My grandfather, Kevin Lim, is a 75 year-old man happily retired living in Daly City with his wife. He has one son and two grandsons. Kevin Lim was born and raised in Korea but soon turned to America for a better life for his family. His story is one of struggle and ambition as he makes a life for his family. 

Grandpa came to America for a better life than the one he had in Korea. As a young man trying to find the dream in New York he struggled but persevered and eventually achieved his goal. He founded a newspaper, and once he had a stable job he brought his wife and son to America. Now he is 75 years old and is happily retired, living in Daly City with his wife. Every week, he comes into San Francisco to visit my brother and I. He watches the Yankees and supervises us as we eat dinner making sure we eat as much as possible. I came up with the idea to interview my grandpa because I realized I didn’t know much about him. I am happy to say that is no longer true and I am excited to share this interview with everyone.

My grandmother, Jeannie Lim, comes by every week to teach Simon how to play the piano. She’s been playing the piano for over 60 years and teaches students around SF including my brother and I. She chimed in at the end of this interview.

Ok grandpa, my first question is: Why did you come to America and what were your hopes? You can speak in Korean or English.

KL: Want the better life, from Korea to here. I have one son and want better education. So life can be better than father. Then we all together be looking for a better life. America make dream. 

What was raising Alex like? Was he a good son? A bad son?

KL: Bad son! (laughs) My life I’ve had good job I got a good son, good daughter in law, good grandchildren too. This is my life achievement. My son is very happy and has been good and from birth to now for 42 years- 

Translator/Interviewee’s son: (cough) 43 years (both laugh) 

Ok, you came to America for a better life and a better education. Who did you go with? 

KL: One and a half years I departed and I came as a 33 years old. Intentionally separate from son and wife to make dreams come true. (in Korean):

Translator: So he came by himself cause he wasn’t sure if he was going to stay here or not. If he was going to make it or not. He took a year and a half to figure if he could make it here. And then he called for my mom and me to come here. 

Do you remember the first time you met grandma?

KL: We married at ‘74. 1974. Before we married we dated for 2 years. We got together with friends, my friends and mommy’s friends and then… I pick up grandma! (He laughs) And we get to dating. 

You told me you worked for a newspaper, right? Can you tell me a little more about that? In Korea and America?

KL: I was a reporter. I make the newspaper. Here [in USA] is also report[er]. I also establish newspaper. Weekly newspaper. (in Korean):

Translator: He was at a different Korean newspaper in the U.S. Then he founded his own newspaper.

What was your job when you first came?

KL: First time here, grocery store working. And then four five months later somebody introduced trading company so I became customer care department manager. For two three years and then I worked at a Korean newspaper in New York, Korean newspaper. I worked there for 5 years. Then I made my newspaper. 

What was the newspaper called?

Weekly News of Korea. (in Korean):

Translator: So he was a reporter in Korea and he came here as a stock boy in grocery store for months. 

KL: I came here with 1500 dollars only. After two three weeks I don’t have money. 

Where’d you sleep?

KL: I slept in my friends house. And then anyways I get the money necessary for daily life. We get one week 240 dollars. Two three months later I moved to trading company and then I started 500 dollars. I give to the lawyer and give every month to Korea so they could be okay. My father arranged for visa here. Your great grandfather. We are very lucky. We got permanent residence. You know illegal documents? The President [Reagan] made all illegal document persons made illegally become permanent if they’ve lived there for a year. Give the green card. So my family could all get together because we had our green cards. 

You told me you did some boxing when you were younger?

KL: In high school. 9 grade to 11 grade, 2 years. We get the exercise, sparring. You know I go to the ring and fight someone. The guy is too tall! (Laughs) After that I quit!

This is the second interview with Kevin Lim, also known as my grandpa. So first we are going to talk a bit more about boxing and some other hobbies you were into. So, do you have any memories about boxing?

KL: Sometimes we practice together-

What age did you start?

KL: 15 years old.

Was it in a club? Or a middle school team?

KL: No no it was a private gym. And exercises every day, well every other day. And 6 months later we sparred partners individually. And then, we go up to the rings together. Then gearing up and everything. First round is good. Second round is bigger guy (laughs).

One round is okay! Second round is not so good

First fight? And then you quit??

KL: Yeah (laughs). One real tournament (laughs)

Not pain! Everything is nothing. Knocked out.

So you get knocked out. Why didn’t you work harder?

KL: Then my mother said. Don’t go to boxing. If you go to over there don’t come home.

Did you do any other instruments or other hobbies when you were younger?

KL: No nothing. I don’t have any hobbies or sports. In my generation don’t have any hobbies. Why? Not a lot of teaching persons not much money. So we can’t do it.

When you moved to America and you were in the market and you said you crashed at other people’s houses.  Do you remember your lowest moment? Maybe a bad memory?

(translator and KL confer):

KL: First of all, I missed my wife. Then my son next. First couple months I didn’t go with anyone. And no money. Sometimes charge to eat dinner and two times it’s okay. I go up to buy something I don’t have money.

Translator:  He didn’t wanted to be treated by his friends all the time. Because he couldn’t return the favor.

Now we are going to talk about your job a bit more. Tell me about your newspaper. Did you have any offices there, the one you started.

KL: Start in 1987. By myself. Why? I worked at daily newspaper for 5 years. Then I know a lot of peoples and then I make a new weekly paper…

Why did you do that? 

KL: I wanted to own something. I am the first time in New York. 

Translator: He was the first weekly Korean paper. 

Ok and how did you get the money to have this newspaper?

KL: We get the advertisements. It was a free newspaper but it was filled with ads. 

But regular readers and get 40 dollars for mail delivery. 

Do you know the highest readers?

KL: 20,000.

How many employees?

KL: 13-15.

Translator: When he started he said he had 3-4 employees.

Do you still have any newspapers that you printed. One with me on the cover?

KL: Yeah I have it! Do you want?

Yes I would. Now I want you to describe the ending of your business and how it was retiring. 

KL: Because of you, Jonathan. Jonathan is born over here and I wanted to see you every day. I miss you. So I came over here. 

So that’s all I got for grandpa.

Grandma, after watching my dad and I conduct this interview with Grandpa wanted to answer a few questions for herself.

Do you remember meeting grandpa for the first time in Korea? 

Jeannie Lim: When I was a junior high school teacher we have picnic for the teachers. And together the teachers go to the picnic. And so he came there! 

He didn’t teach though. 

JL: He was teacher’s friend. He came for free food (laughs) So that was the first time there. And he liked me and he followed me (laughs).

What was it like when your husband was in America? He was in America for a year and a half and you were with your dad. 

JL: I stayed with my parents and my son, Alex. And then I stayed there I teached the piano. So that’s it. 

How did you feel? 

JL: Very happy! (everyone laughs) I missed him too. 

One more question. What was it like coming to America for the first time? 

JL: Yeah first time I buy the piano. I buy the piano first and I started teaching. 

Did you want to come to the U.S?

JL: Of course I follow my husband. 

Were you happy in Korea?

JL: I’m happy with parents because they are very rich. But I miss my husband so I leave to my husband. I don’t know why (laughs). And your daddy missed his daddy too. 

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