Sunggak Kim was born on March 17, 1946 in Kyungbuk province, Korea. He studied chemistry at Seoul National University, where he obtained his B. S. in 1969. After he had served in Korean Army as a first lieutenant for two and half years, he went to Canada in 1972 to receive his graduate training at McGill University in Montreal, where he did his Ph.D research with Professor George Just.
He moved to Harvard in 1976, where he spent three years for postdoctoral studies with Professor E. J. Corey. In 1979, he returned to Korea to join the chemistry faculty at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science. He was promoted to Professor of Chemistry at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in 1986. After 30 years at KAIST, he moved to Singapore in 2009 to become Nanyang Professor at Nanyang Technological University (`). In 2014, he returned to Korea to become a visiting Professor at Ewa Womans Univ., from which he retired in 2016.
Professor Sunggak Kim's research interests focused on the design and the development of new reactions and strategies with general utility in organic synthesis. He developed several synthetically useful reagents including reducing, oxidizing, and coupling reagents. Although he continues his interest in new synthetic methodologies utilizing carbenes, cations, and anions, his major research emphasis in recent years has been on the development of new free radical reactions. His achievements in this area included 1,n-rearrangements of Group IV elements, radical cyclizations of N-aziridinylimines, and free radical acylations. Furthermore, he developed new consecutive carbon-carbon bond formation approaches and this approach turned out to be very efficient for the construction of quaternary carbon centers in sesquiterpene synthesis. He is the author of 250 publications and one book.
He has been a member of the Korean Chemical Society, of the Korean Biochemical Society, of the American Chemical Society, and of the New York Academy of Sciences. He was a vice president of academic affairs of the Korean Chemical Society in 1998. He was on the Editorial Board of Bulletin of Korean Chemcial Society and Synlett. He has delivered over 100 invited lectures at universities, research institutes, and international conferences. His major scientific awards include the Korean Chemical Society Award for Young Chemists (1985), the Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies Award (1991), the Korea Science Prize in Chemistry (1994), and the KAIST Research Award (1997).