Still In Love

by Corina Knoll

Dr. Luke Kim, 77, retired clinical psychologist and psychiatrist Grace Kim, 76, retired teacher
Married 45 years

How did you two meet?

Grace: We went to the same church and then the same university. I was the president of the teacher’s college, and he was the president of the medical school. The schools always got together to have a conference and discussion group, so we were always doing some project together.

Luke: In Korea, one-on-one dating is difficult. Everything is group setting.

Grace: If I date, then everybody says, “Oh they are going to get married.” So we didn’t date. We worked on projects together and discussed philosophy and Christianity. Finally, he asked me to go out. I said no. I was not interested in marriage. I wanted to be a missionary and go to Africa. That was my plan. If I become a missionary, marriage is difficult, and I was not interested in men anyway. Too many boys asked me to go out. It was just too much headache.

Luke: She was pretty, she was outgoing, she was friendly and she stood out very well among the girls.

Grace:­­­ One day, he had free tickets to go to “Carmen,” the opera. I went because I like music. After the opera, we went to a coffee house and we talked. He asked me, “What is your dream?”

Luke: She said she liked [theologian/philosopher/musician/doctor] Albert Schweitzer.

Grace: Schweitzer was my hero. Then Luke said, “I have a similar feeling.” He was very humble and intelligent and did not brag about anything. After that night, he asked me to go see “White Christmas.” Afterward we walked around a park and talked about Christian faith, future plans, our dreams, and what we really want to see in this world. We were very philosophical. And he liked poems. So one day he gave me a book of all my favorite poems.

Luke: But then I came to the United States. I think we got married seven years after that.

Grace: He went to the University of Arizona in Tucson because they gave him a full scholarship. He wanted to get a doctorate degree in clinical psychology, then finish medical training and return to Korea to set up a new department. That’s why I stayed in Korea. He wrote a letter every week.

Was it difficult to stay in a long-distance relationship?

Grace: Lots of women really liked him. Many Caucasian women wanted a date with him. He said, “I’m engaged.” Actually, we weren’t engaged. We were special friends, that’s all. We didn’t talk about marriage or anything.

Luke: Coming to the United States is such a difficult thing to do. The future is unpredictable, so we didn’t want to bind each other. Whatever will be will be.

But you knew you wanted to marry each other?

Luke: I wanted to marry her. I was in love with her. We had the same ideals, same plans for mission work, similar interests. Also, she was pretty and socially very polite.

Grace: I think the common thing we both had was same Christian background, and both of us had a strong desire to work for social justice. So it was not romantic, but camaraderie.

Luke: In fact, we subsequently talked how our marriage life would be different from that of other people. We would be able to work and give to society.

Grace: He has high blood pressure, Parkinson’s Syndrome and diabetes. I worry about his health and sometimes I think, wow, if he passes away that’s going to be difficult. Because he is the real supporter of my work. He’s very positive and always gives me courage so that I don’t give up.

When did you get married?

Grace: May 12, 1962 in Buffalo, New York. He could not come back to Korea, because the professor he planned to start a new department with passed away. He could find a job here easily, but in Korea, psychology wasn’t known at the time. That’s why I came. We had not seen each other for six years. One month later we got married.

What’s your marriage secret?

Grace: He’s a very patient person. I’m very hot-tempered. I asked him one day, “Why are you so patient with me?” He said, “Because I respect you as a person. That’s why I married you. I care about you so much, even if you blow up sometimes, I think it’s cute.” [Laughs] I have so many weaknesses but he can embrace them and encourages me to grow. Sometimes I’m too tired to do all the community work, but he says, “You are still healthy you can do it, don’t say no.” That is true love.

Luke: I think that we are interested in promoting personal growth in each other. And so there’s a personal space in our lives where we can live and let live. We are not bound to each other; we give leeway to each other. Also, we have the common goal of leading a mission-oriented life where we are like Peace Corps comrades.

Kwang W. Jeon, 74, retired biology professor and Sheila Jeon, 73, retired teacher and research scientist
Married 49 years


How did you two meet?

Kwang: We were in the same class in college at Seoul National University teacher’s college.

Sheila: We got married on May 8, 1958.

Kwang: May 7.

Sheila: Oh, seven.

Kwang: We were in the same class in college.

Sheila: We were both biology majors. We didn’t pay attention to each other.

Kwang: Too busy studying. In the 1950s, when we entered college, we were in a class of 40 or so, all majoring in the same thing. You spend four years together with your class, not like now when people enter college undecided about their major.

We started dating after graduation. A month or so, I think. Then it was time to get a little serious, and so I was looking around to see who I should be close with, and it was her. She was a smart lady.

Sheila: He was very smart. He entered college as the top of the class, so we all looked up to him.

How long did you date before you married?

Kwang: A little more than a year.

What made you decide to get married?

Kwang: I said that my life partner should be a Christian and here was a Christian who appeared to be serious in her life. I sought advice from teachers and some upper-class people and they all said go ahead.

Sheila: I thought he’s very responsible and has good qualities for a husband. And when we went to college together, he is not the one to fool around with other girls. He never dated, so I liked that. I thought he will be faithful.

What’s your secret to marriage?

Sheila: I think it’s God’s grace, and we pray together. That is the secret, I think.

Kwang: Well she has a particular sense of what’s sensible and I respect her for it. And very often we go the way she wants, and that way turns out to be the right way many a time.

Any plans for Valentine’s Day?

Kwang: We don’t normally celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s not the Korean way. Well, we may go out.

