The Inspiring Life Of A South Korean Professor Who Was Once Hailed The Smartest Person In The World

The journey from extraordinary to exceptional.

In 2014, Kim Ung Yong fulfilled his long-time dream as he became a full-time professor at Shinhan University in the Gyeonggi Province. Though usually, this achievement would be a matter of celebration, Mr. Kim got the tag of a “failed genius” instead.

Kim Ung yong | Yonhap News

Born in 1962, Kim Ung Yong was showing signs of extraordinary intelligence since he was a year old. At that age, he had already learned the Korean alphabet, as well as 1,000 Chinese characters from a Chinese poem dating back to the 6th Century!

Kim Ung Yong at age 7 | Wikipedia

By age three, Kim Ung Yong was solving calculus problems, and at five years old, he had already mastered five languages- Korean, English, French, German, and Japanese. Around this time, he appeared on Fuji TV in Japan and grabbed popular attention by showcasing his genius.

Kim Ung Yong on Fuji TV in 1969 | The Korea Herald

According to reports, he was working at NASA at the age of eight, and in 1978, his name was recorded in the Guinness Book Of World Records for the highest IQ at 210.

While his career as an academic genius was soaring to unprecedented heights, Kim Ung Yong decided to pull the plug on it abruptly. He returned to South Korea in 1978 and decided to pursue higher education at Chungbuk National University where he obtained his Ph.D. in civil engineering.

The reason behind this decision was his growing dissatisfaction with the life of a genius. According to Mr. Kim, he missed out on many things in life while excelling academically. He spent his days couped up, deprived of the finer joys of life. His lifestyle also drew in some nasty rumors from the media.

At that time, I led my life like a machine ― I woke up, solved the daily assigned equation, ate, slept, and so forth. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I was lonely and had no friends…

— Kim Ung Yong

So, he left that life behind in pursuit of his own identity and a normal life with his family and friends. Though the media labeled him as a “failed genius”, a living proof of how things can go horribly wrong with gifted kids, Mr. Kim has no regrets about his decision. In a society that puts academic intelligence on a pedestal, he is adamant that a high IQ really doesn’t determine anything about a person’s character.

Society should not judge anyone with unilateral standards — everyone has different learning levels, hopes, talents, and dreams and we should respect that.

— Kim Ung Yong

Despite being called a bad example for kids, Mr. Kim has proudly stated, “I consider my life a success ― there aren’t many people who do what they really want to do, but I do. That is what you call success, what else do you call a happy life?

Source: The Korea Herald, DAWN and Wikipedia