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KA Ass`t Transportation Sec. Names Parents as Role Models

KA Ass`t Transportation Sec. Names Parents as Role Models

Posted September. 28, 2009 08:26,   


David Kim (Korean name Kim Sung-chul, photo), 36, says the spirit of charity and helping others instilled in him by his parents has made him what he is today.

The second-generation Korean American made news after U.S. President Barack Obama named him deputy assistant secretary for governmental affairs at the U.S. Transportation Department in June.

Kim was adviser to Obama’s election campaign and made it on the short list of Korean Americans to be named to top positions under the new administration, joining Howard Koh, assistant secretary at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, and Koh`s brother, Harold Koh, legal adviser to the State Department.

In an e-mail interview with The Dong-A Ilbo, his first with Korean media, Kim said, “My parents’ lifelong dedication to charity has taken me to where I am today.”

Kim learned the spirit of “noblesse oblige” from his father Luke Kim, 79, a former psychiatry professor at the University of California-Davis, and his mother Grace Kim, 78. They instilled in him the spirit of charity and social service, something that has stayed with him throughout his life.

While in college, David Kim was active in community service by joining the Korean American Coalition, a non-profit organization advocating the rights of Korean Americans.

Dong-A caught up with Luke Kim at Seal Beach in Southern California near his house early this month. He seemed to have health issues related to his old age and a written interview was considered easier than a face-to-face interview.

Yet the elder Kim’s eyes lit up when asked about his thoughts on charity, saying, “We live to share with others.”

His son agreed, saying, “I felt the proverb ‘Put your money where your mouth is’ was made for my parents. They were not the lecturing type of parents and always set an example through action. They’ve always donated to and volunteered for charity, and that’s why they’ll forever be my role models.”

Psychiatrists in the U.S. earn high incomes, but David Kim’s parents have little possessions apart from a small house in a town where many retirees live and 5,000 dollars in monthly pension. Not a single penny of their wealth went to their sons after they became adults because they donated their assets to society.

Furthermore, the couple left their house where they had lived for 30 years and moved to a smaller one as soon as Luke Kim retired, and donated the profit of 250,000 dollars from the sale to a university.

“My father always told me that as long as we have the commitment, we have the power to help others. It doesn’t matter whether you have money or not, as long as you can find your own way of helping people,” David Kim said.

“This spirit of sharing has helped our family find our rightful place in a society where Asians cannot easily join the mainstream even if they’re rich. My parents’ way of life was in a way the best contribution to my future. My father’s practice of charity led me to success.”