Hang Suk Kim, 70, retired pharmacist and  Ok Soon Kim, 70, retired nurse
Married 45 years

How did you two meet?

Ok Soon: We are classmates from primary school.

Hang Suk: First through sixth.

Did you like each other back then?

Ok Soon: No. For our age at the time, there was not much contact you know, but we were in the same class.

When did you start dating?

Ok Soon: During college.

Hang Suk: I went to Joongang University.

Ok Soon: And I went to Seoul University. His major is pharmacology, I am a nurse. And we went to the same church. During vacation time we meet together. It started like that. [Laughs] He was funny — not depressed, all the time happy.

Hang Suk: Her studying is very good, so I like.

How long did you date?

Hang Suk: More than four or five years, so very long time.

How did you know you wanted to marry each other?

Ok Soon: We’d been in church together and during vacation time we come back home and had fun. So we understand each other character and were in the same medical field.

What’s your marriage secret?

Ok Soon: For myself, it’s religion. We converted and became LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) together.

Hang Suk: We became Mormons 30 years ago. All my children are Mormon.

What’s your favorite thing about each other?

Hang Suk: At the time, I think she’s smart, so I like, but now no. [Both laugh] Everything about her is very hard — studying, working.

Ok Soon: [Shakes her head while looking at Hang Suk] No! Don’t like him! [Both laugh] He’s a happy person.

Any plans for Valentine’s Day?

Ok Soon: Oh, no.

Won Kim, 72, retired urban planning professor and Sok Hyon Kim, 70, retired nurse
Married 43 years

How did you two meet?

Won: It was 1964, early spring. I happened to move into her neighborhood.

Sok Hyon: He had a room at my mother’s friend’s house. So she was telling my mother about him, how he behaves, does all the things nicely and he’s very polite.

Won: Her mother introduced us.

Sok Hyon: My mother knew he came from Andong in the Kyongbuk province. Andong has a lot ofyangbans. That’s why she was more interested in him. Do you know about the yangban? In Korea we have different classes, yangban is highest status. She was thinking always I have to marry yangbanbecause we are yangban, and I am the oldest daughter.

Won: At that time she got just back to Korea from USA where she worked as a registered nurse for one year.

Sok Hyon: He was already studying to become an instructor at Seong  Gyun Gwan University.

What were your first impressions of each other?

Won: I taught political science at that time. First-year instructor. She was very much dressed nice and I was very impressed by her, the way she looked and talked. I was born in a rural area so I was very impressed with her.

Sok Hyon: He was like a country boy. [Both laugh] But the way he behaves is really different. He was very organized. I would love to have a husband as professor, and he was already in the university.

Won: Five months later we got married.

Sok Hyon: So fast! Two years after we got married, we came to the States. He graduated from Columbia University in New York. I worked as a nurse.

What’s your marriage secret?

Sok Hyon: You have to be considerate. If I prepare some food I always prepare his first. If it’s fruit, I keep the better ones for him. That’s how I think. That’s how we kept our marriage.

Won: Another important one is we were born in the same province in Korea so we hold the same values.

What is your favorite thing about each other?

Sok Hyon: He should appreciate a lot. [Laughs]

Won: Yeah, I appreciate a lot. She’s very economic. She saves money.

Sok Hyon: That’s funny!

Won: No, no, it’s her support, and she’s considerate of me. She’s very passionate, so I love her.

Sok Hyon: He’s very gentle. And very organized in everything, including life itself. Which I like very much.

Won: We are very practical! [Laughs] A romantic love story.

Sang Hyun, 72, retired piano salesman and Soo Ja Kim, 66, retired data processor
Married 42 years

How did you two meet?

Sang: My friend was her brother’s private tutor. We met on Oct. 9, 1965.

What were your first impressions of each other?

Soo Ja: He’s a very nice-looking guy.

Sang: When I met her, she is like family, homey, common and not fancy. So she will make a good homemaker, I decide.

Soo Ja: [Laughs] Because my major is home economics at the university! He went to a very famous university, was very smart, very looking nice.

Sang: After we met, we meet again, meet again every day.

Soo Ja: Almost every day. He showed me pictures of him going up a mountain. He’s very natural, very easy. I like that. My father is a businessman, he never vacation. Just a salary man. I hate that. I got five sisters, two brothers, I’m oldest one. Because of that, I like someone who takes time to relax in life.

Sang: One month after we met, we are engaged. We married on Dec. 15, 1965.

Soo Ja: His father got very ill with stomach cancer, and we worried he would pass away. So we rush.

What’s your secret to marriage?

Soo Ja: [To Sang] You got the secret?

Sang: I don’t know, but normally we understand each other and [sighs] — that is a very hard question.

Soo Ja: I just follow my husband. When it’s black but he says, “It’s white,” I say, “OK.” After that, if he says, “This is not white, it’s black,” I say, “It’s OK.” I just stop and wait for him. This is the secret.

What is your favorite thing about each other?

Soo Ja: His mind is very clear, simple. Very enjoyable, not worried. He sleeps and eats very well. He’s very fun, funny guy.

Sang: We trust each other. Never try to disguise or show off. I don’t know — maybe tomorrow we divorce?

Soo Ja: [Laughs]

Sang: She is a really good lady. I never have contact with any other girls. That’s a very good point. Many families are broken because the husband has a girlfriend.

Soo Ja: Society is changing, but our generation stays.

Any plans for Valentine’s Day?

Soo Ja: He never gives me flowers. [Laughs]

Sang: Our mind is more important than gifts. [Both laugh]