Wed, Nov 12, 2003 - Page 16 News List

They call her successful

Kim Tae-yun is a CEO of five companies, as well as being a grand master of taekwondo. She recently released her autobiography in Taiwan

By Stephanie Wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

At 1.48m, Kim Tae-yun says that she has made the most of what God gave her -- and when God cannot give her more she helps herself by wearing high heels and putting her hair up.

When you actually meet Kim, it's not hard to imagine her as the chairman and CEO of five companies -- including Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions and CDS Inc -- but she is also a taekwondo grand master and was the first female ever to achieve this status.

Her life story, recounted in They Call Me Successful (總裁的金鑰匙 ) was recently released in Taiwan and has attracted world-wide admiration. It even charmed local female legislators Jiang Chi-wen (江綺雯) and Chang Cai-mei (張蔡美), who have spoken of their admiration for Kim, along with Chi Hui-Jung (紀惠容), CEO of the Garden of Hope Foundation (勵馨基金會), who wrote a forward for the book.

"I am a fighter," Kim says, and fight she did since the moment she was born. As the first-born child on the first day of the new Lunar New Year, she was expected to be a boy -- one who "carries a chili pepper," as Koreans call it -- but when her grandmother found no "pepper," she threw away the large bowl of seaweed soup that was made to help her mother recover after Kim's birth.

Gone with the soup was the love and blessings that were Kim's birthright. Like any other Korean girl at the time, Kim was subjected to sexual discrimination. But unlike other girls, she did not succumb to the social restrictions and traditional expectations placed on her.

Kim was instantly attracted to martial arts when, at the age of eight, she saw her uncle practicing. Instead of learning to sew, cook and breed more sons, she followed her heart and took up taekwondo.

The first hint that this tiny woman could be a grand master of taekwondo is when she speaks. The energy and vibrancy of her voice fills up the room and compels, if not her whole audience, then at least her interpreter, to speak with the same passion.

Though it would be hard to condense Kim's stories into an hour or two, they may be summed up by Kim's motto: "He can do. She can do. Why not me!" And make no mistake, that's an exclamation mark rather than a question mark at the end of the sentence.

After moving to the United States as a non-English speaking Asian immigrant, racial discrimination became the source of her social rejection. In order to gain acceptance, she one day carried a board on which were written the words: "I am Tae Yun Kim. I want to be friends with you." She walked around all day long, knocking on around 200 doors. Only three of those doors opened, to invite her in for a cup of coffee.

"But I was so happy to be received!" Kim says, her face beaming with contentment and appreciation at the memory, as though it only happened yesterday. "Which reminds me of another story I can share with you."

Kim said she mistook instant coffee powder -- offered by American soldiers during the Korean War -- as chocolate, and spat it out immediately when she tasted it. "To this day, I still don't drink coffee."

As someone who has attained financial security, as the CEO of five companies, Kim says material wealth has never been her aim. She says her purpose in life is to share with people her experience in order to inspire and change people's lives for the better.

"I want to convince people that with the right attitude you can do anything. But people only equate success with financial wealth."

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