Student Profile: Paul Kim
By Jennifer H. Nam í98
During the weekend of April 6-9, Harvard seemed to be crawling with Korean Americans, and Paul Kim í96 was one of the busiest individuals behind all the work and planning. He was one of the three who headed KASCON, the Korean American Studentsí Conference, the largest conference of its kind. For one weekend, students from all over the continent are brought together to meet and hear both adults and students in the Korean American community. Paul believes it is extremely important to bring these students together. "I believe in thinking for oneself. And the way to do that is to have better informationÖ getting more information than possible. And the best way to do that, at least I thought, was to get students together voicing concerns, and then [to come] up with a forum to discuss, and [get] information from people who have done it before." Born and raised in Korea, Paul thinks it is typical for Korean Americans, especially young adults, to question their identity. He himself started high school in America, and he went from thinking he was a strong-rooted Korean to questioning his own identity. He had more non-Korean than Korean friends in high school. When he went to his first KASCON meeting two years ago in California, it was a "shock." He could remember that "there was a big ballroom and a center stage. But the first thing I saw was rows and rows of black hair. I sat in the back, staring at the black hair, and I kept thinking, ĎWhere am I?í" He realized th at if he was having questions, as a full-fledged Korean coming from the home country, then "what kind of questions were other people having?Ö In KASCON, there are 800 people just like me, with the same beliefs and the same questions."
For Paul, a role model is "not necessarily someone you want to be like. Instead, itís someone who has characteristics you uphold dearly. A role model can be parts of different people combined." Since his childhood, Paulís father has been a great influence on him. Paul really admires his father for having a greater vision, always keeping in mind the purpose for what he does. There are several things Paul has learned from his father. He has learned how important it is to maintain a relationship with God. "This one-on-one relationship is where the basis of power comes from." He has learned to be "true to yourself. Sometimes we end up doing things because the environment takes over. Do what you like doing because thatís the only way youíll succeed." For Paul, his father is an inspirational and thought-provoking person. Yet another thing he has learned from his father is that "you should respect everything in others. Listen to what they have to say." Paul also looks up to his pastor at Brookline. He believes that his pastor is a very thorough individual who has great vision and the ability to lay out what he has to do, really looking at a picture of details. In addition, he admires some of his fellow students, whose views he does not necessarily agree with, but whose firm convictions are admirable. He respects them for fighting for what they believe. Personally, for Paul, there is no clear-cut political view that he takes. He is not an activist.. Rather, he knows that there is much more he needs to know before making a decision or stance. "Iím just trying to soak it all in."
Paul believes a role model has three special qualities. First, they think their ideas through, starting from the small blocks. Second, they are individuals before anything else. "Harvard students have a strong tendency to stress themselves out. First, you need to build yourself from within. We have to know ourselves before we can help others." And lastly, they take the time to learn first. "Be a person. Then, after that, be a part of the community. You canít be much of a help if youíre useless." He believes everyone should just succeed in what he/she does. These individuals may not represent all other Korean Americans, but the fact that they succeed is representative of the community.
Paulís three years here at Harvard have led him to be involved not only in KASCON, but also in the Undergraduate Council. He has worked for Harvard Student Agencies and has been involved in the House and Neighborhood Development program (HAND). In addition, he plays baseball. From all these activities, it was most important for him to learn from them first, and then be able to give back to them and to others what he has gained.
This economics concentrator plans to go on to graduate school. It is important for him to study as much as he can and learn more first. "Iím only 20 years old. I donít know much right now. Iím trying to learn as much as possible." Only then, he believes, can he decide what he wants to do and make a difference.