Joseph Kim appeared on Ted Talks to tell his story of coming to the United States. In 2003 a famine in North Korea claimed his father’s life. His mother and sister left in search of food and income but never returned. Joseph recalls, “Suddenly I became an orphan and homeless. My daily life became very hard but very simple. My goal was to find a dirty piece of bread in the trash.”
In the bitter pains of hunger, Joseph says hope kept him alive. “When I could not fall asleep from bitter colds or hunger pains, I hoped that the next morning that my sister would come wake me up with my favorite food. That hope kept me alive. I don’t mean big, grand hope, I mean the kind of hope that the next trash can had bread, even though it usually didn’t.”
At the age of 16 he took the perilous quest across the northern border to China in a desperate attempt to find a better life. In China he found an underground network that eventually placed him in a foster home in the United States.
“I felt so suffocated that I had so much food in America, yet my father died of starvation. My only wish that night was to cook a meal for him. And that night I also thought of what else I could do to honor him. And my answer was to promise myself that I would study hard and get the best education in America to honor his sacrifice. I took school seriously, and for the first time ever in my life I received an academic award for excellence and made the Dean’s List for the first semester in high school.”
Today Joseph is finishing up university. He hopes to become a lawyer than can help others in need. “This is my message to you. Have hope for yourself but also help each other. Life can be hard for everyone, wherever you live. My foster father didn’t intend to change my life in the same way you may also change someone’s life with the smallest act of love. A piece of bread can satisfy your hunger and having the hope will bring you bread will keep you alive but I confidently believe that your act of love and caring will also save another Joseph’s life and change thousands of others Josephs that is having hope to survive.”