Former whiz kid feels happy with ordinary life despite media expectations
CHEONGJU, North Chungcheong Province ― What will people think of 16-month-old wonder child Jonathon Rader, able to play various musical instruments, if he decides not to pursue a career as a musician?
The answer seems to be “a failure,” when hearing the story from Kim Ung-yong, a 48-year-old record holder for the world’s highest intelligence quotient, in an interview with The Korea Herald.
“I was famous for having a 210 IQ and being able to solve intricate math equations at the age of four,” Kim said, adding, “Apparently, the media belittled the fact that I chose to work in a business planning department at Chungbuk Development Corporation.”
Kim says the media denounced him as a “failed Genius” but he has no idea why his life, which he considers a success, had to be called a failure.
“People expected me to become a high-ranking official in the government or a big company, but I don’t think just because I chose not to become the expected it gives anyone a right to call anyone’s life a failure,” he said.
Kim says his life is a great success.
The holder of the world’s highest IQ of 210 in the Guinness book of records says he is at the zenith of happiness in life. (Hwang Jurie/The Korea Herald)
When Kim decided to leave NASA, entered a university located outside of Seoul and became an ordinary company worker, the media took him to task. Kim says he is still bitter with the memory. “I’m trying to tell people that I am happy the way I am. But why do people have to call my happiness a failure?” he said.
Invited by NASA at the age of 8, Kim worked there for 10 years but calls the time spent there his lonely years. “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,” he said. But for young Kim a longing to be with his mother was the decisive factor in his decision to return to Korea.
As expected, the media covered his return. “I was sick and tired of being the center of attention, again. I felt like a monkey in a zoo,” he said, adding, “At that time, there were no twitters nor instant messaging, so that gave newspapers more power, I guess ― the word went around so fast ― some people even started calling me schizophrenic for being cooped up in a room. I wanted to avoid any kind of attention toward me.”
Meanwhile, he wanted to get a job in Korea but to even do that he was told that he needed elementary, middle, and high school diplomas. “Since I had no official diploma ― I had to start all over from scratch,” Kim explained.
Nevertheless, that was no obstacle for Kim. Soon, he took certificate exams and earned his elementary and middle school diplomas within a year and then a high school diploma in the following year. “After that, I wanted to attend a university, rather than get a job right away. I wanted to attend school with friends my age, and outside of Seoul, where I thought I would receive less attention,” he said.
Kim Ung-yong, then aged seven, solves a differential equation in a Japan Fuji TV show in 1969. (Courtesy of Kim Ung-yong)
Kim says he’s led a happy life ever since. “At school, I lived my freshmen year as an elementary school kid, my sophomore year as a middle schooler, my junior year as a high school student, and spent my senior year like a normal college kid,” Kim said. “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?” he said.
Despite numerous attempts to avoid the media in the past, Kim was hounded by them again when a story arose of a boy entering college at the age of 9 ― the reports mentioned Kim as a “failing model.”
“The stories pointed me out as if I set a bad example for the little boy and reported that the kid should not grow up like me,” Kim said, expressing regret at the media reports.
Kim claims that people invest too much meaning in IQ. “Some think people with high a IQ can be omnipotent, but that’s not true. Look at me, I don’t have musical talent, nor am I excelling in sports,” he said.
Just like the world records for athletes, having a high IQ is just another element of human talent. “If there is a long spectrum of categories with many different talents, I would only be a part of the spectrum. I’m just good in concentrating on one thing, and there are many others who have different talents,” he explained.
Kim says high IQ does not necessarily mean imperishable memory. “I could speak four languages ― French, German, Japanese and English ― but I can’t speak fluently now, I could brush up and speak a bit, but honestly it became rusty,” he said.
“Society should not judge anyone with unilateral standards everyone has different learning levels, hopes, talents, and dreams and we should respect that,” Kim said.
By Hwang Jurie (firstname.lastname@example.org)