Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Loving Memory of Kim Dae-jung, Former President of South Korea

My heart is heavy tonight after hearing about the loss of a dear family friend, Former President Kim Dae-jung: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/08/18/skorea.kim.obit/index.html. Life has been so busy lately that I didn't even know that he was hospitalized with pneumonia for the last month. It makes me realize how fast we all move and how fleeting life can be. It really makes me want to slow down, take a deep breathe and appreciate all the blessings in my life. The last time I saw President and Mrs. Kim was when I was pregnant with Kayla and they were visiting San Francisco and met with our family in their hotel suite. It was such an honor to know this extraordinary family who gave their lives in service to the Korean people and the world for so many years.

My parents have known the Kim Family for over 50 years now. My mother graduated with Mrs. Kim, Lee Hee Ho, from Scarritt College in Nashville, TN in 1958 and they have been friends since their college days together. My father headed the North American Coalition for Human Rights in Korea in the 70's and 80's and was a colleague of President Kim during that time. When I was in my freshmen year of college in 1985, I remember watching the news one evening in our dorm lobby and there was my father being crushed by the crowd of Korean police who had met the Kim's plane as they returned to South Korea. It's a memory that I will never forget.

President Kim went on to serve as president of the Republic of Korea from 1998 to 2003, and in 2000, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for fostering better relations between North and South Korea. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2000/dae-jung-bio.html

When Jeff and I announced our wedding to our family and friends in 2003, I received a wedding gift from the Kim family that I will treasure forever. They sent me a replica of President Kim's Nobel Peace Prize and the following letter. I pulled the letter out tonight to read it and remember this great man.

"July 25, 2003

Dearest Lisa,

I just read your wedding invitation with great pleasure. I sincerely congratulate you on your upcoming wedding in August. Your father is a wonderful man who was a great help to me as well as Korean people when we struggled during hard times for Korea's democracy and human rights. I hope you follow in the footsteps of your father and hope that in your marriage, you and your husband will continue to pray for people in need around the world. I wish you a lifetime of happiness and may God bless you and your future husband.


Kim Dae-jung
Former President of the Republic of Korea"

Thank you President and Mrs. Kim for enriching my life and for all you have done for people around the world. Condolences to your family tonight as you grieve and celebrate the life of such an extraordinary man.

With Love and Respect,

Lisa Vittek

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