Eugene Cho

in memory of james kim

james_2.jpg

when news began to spread about james kim, i had this growing suspicion that i somehow knew him.  sometimes, i make this error of thinking i know all the korean-americans.  it isn’t because of arrogance as it is to simply convey how inter-connected korean-americans are – locally, nationally, and even globally. i kept thinking that i’ve seen him somewhere; that i somehow played basketball with him orcrossed paths in san francisco.  he was 35 – a year younger than me.  as it was, the reason why he looked familiar to me was because i’ve seen him on TV on occasions on a cable program called techTV and i happen to be a recovering gadget junkie.

by now, you’ve heard the news of his tragic passing.  james kim, his wife kati, and their two small daughters, penelope and sabine, were on vacation in the pacific northwest and returning home to san francisco when  two unfortunate incidents happened:  they got lost and their car got stuck in snow in a road that is normally blocked by a locked metal gate (it unfortunately was cut open by a vandal some time earlier).  they were stranded, cold, and in the middle of the severe winter storm that we all experienced couple weeks ago.

i know that in the background of the deaths and tragedies that happen all around the world everyday, this is just one story.  yet, I can’t help but confess that i am particularly moved by this story.  perhaps, it is because there are some common  threads in our stories:  we are both korean-americans; we are both around the same age; we both live or lived in san francisco; we both wear the chunky geeky dark black glasses; we both understand the immigrant experience; and we both are married and fathers to young children.

james and his family were in the car for nine long days attempting to keep warm through a variety of different and creative ways but he eventually left his car and family to seek help.  at the water coolers at work, neighborhood cafes, and peoples’ blogs, i hear and read people questioning his senses or ‘outdoor wisdom’ of leaving the car and family behind.  folks, for goodness sakes, just stop! i don’t want to hear it.  we can all play monday morning quarterback in the comforts of our offices or in the neighbhorhood cafe surfing the web on the free wi-fi.  what he chose to do isn’t necessarily rational.  the circumstances were not rational.  as a parent, we do irrational things to demonstrate our commitment to our spouse and children. 

i did not know james kim.  but i am moved by his effort to do something to help save his wife and daughters.  today, news was released that james kim actually walked more than 16 miles (not ten as it was earlier reported) before he died trying to save his family.  one newspaper shared:

Based on what the searchers were describing, the terrain they were working in, it seems superhuman to me that he was able t cover that amount of distance given what he had, and also given that he had been nine days in a car prior to leaving it.

i did not know james kim.  but i know that he loved his wife and children and that in itself is reason to celebrate his life and his heroic effort.  thank you for your life and example. 

Filed under: asian-american, culture, family

3 Responses

  1. Blake says:

    Thank you for the touching note, Eugene. I too am very impressed and amazed by the late Mr. Kim. He was a very resourceful man and it truly is a tragedy that he didn’t survive.

    I’ve heard some people talk about it being foolish for him to leave the car, but I can honestly say that I would have done the same thing. If I have no reason to believe after 9 days that my staying in the car is going to help my family survive, I sure as heck am going to get out and go looking for that help at the risk of my life.

  2. Blake says:

    Oops… I forgot to add that I don’t see anything foolish with him getting out of the car.

    God bless his family.

  3. moni says:

    hi cho…i said the same thing…also…korean-american…do i know this guy? this family? but no, i really didn’t, but nonetheless truly touched by their story. i burn an incense and candle for James beside my father’s bc i see the kindred spirit, selfless love, commitment to family. James gave his all, and if i read the reports correctly the five miles of his footprints in the snow led the pilot down that road back to Kati and the girls. He did save them. each day they are still in my thghts and heart, and if anyone expends the energy send positive thghts of peace, light, and angels for them.

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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