YHB/The smoker

This page was last edited on 6 July 2019, at 10:47.

In the 1980's most Korean immigrants lived in Los Angeles. Very few of them straggled into the small city of Seattle. A newcomer was bound to attract attention.

In summer of 1981, people began to talk about a man who smoked cigarettes in the parking lot of Kim Dong-gun's shop. Kim's shop was an Asian grocery store, and the man employed in his shop was a Korean in his thirties. He was known as Kim's cousin. He arranged the food items and closed down the shop at night. When the owners were out, he worked the cashier too. Sometimes, he helped Kim’s wife make kimchi.

He took frequent smoking breaks in the parking lot. He smoked crouched in some corner, his head bowed. According to rumors, people saw him crying, his head falling into his lap.

"Why do you smoke so much? Smoking is unhealthy for you."

When Mrs. Kim grumbled, the man would lift his head, smiling a shy little smile. Mrs. Kim was a kind, diligent, and generous woman. Though some had suspicions about the newcomer, Mrs. Kim only saw him as an exile with nowhere else to go.

Kim Dong-geun and his wife had extensive connections in the Korean immigrant society, and they were eager to help Yoon meet people. Thanks to Mr. Kim, Yoon was able to visit the offices of anti-nuclear organizations and meet famous professors. He was able to make friends with the progressive Korean immigrants in Seattle.

Yoon went by the name Kim Il-min. No one knew his real name except Kim Dong-geun and his wife. It was two years later that Yoon’s real identity was exposed to Seattle’s Korean immigrants – his real name, his escape from Korea, and the reason for his escape. It was only then that people understood why he smoked so desolately, why he cried with his face between his knees.