AOGS Wing Ip Medal Award

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2020 Wing Ip Medallist
Sang-Mook LEE

Seoul National University

Sang-Mook Lee is an inaugural member and an old friend of AOGS. His association with AOGS began way back in 2003 when he attended the first interim meeting to organize AOGS as a representative of Korea.

The Singapore meeting was attended by the three founding members (Ian Axford, Yohsuke Kamide, Wing Ip) and two junior members (Kenji Satake and Sang-Mook Lee). Being educated in US, he recalls his uneasiness to rebel against WPGM and AGU but being persuaded by Kenji who called to action. Sang-Mook is very honored to have been part of the interim committee and the following success of AOGS and would like to take this moment to thank Kenji once again for his courage and leadership.

Sang-Mook likes to jokingly boast that he was the zeroth President of AOGS. During the first General Meeting 2004 in Singapore, he assumed the interim secretary for 30 minutes during which his job was to go on stage and get participants to agree on Wing Ip as the first President. So, it is a coincidence that he became one of the first recipients of the Wing Ip Award.

In 2006, during a geologic field trip in the California, Sang-Mook was critically injured in a van rollover accident which rendered him quadriplegic, completely paralyzed neck down. Nobody thought he would return. However, in less than six months, he returned to the university on an electric wheelchair. His incredible comeback was reported nationwide and made him a celebrity overnight. Sang-Mook remembers and thanks the 2006 Council Members and Cheng Hoon Khoo for their support and visit to hospital in Korea.

Sang-Mook served as a member of local advisory committee for the fifth General Meeting 2008 in Pusan Korea. He was given an impossible mission by then AOGS President Atsuhiro Nishida. It was to get then Prime Minister His Excellency Seung-soo Han to provide opening speech at the General Meeting. The reason Prof. Nishida wanted Han was because he served as a United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change the previous year.

Sang-Mook, though was a rising celebrity, had no idea how he could get hold of the Prime Minister. But then with the stroke of luck, Sang-Mook was invited to a popular late-night talk show where he expressed his wish to invite the Prime Minister. It was his first television exposure and he only agreed to do so for AOGS. The very next morning the Prime Minister’s office called Sang-Mook, and the rest is history.

Sang-Mook was asked to serve as the chair of local advisory committee for the 17th General Meeting 2020. Unfortunately, the event was canceled due to COVID 19. He remembers a heated debate among advisory committee members in the recommendation of next potential venue. Sang-Mook argued that the loyalty should be placed towards AOGS as opposed to regional interest. However, he found many did not share his conviction. For him AOGS meant something big, beyond national and political boundaries. The event still troubles him.