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Sunday, June 15, 2014

0 Remembering Sir Kim


In 2009, I wrote a feature about the life and mission of my Korean professor for our school paper. On June 14, 2014, he passed away.

Kim Jin Gyoon, essentially
The mission, the passion, and the Filipino heart

By Ralph Revelar-Sarza
Published 2009, Budyong,
The Official Student Publication of BU College of Arts and Letters

PROMISES are not always meant to be broken. And sometimes they are life-changing.

Dr. Kim Jin Gyoon, “Sir Kim” to his students, is the first among the four missionaries sent by Dong Seo Vison Center Christian Mission Incorporated to carry out their calling here in the Philippines. “(Our) mission is to spread the gospel and the good news about the Lord,” Dr. Kim said. “And my way to spread them is through teaching my students.”

The 50-year-old volunteer teacher is an alumnus of Dong-A University, where he finished Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Linguistics. He pursued his Masters of Arts in English Linguistics and Doctor of Philosophy in Modern English Grammar at the same university.

Before he braved volunteerism, Dr. Kim spent six years as a high school teacher from 1984, and 17 years as a college professor at Kyung Nam College of Information and Technology (KIT) in Pusan, South Korea. He is now in his 25th year of imparting knowledge, and there is one thing he seems to avoid at all costs: retiring. “I love teaching,” he said. “I love standing in front of my students. That’s my mission in this world. Jesus’ mission was to preach, to teach, and to heal. I can do two of them—preaching and teaching.”

But what really made him decide to choose his mission over his good life back in Korea?

Born again, literally

Talk about cheating death twice.

“When I was eight months old,” Dr. Kim recalled, “my belly puffed up and became bloated, and nobody knew the reason why. There was no way to recover, and everybody around me said I would die.”

But his mother did not give up, and called on a foreign doctor for help. “The doctor said (going through) an operation would only give us fifty percent chance of survival,” Dr. Kim said. “My mother insisted on having an operation.” The surgery was successful, and “the doctor found a big lump in my stomach.” The doctor said he might live for five more years, but beyond that would be considered a miracle.

Life went on for Dr. Kim, but unfortunately there was no escaping fate.

When he was 18, Dr. Kim faced death for the second time around. “When I was in second year high school, I figured in a car accident,” he brought to mind. “I was declared dead by the doctor, and I was already brought in to a morgue. My parents wept a lot, and gave up.”

And now, the miracle. “The doctor held my right foot, and raised it up high. That stimulated my broken knee, and my face became distorted because of pain.” And to everyone’s surprise, he was still alive. The sudden facial reaction gave him and everyone around him the first sign of his survival. It took him a year to fully recover.

Because of what he went through, a promise was made. “I made up my mind to serve God and live for His sake,” he said.

First steps

“When I finished my (doctorate), Dr. Kim told the Budyong, “I remembered what I promised God.” He studied Theology, became a pastor, and decided to take his mission to the Philippines. “I have chosen the Philippines for my mission since I’ve already been visiting the place for several times with a KIT mission corps member,” he made clear. “And that influenced me a lot.”

His decision to move in to our country was not that uncomplicated on his part. “After I decided to devote myself to God, I wept a lot (thinking that) I would have to give up my daily life in Korea to fulfill my mission.

“Before I came to Legazpi City as a missionary, I had visited the place on the 31st of May 2007. I went to several universities, and asked them to give me a chance to teach Korean,” he said. “I got permission from Aquinas University (of Legazpi) and Bicol University,” he added.

Newfound home

Chuh gat jib. That’s what Bicol University is to Dr. Kim. “It means ‘wife’s house’ to husband,” he explained.

“It means the house itself as well as the persons (living) in the house. In Korea, chuh gat jib and (mothers)-in-law always welcome their (sons)-in-law. So I feel BU is my chuh gat jib, and all the people at Bicol University, especially the president, are my (mothers)-in-law,” he furthered.

Dr. Kim’s dedication as a volunteer teacher is very much evident. “Because of my mission, I had been asked to move in to Manila by the end of 2007. But I refused because I believed BU and Legazpi City are the best places for my mission,” he said. But early this year, Dr. Kim had been asked again to move in to Manila. “I recognized that my sponsor’s purpose was more important,” he said, so he decided to leave Legazpi City for Manila on the 14th of May this year. But that did not stop him from teaching his Bicolano students. Every Friday, he would take an early flight from Manila to Legazpi City. Yes, it was not easy for him, but that is how he defines generosity and dedication.

He has taught not only the Foreign Language students of Bicol University, but also the Journalism and the Speech and Theater Arts students of CAL free of charge.

“You (students) are not gonna pay for (Dr. Kim) because he’s a volunteer,” said Ray Bachiller, the CAL registrar. “You paid for the subject. The tuition you paid went to the university,” Bachiller clarified.

Moreover, his CAL family shared their thoughts about the kindness that Dr. Kim has shown.

According to Ma. Teresa Tapel of the Language Center, Dr. Kim is “kind, generous, and patient.”

One of his students also shared: “Though we had difficulties in communicating with him because of his accent, we never failed to learn from him every single meeting.” Another student said, “(Dr. Kim) is willing to impart his knowledge even without monetary compensation, and that’s what I love the most (about him).”

Leaving home

Because of his mission and travel inconvenience, Dr. Kim has decided to leave Legazpi City. “I have an important thing to do in Manila right now,” he said. “After accomplishing my mission in Manila, if time would allow, I’d like to be a member of Bicol University.”

During the October 16 farewell event organized by his students, Dr. Kim extended his gratitude to the Bicol University community. And in a separate interview, he did the same. “I’d like to thank the president, the professors, and all the persons from BU. I’d like to thank them for their warm welcome, and for being kind to me,” he said with apparent sincerity.

To Dr. Kim, leaving Bicol University is like facing death for the third time. His students have lost a persistent mentor, a loyal friend, and a trustworthy adviser rolled into one. But just like his previous death, his bereaved BU family will not give up, and will wait for the day when he has already decided to take that comeback.

To Sir Kim, dedanhi gomabsumnida. Dasibwayo! (thank you very much. See you again!)

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