Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
  The Arts
   + [ Business ]
  Public Service
  Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


If you like Jeong Kim's story, you might also like:
Jeffrey Bezos,
Michael Dell,
Bill Gates,
David Ho and
Craig McCaw

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Jeong Kim in the Achievement Curriculum section:
The Information Age

Related Links:
Kiswe Mobile
Nuclear Threat initiative

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

Jeong Kim
Jeong Kim
Profile of Jeong Kim Biography of Jeong Kim Interview with Jeong Kim Jeong Kim Photo Gallery

Jeong Kim Interview (page: 2 / 6)

President Emeritus of Bell Labs

Print Jeong Kim Interview Print Interview

  Jeong Kim

What effect do you think that difficult childhood had on your drive or your subsequent life?

Jeong Kim: There was a moment in my life that I said I was at the rock bottom. I just couldn't think of anybody who was more miserable than I was, and I tried to think of somebody who might be more miserable. But, physically I was hungry. I didn't have food for a couple of days and there were times that were that ugly. And I said to myself, you know, life, that I really have two choices: "Either commit suicide or I try to make something with my life." And I said, "In life, I'm at the rock bottom. It's going to have to get better than this."

[ Key to Success ] Courage

From then on, everything was extra. It's not how much you have at any given moment, but whether you are improving or not improving. I decided that I'm going to make something out of my life and be happy.

Was this after your father kicked you out?

Jeong Kim: No, it was way before that. There were a lot of problems leading to that. I think we are focusing on the wrong thing.

We'll get to the positive things, but it's so important for young people to realize that you can start with great adversity and still do great things. I know it's painful.

Jeong Kim: This is a subject I've avoided all my life and I'm telling you this. This is the first time I ever said this to anybody other than my wife.

I do not want to make my parents look bad. I'm sure they did what they had to do. Life was tough for them. And, I don't understand it all, but I understand a little bit more now than when I was a little kid. So, the most important thing for me, believe it or not, is not to make money or anything else, but to make sure my children grow up happy and that's all I care about.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

Jeong Kim Interview Photo
Do you have any contact with your father and stepmother?

Jeong Kim: Yes, but not close contact. I've tried to make peace with my Dad, but not successfully. We didn't make a complete truce, and it's kind of disappointing. When a relationship goes bad, I feel that both parties had to do something that caused it to go bad. I thought I did my part in apologizing. I thought that was appropriate because obviously he would never kick me out for no reason. He must have felt that I was making his life miserable, and I apologized for that. But, he didn't really apologize for his part, which makes it very difficult for me to accept fully.

Have you had any sense of pride from him in what you have accomplished?

Jeong Kim: No. He knows that I've done all these things, but he hasn't contacted me.

You were 16 years old. You were on your own. Now what? How did you make your life?

Jeong Kim Interview Photo
Jeong Kim: I had a math teacher who I liked a lot because he played chess, and he liked me. I couldn't think of a place to go, so I told him about my situation and he lent me his basement room. I paid for the room, but he and his wife were kind enough to take me under their wing.

Were you good in math?

Jeong Kim: I was okay. I was a good student.

Was chess important to you?

Jeong Kim: No. It was a part of learning different things. Kids said, "Let's try this," and I said, "Okay." I'm good at those kinds of games, so I became pretty good real fast.

How did you earn money to pay him rent?

Jeong Kim: I worked a graveyard shift at 7-11. That's 11 in the evening until seven in the morning. I went to school during the day, and then on weekends I'd mow the lawn, deliver newspapers and work in restaurants as busboy and that kind of thing, which is what a lot of people do. But, working the night shift was hard because you know, you still do need sleep.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

When did you sleep?

Jeong Kim: I slept after school. I had to wait until the teacher finished because I didn't have transportation, and then slept from six to nine or ten, about three or four hours a day.

Do you still get by on so little sleep?

Jeong Kim: Not anymore.

I had a problem because I didn't sleep as much for so long, that for a long time I would have an interview like this and I would just fall asleep, I mean for no reason and it comes very sudden. It used to scare me a lot. I mean, there were times that I was driving on the Beltway going home and I fell asleep on my wheel and hit a police car, and that wasn't very pleasant.

That lasted for a long time. I try to sleep now, so I don't have that kind of symptom anymore.

How much sleep do you require to feel okay these days?

Jeong Kim: About six or seven hours.

Jeong Kim Interview, Page: 1   2   3   4   5   6   

This page last revised on Apr 21, 2014 16:52 EST
How To Cite This Page