A Wanted Man

The Unlikely Campaign to Free Steve Kim, Armed Protester, Soldier of Conscience

He was immediately arrested, stripped of his rank, and kicked out of KAIST. No one would hire him. The Kims were devastated. "Our life was miserable for three years after that," Nancy Kim says. "But then we moved to the United States and we had a very quiet life. Until now."

Family members are trying to win him clemency, especially Steve Kim Jr., who spoke on behalf of his father at a press conference in October. But for Nancy Kim, this new incarceration has forced a reliving of their earlier ordeal. Asked for a Korean copy of the leaflet, she refuses, saying it's too painful to look at.

His kin say they don't know what catalyzed Kim to act as he did after years of quiet living in Des Plaines. Not even his son Michael knew what Kim had in mind when they traveled to New York in September and took a tour of the UN. Two days before the incident, court papers show, Kim, imagining the worst, began surreptitiously starving himself in order to facilitate surgery if he was shot. Then, on October 3, he told his wife he was taking a vacation in Seattle, but instead boarded a morning train from Des Plaines to New York City, carrying a .357. At approximately 1:10 p.m., he clambered over to the western side of the Secretariat building and discharged the seven rounds. A couple of stray bullets pierced windows on the 18th and 20th floors, barely missing employees. Kim dropped his gun, released the pamphlets, and backed away. The guards were on him in an instant.

Otherwise, he's looking at up to 16 years in prison, but the support of people like Henry Kim and Byung Sun Soh may indicate he hasn't forfeited so much freedom for a mere few minutes in the news. In a letter responding to written inquiries, Kim explained that he couldn't answer due to a pending hearing. But in a large, looping script, he expressed appreciation for the interest and signed off, "Waiting for better times . . . "

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