South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol visits U of T for AI roundtable

The University of Toronto welcomed South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol to campus last week to discuss artificial intelligence (AI) – its rise, potential applications and opportunities for further collaboration between U of T and South Korean partners.

President Yoon hailed Toronto as an AI powerhouse, saying that Canada’s status as a world leader in AI and a centre of the global AI supply chain was the result of the country recognizing the potential economic and social impacts of the technology early on.

He also said the tenacity and persistence of researchers such as University Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneer of the AI field of deep learning, served as a “benchmark” for South Korean efforts to advance the technologies of the future, adding that he was delighted to visit U of T, which he described as “one of the most prestigious universities in North America.”

U of T President Meric Gertler, for his part,said he was “deeply honoured” to welcome President Yoon, who, he said, “has made it a priority to work closely with South Korea’s allies and partners, advancing openness, human rights, democracy and the rule of law, with clear purpose and integrity.

President Yoon’s visit to U of T took place during the first day of his two-day visit to Canada, which included a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa the following day.

It also came less than two weeks after the government of Ontario concluded a trade mission to South Korea and Japan, led by Vic Fedeli, the province’s minister of economic development job creation and trade.

Fedeli, who attended the U of T event, said Toronto’s reputation as a global hub in AI was regularly impressed upon him during his time in South Korea.

“At every single stop that we made, we heard people talk about Canada, AI, U of T, the Vector Institute – they see Canada as a real leader in AI and they’re very eager to learn,” Fedeli said.

He noted there was a strong desire in South Korea to see more Korean students come to Canada to further their education in STEM fields, including in AI. “They want a bigger influx of Korean students – and we told them, ‘The door’s open,’ because we really believe this is going to help society. We’ve seen some examples of what AI has done and we’re very eager to continue to see the development of AI.”

Photo: South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, centre, with U of T President Meric Gertler and Minister Vic Fedeli, Ontario minister of economic development, job creation and trade. Photo by Johnny Guatto. 

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