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Brief History of Mass Spectrometry in Korea Related to the Establishment of the Korean Society for Mass Spectrometry

Author(s): Hun-Young So*

Journal: Mass Spectrometry Letters
ISSN 2233-4203

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2010;

Keywords: KSMS | KMSG | History | Membership | Budget

In the early 1970s, there were only a limited numberof mass spectrometers in Korea and experts to whomyou could ask about mass spectrometers. Two magneticsector instruments were bought to Korea by the Japanesereparations as a result of the Treaty on Basic Relationsbetween Japan and the Republic of Korea signed in1965. One was operated at the Seoul National University(SNU) and the other was at the Ginseng and TobaccoResearch Institute. It was too early to see any quadrupolemass spectrometer even at laboratories of developedcountries. The first mass spectrometer installed for researchpurpose was the VG ZAB-E at the Professor MyungSooKim’s (MSK) laboratory at SNU. It is fair to say thathis laboratory was the only one in Korea where studentscould be trained as mass spectroscopist. In the middleof 1970s the Korean government had a loan from bothIBRD and ADB to invest into modernization of analyticalinstruments to be used for educational purposes. Butmost of instruments became idle after several monthsor so due to lack of infrastructure needed for propermaintenance. It was the time when foreign currencywas tightly controlled by the central government.The main surge of mass spectrometers into Korea wassome time before the Game of the Olympiad, Seoul in1988 by installing modern analytical instruments neededto setup the Doping Control Center (DCC) establishedin 1986. Many of GC/MS were installed and scientistswith analytical backgrounds were recruited. The DCClaboratory was headed by Dr. Jong-Sei Park (JSP). Many of GC/MS were installed and a number of peopleunderstanding the instrument was kept on increasing.As returning to Korea to work at the KoreaStandards Research Institute (currently Korea ResearchInstitute of Standards and Science) on August 1988, Ivisited Professor MSK at the SNU. He and I talkedabout research topics and the laboratory at Case WesternReserve University where both of us spent considerabletimes. It was during the Olympiad held from September17 to October 2 in 1988. While discussing many matterswith MSK, I suggested him an idea of establishing asociety similar to the American Society for MassSpectrometry (ASMS) in Korea for the advancementof mass spectrometry in Korea.On 31 March 1989, seven people gathered at themeeting room of the Chemistry Department of the SNUto discuss about an organization for mass spectrometry.The participants were Professor MSK of the ChemistryDepartment of SNU, Professor Ji-Hwa Lee of theDepartment of the Applied Chemistry of SNU, ProfessorKyung-Ryul Kim of the Department of the Oceanographyof SNU, Professor Jong Man Yang of the PhysicsDepartment of the Ehwa Woman’s University, JSP ofthe DCC, Mr. Sa-Moon Hong of the Korea ResearchInstitute of Chemical Technology, and myself. Thedecisions made on the meeting became the seed of thecurrent Korean Society for Mass Spectrometry (KSMS).Firstly, we agreed on the establishment of a voluntaryorganization, called the Korean Mass Spectrometry Group(KMSG). Secondly, we decided on membership opento any organization or person who are using and having interests in mass spectrometers while working atuniversities, institutes and industries in the fields of naturalscience, pharmaceuticals, medical science, engineering,environmental, etc. Thirdly, we organized a group. Itwas agreed that MSK, JSP, and HYS will serve asorganizing committee until the first meeting of theKMSG. And then we set the activities of the KMSG:The Group will organize several seminars in a year,and will represent the mass spectrometry communityin the international arena, and will provide trainingand workshops for the community.It took more than a year to have the first KMSGmeeting which was held at the Seoul National Universityon September 8, 1990. The logbook of the first meetinghas names of 68 participants. But many of the studentsdid not write their names. All together there were morethan 80 participants in the room 102 at the LectureHall 28 of the SNU’s Gwanak Campus.The invitation letter sent to more than 120 people.The letter starts the invitation by saying “Dear Sir/Madam. Recently the number of research projects usingmass spectrometry, users of MS, and number of instrumentsare increasing remarkably. It was true that the rate ofincrease of MS was remarkable as the economicalgrowth of the nation brought needs of better quality oflife in every perspective”. The announcement of themeeting was delivered by local sales agents of massspectrometer vendors because it was not possible tolist up the number of mass spectrometer operated inKorea and who are the representative users of thoseinstruments. So the committee members asked to thesales agents to list up users and their addresses to makecontact information. The first version of a mailing listhas more than 120 people working at universities,research institutes and private companies. To make surethe news of meeting could be reached out to every MSusers, each agent was asked to contact every user. Sincethen it became a tradition that sales agents are responsibleto deliver the announcement of KMSG meeting. Thistradition has been kept until early years of the presentKSMS.The first meeting had three lectures; Professor DongSoo Lee of the Yonsei University, Professor MSK ofthe SNU, and Professor Dong Cheul Moon of theChungbuk National University. The title of the firsttalk was “Potential of ICP/MS for the analysis for ultra trace elements in environmental samples” Professor Kimgave lecture on “Photodissocaition of p-nitrotoluenemolecule ions in nanosecond time scale,” and ProfessorMoon’s was “Application of fast atom bombardmentin bioanalytical chemistry”.After lectures, the participants discussed the futureof the KMSG. There were endorsement on all relatedmatters and the future plan to the three persons of theorganizing committee of the KMSG. The three personswho started the organization of the first KMSG meetingwere nominated to be members of the steering committee.It was also agreed to have more than three times of similarseminars in a year on Thursday or Friday and to coverevery disciplines where mass spectrometers are used.During the first several regular meetings, the expenseof meeting was covered by fee of one thousand Won(approximately 10 dollars) which was barely enough topay for