By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
After a successful career as a small business owner, Jun Bae Kim continues to contribute to the Korean American community. At 73, Kim lends his time to many local organizations.
“He is a very effective leader,” said BuWon Brown, board member of the Korean Community Service Center. “He is a very humble man and does it quietly.”
The Korean Community Service Center is one of the many organizations where Kim offers his time and advice.
“I’ve known him for about 15 years,” said Susan Lee, a board chair on the Korean American Chamber of Commerce. “He’s such a nice and gentle man. He has a calming [effect] on people.” Lee said that Kim dedicates time to each organization, participates in its events, and contributes his own money.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Kim attended Korean University. He received a degree in Korean Literature in 1962 and sought work in the public sector.
“I wanted to go into government and politics,” Kim said, speaking through his daughter Heidi, who served as an interpreter. But when he could not get a job in government and politics after graduation, he decided to start his own business. Kim owned and operated a timber mill company. His family was in business, so he decided to establish one of his own.
Interested in coming to the United States, Kim shut down his timber company and got a job as a branch manager for a company specializing in the manufacturing of fishing nets in 1982. He first moved to New Jersey, but then branched out to Los Angeles. “I liked the West Coast better,” he said.
Seeking another change, Kim moved to the Seattle area in 1989 and started a dry cleaning business. Kim had no previous experience in dry cleaning, but had a friend that owned a dry cleaner business and he became sold on the idea.
Kim established Olympic Cleaners in Bellevue. He owned and operated the business since moving to the Northwest, until his retirement in 2005.
While Kim owned Olympic Cleaners, he became involved in the local Korean American community. He participated in the Federation of Korean American Dry Cleaners and eventually became its president. “The reason I started to do this was to help other Koreans,” said Kim. As a part of the Federation, Kim taught other dry cleaning business owners about how to build their business and work with employees.
Despite the fact that he provided knowledge to competing dry cleaners, Kim thought of it as helping to make a better Korean American community.
Kim also volunteered with The Federation of Korean American Association, the Seattle Washington Korean Association, the Korean American Chamber of Commerce, and the National Unification Advisory Council – Seattle Municipal Chapter.
One of the biggest achievements Kim recalls in his philanthropic work in getting two of the largest Korean language schools in the Seattle and Bellevue area to merge into one organization. Kim thought that a unified school would be stronger.
In addition, Kim has participated in fundraising activities for Korean American causes. Notably, Kim actively raised funds for Korean American Michael Park in his quest to be mayor of Federal Way.
“He cares about the community and he donates his own money and he never says no,” complimented Lee of Kim’s unwavering support for the causes he supports.
Kim has been married to his wife for nearly 49 years and has three adult daughters. His daughter Heidi owns her own dry cleaners. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.