Finding Mr. Kim: test of tech and heart
By Michael L. McManus
I was 23 years old in 1970, newly hired at the Philadelphia National Bank (PNB) in the International Division.
My credentials at 23 were perfect for becoming a banker. I held a degree from Wharton and had studied in the Netherlands for a year. Little did I know how and why my career would change.
In an executive training program, I had the task, self-appointed, of welcoming new and international people to the division. One was a Mr. Kim, a new immigrant on a long-awaited green card; a few years older than me, but a kind friend. We had coffee and I asked him his story. Here it is: He waited five years to apply, heard nothing; married his sweetheart. He proudly showed me her picture in his wallet.
After his wedding, he heard he had 30 days to accept his visa or be denied. He chose to remain in the U.S. I asked how long it would be until his new bride could join him. He said sadly they told him it would be five years. I could see it in his face. Why did he do this? Why would anyone do this? He wanted so much to become an American.
I left the office that day with a full heart for Mr. Kim. The next day, I took a piece of PNB letterhead and wrote a letter to then Senator Hugh Scott (Rep.) Pennsylvania U.S. Senator. I asked if he could help my colleague. What a risk. No permission. No one knew, but me.
Two weeks later I received a phone call. Senator Scott had read my letter and arranged for this bride of Mr. Kim to come to the U.S. within 60 days, not five years!
Mr. Kim fell to his knees when he saw the letter. I said, ``Let’s just have coffee”. I could see tears in his eyes.
Some weeks later he brought her to the bank for our introduction. The elevator doors opened. They walked toward me and she bowed. Everyone clapped. I was 23 years old; a long time ago. It seems like yesterday.
They invited me to dinner and I had my first ever kimchi.
Within three months I left banking and became an educator.
So, now after forty two years, where is Mr. Kim? Is he alive and are both he and his wife OK? Maybe even he is back here in Korea! God only knows. But would it not be somehow amazing to find out?
Why? I have told this story to many students and friends and have come to believe it changed my life as well as his. It would give me such satisfaction to know that he is well. I could let it go, but I cannot. I want to find Mr. Kim, and see if his life is OK and be a friend until the end.
Some have said this is good story for a movie, a true test of media potential.
Mr. Kim, maybe you are reading this. You will know. Please contact me. Friends out there, let me know how we could find Mr. Kim and if he is OK, and if his life is good. We are given a few true gifts along our way, things that only passion can make happen.
Finding Mr. Kim has become a project in my lifetime. We are given the gift of remembering such people and events in our lives as time passes. Unless it is all forgotten, these things become what our lives stand for and we are so lucky if we can finally understand that.
At 23, I was so bold, using a company letterhead and writing to a U.S. senator. I remember the tears, Mr. Kim’s beautiful bride. I had no idea what I was doing…or did I? Now I understand.
The writer is founder and president emeritus of California International Business University, San Diego, and currently a visiting lecturer at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. His email address is email@example.com.