Goodbye, Wanderer…best-selling author and “stranger” Kim Han-gil, chairman of the National Unity Commission.

In the short story “The Death of Seneca,” written in 1981 by National Unity Party Chairman Kim Han-gil, the male protagonist says, “I’m not a writer. It explains why Kim, who had made a name for himself as a writer, decided to enter politics.

Kim Han-gil was not a model student in school and was a “heretic” in the eyes of established politicians. He was a young man who thought, “There is no right answer to every test question, only a model answer,” and thought, “Let’s live without substance while making jokes.” He wanted to live for just one year without committing to anything. He loved life, knew how to say goodbye, knew how to hurt, and spent his youth experiencing growing pains.

He was once a youth idol and had many female fans. He himself once told a women’s magazine that he was the “No. 1 most popular man” in the country, surpassing the then president, Kim Young-sam (YS). In fact, he married talent Choi Myung-gil, a top actress at the time, in 1995, and the couple became the ‘Han-gil Myung-gil’ couple.

He made a name for himself as a writer and broadcaster before entering politics. She served as a four-term lawmaker and head of the Democratic Party of Korea, and as minister of culture and senior presidential policy planning secretary under Kim Dae-jung. A centrist reformer who has repeatedly defected and founded centrist parties, he serves as a mentor to President Yoon Seok-yul and is the ministerial-level head of the National Unity Commission.

Born in Japan as the son of a politician, Kim… Eternal Stranger

Dong-A Ilbo DB

Kim Han-gil was born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1953, the second of three sons of former Social Democratic Party chairman Kim Chul. He was born while his father was studying abroad in Tokyo, and he grew up in Japan until the age of seven. From that time on, he was a stranger.

“We argued, of course, sometimes. When that happened, the kids would invariably call me ‘josenjing’. On one of the Japanese holidays, the children, sometimes dressed in robes, sat me down with a string and sang a song they made up. One by one, they would come up to me and squeeze me. Shortly thereafter, I found myself living in Seoul. I didn’t speak our language very well yet, but I was so happy to be going to elementary school in the land of the Josenjings. I tried to start over. Since no one knew me, I pretended to be a very nice child. (interruption) I had long since forgiven my old childhood friends, now in their forties, for teasing me about being a Josenjing. I forgave them long ago because, among other things, if I didn’t forgive them and hold on to them, I would be more broken. Even if I forgot them, they would never be forgotten.”

  • From the August 16, 1995, Dong-A Ilbo column “Kim Han-gil’s World Reading <To an Old Friend in Japan>.

My father, a leading social democratic politician in South Korea, was neglectful of his family. He traveled abroad, ran for president as a Socialist Party candidate in 1971, and was repressed by Park Chung-hee’s government. In 1975, he was sentenced to two years in prison for violating the state of emergency. His father’s liberal political affiliations brought him under the scrutiny of the public security authorities, and he was once taken into custody as a university student because of his writings. His father made him a rebel of his time.

“If I were to measure the amount of people I’ve ever hated, I think the person I hated the most was my father, who always talked about democratization and unification and the lives of the people and the poor, but was powerless against the servants you had. He was called Ongojip and Bangol by the world, but he was helpless against the rebellion of his second son. It doesn’t matter if it’s unification or democratization, you used to sigh wordlessly when I asked you, “Father스포츠토토, shouldn’t you pay attention to us?”

  • From the July 5, 1994 Dong-A Ilbo article “The Person I Hated the Most” –
    In his 20s, Kim Han-gil wrote, “I had no dreams, no hopes, no ambitions, no greed, and I wasn’t even allowed to mutter those words to myself. And so it was,” he writes. He even got a job as a shoe shiner after being rejected by a university.

After enrolling in Kunkuk University, he switched to political science and diplomacy after he was discharged from the army, graduated, and briefly taught at Jungang Girls’ High School in Seoul. In 1978, Kim’s “Byeongjeong Diary,” written during his first four months in the army, was published in the monthly “Literary Thought,” but the Central Intelligence Agency and security services did not allow it to be published.

That’s why Kim chose to go to the United States. His homeland under the dictatorship was depressing, and the lack of a future made him anxious.

“After I was dragged to the basement of my home institution and scolded because they didn’t like something I wrote, people around me were more encouraging, saying that I should go abroad and see what happens.”

  • From Kim Han-gil’s essay collection, “If You Open Your Eyes, It’s Not There.

● After moving to the U.S., Kim worked at a gas station and a hamburger restaurant before becoming the head of a media company in five years.

After arriving in Los Angeles (LA) in June 1981, he worked as a carpenter’s assistant, a cashier at a gas station, and a cook’s assistant at a hamburger restaurant. He manned the counter behind bulletproof glass at a gas station in the red-light district, a neighborhood so predominantly black it was known as “Blackstone District. He tried to write while earning a living, but the weight of labor and life weighed him down. He suffered from headaches from lack of sleep and excessive smoking.

“I hate Mr. Choi, the gas station owner. I hate him because he comes in thirty to forty minutes late for his shift every morning, and he never says sorry, and I really hate him for that. I hate him because he thinks it’s his net profit to make me work an extra thirty minutes. I hate him because he’s never paid me on time. I hate him because he’ll put up with me for days, and when I finally speak up, he’ll throw the money down my throat with all the force he can muster, and I hate him inside. I hate Mr. Choi for making me feel unnecessarily shabby when I’m getting a fair wage for my work. – Kim Han-gil’s essay collection ‘If I open my eyes, it’s gone.

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