been phenomenal. The law-making body of Korea, the National Assembly, adopted a resolution in support of Seoul ICM in November of 2013 and the Korean government declared the year 2014 as the Korean Mathematical Year in order to maximize the impact of Seoul ICM in Korea. Several prominent corporations made considerable donations to this Congress underscoring the growing importance of mathematics. We believe that this experience of working together with many faces of our society during the preparations of the Congress will help to open a new era of expanded roles of mathematics in the 21st century.
Starting from the ashes of the Korean War in the 1950s, the Korean economy has relentlessly shown signs of exponential growth. Korea’s semi-conductor industry, in particular, has achieved tremendous advancement to become the 3rd largest in the world. Names like Samsung, Hyundai and LG have become global brands. At the crossroads of Northeast Asia, Korea has also been called the “Miracle of the Han River”. It is generally believed that this economic miracle was made possible largely due to the critical role of education in Korean society and culture. With an illiteracy rate close to zero, the education of children is often the highest priority for Korean families. This high regard for education and scholarship together with the fact that the country’s education system emphasizes the importance of rigorous mathematical reasoning partly explains the stellar performance of young Korean students in International Math Olympiads and the steady influx of gifted students into the mathematics profession.
Our NANUM program to invite 1,000 mathematicians from developing countries to this Congress required focused and concerted efforts of the Korean math community. I believe that the NANUM grantees will take the ICM excitement back home, further extending the positive impacts of the Congress to future generations in their respective countries.
This Congress also put much emphasis on public outreach programs. The public lectures by James Simons and by the Leelavati prize winner, the Baduk match (go game) against renowned masters, and the math movie projection event, to name a few, were made possible by the efforts of our outreach team. We hope that these efforts will contribute to making mathematics a part of mass culture of our times.
I hope that you enjoy and are rejuvenated by the exciting mathematical lectures and by the company of colleagues from afar. I hope you will also be able to savor some of the fine attractions that our country offers. Korea’s five-millennia-long history has contributed greatly to its illustrious cultural heritage and exotic charm. Often referred to as the “Land of the Morning Calm”, Korea has its own unique cultural heritage, distinct from that of other Asian countries. A visit to the country’s numerous historical relics, ten of which are designated UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites, will make ICM participants’ journey all the more special.
See you in Seoul this August!
Chairman of the Seoul ICM 2014 Organizing Committee