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"Y. K Kim - An Inspiration"

By Charley Reese
Orlando Sentinel Columnist
Sun Belt Syndicate

Every time I hear the usual complaints about immigrants taking jobs away from Americans or mooching off the government, I think of my friend, Y.K Kim.

Master Kim is a Taekwondo instructor. My son and I met two years ago when he inherited 10 students, one worn heavy bag and a small rented room from another Korean who had, for family reasons, decided to return to New York.

Master Kim is a small man who weighs about 130 pounds. At that first meeting, he was wearing neat but rather worn clothe and not much more than a grunt and faint smile came from his stern, battered face.

He was facing a large problem. In our city, there are several karate schools already, including one chain which operated three gyms and advertised heavily.

Master Kim had no car, no capital and could barely speak English. I don't think he ate very much and I know he slept on the floor of the gym. He did nothing but teach his students, practice himself and study English.

After some month he saved enough money to have handbills printed. Starting at 10 p.m., after the last student had gone home, Master Kim would trudge for miles, putting his handbills under the wipers of parked cars.

To make the story shorter, shorter, today Master Kim has one of the largest and most successful Taekwondo schools in the state and just recently handed over the entire proceeds from two benefit exhibitions, about $13,000.00, to homes for dependant children. Within two years, he has become not only a successful small businessman who pays a hefty chunk of taxes but a respected and loved member of his community.

There is a lesson here for al of us. For one thing, he has shown that the American dream is still a reality. For another, he has demonstrated that a person can succeed without government assistance. He never asked for a government job, food stamps, welfare, or a loan. Instead, he followed the classic path of success: he worked hard, he lived within his means, and he saved and reinvested what he saves instead of consuming it. When he couldn't afford a car he walked; when he couldn't afford a bed, he slept on the floor; when he couldn't afford food, he didn't eat.

Not once did Master Kim show any sign of self-pity. Not once did he complain of discrimination even though prejudice against Orientals is a reality. Not once did he gripe about the system or rail against his competitors. But more importantly, not once did he show any hint of greed or envy nor any doubt that he would eventually be successful.

In fact, Master Kim never showed any interest in money at all. He was focused entirely on providing the best instruction for his students. If only one student showed up, as was often the case in the beginning, Master Kim worked with him complete concentration. And when a student couldn't afford even the modest fee he was charging, Master Kim would insist that he come anyway.

Thus, he proved again the old principle that those who give, receive. Admittedly, Master Kim is an extraordinary person, a man who has spent his life mastering an art which requires extreme self-discipline if you want to reach his level of proficiency. But I tell you this: he puts to shame a lot of lazy bellyachers in this country who don't have time to succeed because they're so busy looking for government handouts and blaming everybody but themselves for their failure.

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