When you first meet the petite 4’11” Tae Yun Kim, you know in an instant that this is a woman of many strengths, not only proven by her prowess as a Grand Master of martial arts, but shown through an inner glow she exudes with her cosmic beliefs. She is a self confident, radiant woman who has conquered innumerable obstacles and emerged as a very accomplished CEO of a successful computer company, Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions in Milpitas, California as well as a grand master and founder of her Jung Su Won Academy of Martial Arts.
Tae Yun Kim’s childhood story is one of suffering and perseverance to survive. Born on lunar New Year in male-dominated Korea, her family eagerly awaited the birth of their first male son. She was cursed the first day of her life for being a girl, with the family punishing her with lack of love, denial and rejection. At the age of 5, during the Korean War bombing, she remembers running alone when her family abandoned her in their escape. Her bright moment came at the age of 8 when she met an old monk who passed down secret knowledge of age-old ki spirit beliefs to her. When she saw an uncle practicing martial arts, she begged him to teach her, but was scoffed at as women were not allowed to engage in this physical sport. It was only through her dogged persuasion that he did finally give her lessons, and the rest of the story tells itself. She eventually became the first female grandmaster in Tae Kwon Do, an amazing achievement in a country that forbade women to train in any martial arts.
Coming to America in her early 20s to Vermont, life was not easy for this non-English speaking young woman and her parents. She faced continual discrimination, but in order to survive, she took cleaning woman jobs, and as she recalls, was grateful for any opportunities. She begged a high school administrator to let her teach martial arts to the students, even without pay. She eventually opened a small school but the community continued to rebuff her efforts to make a place for herself, in one instance burning her school down.
Would this deter this determined young lady? With her positive approach to life and belief that everyone has a destiny which they can shape, she struggled on, continuing to dream of a better life through meditation. Her school grew and flourished with many devoted students. One day in 1982, a vision came to her of people working on computers, although she now laughs and says, “I didn’t even know what computers were but felt they would be a force in the future.” She and a few of her martial arts students decided to invest their meager savings and energies into starting a company, but within 6 months, the dream became a failure.
Scott Salton, today’s President of Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions and one of her first students, remembers wanting to give up, but when he saw Kim continue to keep the faith and belief in their ultimate achievement of a goal, he stuck with her. He said, “We had to take jobs doing janitorial work and washing dishes to make ends meet, but we never stopped our martial arts training and beliefs in ourselves. So continuing to follow Master Kim’s vision, in 1985 we moved to Silicon Valley where we found the diversity and fast pace of invention suited our ambitions and our company began to take off.”
Today under Salton and Kim’s leadership, Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions has a long list of Fortune 500 customers and has offices all across the Pacific Rim and Europe. This is truly the embodiment of an immigrant makes good story that America is built on.
Yes, Dr. Tae Yun Kim has achieved the business success she longed for – the place in the sun where she can at last be recognized and respected for who she is, a successful Korean American woman in the business world. Yet she continues to believe and respect the ki energy of life that she learned so many years ago, which she credits to the positive turns her life has taken. She believes that the good feelings and happiness in her company’s staff derives from their attitudes of respect, honor, determination and loyalty. Whether she is working with her Lighthouse employees or her martial arts school students, she looks for qualities of enthusiasm and passion in what they are doing.
For Kim, she finds that business and martial arts experience fit really well together. Many of the top members of her business staff first came to her through the martial arts school over the past three decades, and over 50% of her employees continue their martial arts training. From the rejected little girl to the successful executive and renowned martial arts grandmaster, Tae Kim Yun has achieved her dream. She has come full circle from the abandoned little girl to now, a time where the President of Korea has designated Dr. Tae Yun Kim as the Hope of the Country of Korea and the Face of the Country.
Her continuing motto is “He Can Do, She Can Do, Why Not Me!” How did she do it?
A smile erupts on her face and she lets out an infection life as she coyly answers, “Because I am having a love affair……with life!”