Professional Archer Edward Kim Has His Eyes on the Target

Focus is the name of the game for Edward Kim, a 23-year-old professional archer who sets high goals in all aspects of his life.

story by JAMES S. KIM
photographs by MIKE LEE

When archer Edward Kim lines up his bow at a target 70 meters away, his focus is completely on burying the arrow in the center of the target. The state of total physical and mental discipline requires countless hours of training, and the slightest crack in the armor could bring it all to ruin. When shooting a limited number of arrows under a specific time against some of the best archers in the world, it takes a strong mindset to overcome the distractions and pressure.

“In archery, the athlete must have a train of thought that is consistent each and every time,” Kim explained. “For example, if a shooter does well when he thinks about the color yellow, and for whatever reason thinks about the color green, the arrow may not land in an ideal place.

“It really is all about you in archery because no one is stopping you from shooting [well].”

The 23-year-old will be representing the U.S. as a member of the men’s recurve bow team at the World University Archery Championships in Legnica, Poland, this month. It’s his first international tournament after he qualified in the U.S. Collegiate Archery Association trials earlier this year, and he’ll be looking to add on to his short but decorated career. That’s not a bad summer goal for the recent University of California, Irvine, graduate.


Kim decided to go professional just over a year ago. After joining the UC Irvine Archery Club and performing well at a national tournament, training to be among the best university archers seemed a very attainable goal. But with a degree in biology in the
works and on track to become a doctor, it was a goal that would require some precise balancing between coursework, morning practices, tutoring and volunteer work.

“He’s got the maturity, he’s got the work ethic, he’s got the ability— he’s got things under control,” said Gary Holdstein, Kim’s personal coach, who also coaches for the UCI Archery Club. “Ed, he’s done a very good job of balancing.”

It also became apparent that Kim was the best shooter on the UCI team. He accepted the role of team captain of a club that had won only two medals during the 2012-13 year. A year later, the club boasted five team medals (including one national team championship) and several All-American athlete designations, including one for Kim.


The leadership role is not one he takes lightly.

“As a captain of a club sport, I knew that every athlete was sacrificing their time and money to be in practice and in competitions,” he said. “I became a role model for my athletes. Putting in extra hours of practice, avoiding tempting breaks, … I wanted to show them that even I, who had school, work and research, could manage to squeeze in more practice to get better.”

“When he is concentrating on what he is doing, one can easily tell that he is in his element,” said Braden Buckel, a fellow student and teammate. “His field leadership is blunt but effective, and it gets our members to want to do their best.”

By the time this article is published, Kim will have already participated in the world championships from July 2-5, but no matter the result, he has already made his decision for his future—a surprising one. Gold medal or not, Kim said his career as a competitive archer will end there. As passionate as he is about the sport, he also carries another passion that demands his full attention.

“The sad truth is that I entered college with a goal to be a doctor and not to be a great archer,” said Kim. “It was great that I was able to experience what it would be like to be one of the best [archers] … but I want to devote my life to medicine. I knew it was going to be a difficult choice to make a year ago, and it definitely is today. Archery will still be in my life, but it can’t be my life.”


Kim plans to take a year off, apply for medical school* next year and maybe attend a few classes, but he still hopes to keep archery a part of his life. He’ll be coaching at the Joy Lee Archery Academy on the weekends and also possibly with the UCI team, as well as shooting for fun.

And archery will still be very much a part of Kim in another aspect, as well. The focus and determination he honed in his archery career have certainly armed him with skills that he can apply to his pursuit of medicine and more.

“Archery taught me to always do something with a purpose, to make yourself a better person,” Kim said. “Whether it be school, a job, sport or volunteer work, we should always see what we are getting out of the action in terms of character development.

“I have imagined all the stress and work I have to endure in medical school or the application process to be a doctor. But to me, it will all be worth it. … Like archery, we need to focus on our goal, aim for gold and never give up.”


Correction: The print version of this article originally stated that Edward Kim was planning on applying for physician assistant, or PA, programs. Kim has since changed his decision to apply to medical schools.

This article was published in the June 2014 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the June issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).