gathering at a small restaurant after the seminar.The second meeting of the KMSG was held on January25, 1991 at Korea Research Institute of Standards andScience (KRISS) located at Daejeon. There were twolectures. The first one was given by Dr. Won Jo Chungat the Lucky Central Research Laboratory with thetitle of “Analytical methods using LC/MS”. He is nowa faculty member of Inha University at Incheon. Thesecond speaker was HYS of the KRISS with the titleof “Principles of Fourier transform mass spectrometryand analysis of polymers by laser desorption”.The third meeting of the KMSG was held on April25, 1991 at the Johnson Auditorium of the KIST. Therewere seminars from two speakers. The first was by thelate Dr. Song Ja PARK with the title of “Micro analysisof biological fluid using thermospray LC/MS”. Thesecond one was given by Dr. Stewart Cram for the USEPA with the title of “Environmental Pollutants analysisby mass spectrometry”.The fourth meeting of the KMSG was held on 11September 1991 at the Korea Basic Science ResearchCenter (currently the Korea Basic Science Institute)located at Seoul. There were two presentations. Thefirst speaker was Dr. Joong Chul Choi (currently at theDongkook University) with the title of “Principle andapplications of tandem mass spectrometry”. And theother speaker was Chuck B. Douthitt from FinniganMAT. The title of his talk was “Historical development on isotope ratio mass spectrometry−from 1920 topresent”. The mailing list used for this meeting had277 individuals. The number of contact points becamemore than double within a year of time.In September 18, 1992, the KMSG had a specialseminar at the Johnson Auditorium of the KIST atSeoul. Three speakers were chosen and invited amongthe participants of the International Conference onBiological Mass Spectrometry held at Japan duringSeptember 20−24 at Kyoto, Japan. They were ProfessorsFred McLafferty, R Graham Cooks, and CatherineFenselau. Due to the financial difficulties, the KMSGtook the opportunity of their coming to Japan, and askthem to visit Korea just before their trip to Kyoto.Four of learned society in Korea did sponsorship forthe seminar. After estimating the total expense of theseminar, most of big sales agents of mass spectrometersin Korea were asked to contribute as sponsors to coverthe expenses. They were Korean Chemical Society,The Analytical Society of Korea, Korea MicrobiologySociety, and Korea Pharmaceutical Society. Thesponsorship was necessary because KMSG was avoluntary gathering with no authority of issuing receiptswhich could be accepted by tax authority. The receiptsof sponsorship were issued by those established societiessponsored the seminar.By spending so much energy for the success of thespecial seminar with limited human resources and financialsupport, members of the organizing committee wereexhausted and had to find out a wiser solution to keepthe activities on going. By rapid increase of scientificactivities in Korea, most of the members changed theirpositions by promotions and relocations. And also thesuccession of leadership of the Group was not successfullydone; so as to make activities become even slower.In early 2000s, the leaders of MS community inKorea felt the need of society in a formal and legalmanner. The KMSG renamed itself as the Korean Societyfor Mass Spectrometry (KSMS), although it had notbeen legally registered yet. An official website was openedfor better communication of the society, gain adequate momentum to maintain activities ofKSMS, it was also important to have annual meetingsin a regular basis. In early 2002, I took the responsibilityto revitalize activities of the KSMS and organized themeeting with Drs. Yong-Hyeon Yim (YYH) and Byungjoo Kim (BJK), which became the first unofficial regularmeeting of the KSMS. It was held at a resort placelocated on western seashore, Anmyon Island, on 22nd−23rd October 2002 and had more than hundred participantseven after a quite long period of inactivity. It was heldin a workshop format to provide participants a generalintroduction on the principles and diverse applicationsof mass spectrometry. Some traditions of the KSMShave been started and handed down from this meeting.They include having a conference at a resort place onAugust to attract more participants to enjoy scientificcommunication as well as relaxation after conference.A dress code of casual or smart casual was highlyrecommended, therefore, to boost up unreserved discussionand interaction. Foods and drinks were provided freeof charge thanks to the generous support of sponsors.It was quite clear from experience of the event that theMS community in Korea eager to have chances tolearn and share scientific and technical informationrelated with mass spectrometry.To maintain regular activities of the society, a soundfinancial ground became essential. For that, registrationof society as legal body was the most urgent matter. Inthe next regular meeting held at Yongpyong resort on28−29th August 2003, I was elected as the first officialpresident of the KSMS chaired till 2005, articles wereapproved, and decided to register the KSMS as a legalperson registered at the Ministry of Science andTechnology. The registration was completed on April2004. The first official KSMS meeting held at PheonixPark resort, Pyungchang, on August 2004 took theform of a general academic conference by includingsymposium, poster presentations and workshops. Thenumber of participants was over 200. The KSMSselects topic of particular interest every year and holdsa winter symposium to promote in-depth coverageand discussion for specific areas of mass spectrometrystarting from February 2005.During my term of presidency, the firm establishmentof the society and its traditions were the major focus.During terms of next two presidents, Drs. Jong ShinYoo and Bong Chul Chung, the growth of membershipand financial support by sponsors were really remarkable.Membership has grown roughly from 300 to 1300 andthe budget has been increased 12 times during last 7years. Such a remarkable growth could not be possiblewithout sacrificing efforts of committee members,especially general secretaries. By the same token,enthusiastic supports of MS communities and sponsorsin Korea are greatly appreciated.Recently, KSMS went through a process of publishing the Mass Spectrometry Letters, under the leadership ofa new president, Dr. Seung Koo Shin, which will setanother milestone in the history of KSMS. This journalsignifies how KSMS has grown up from a small studygroup to a fully grown society receiving global attention.
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