stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
THE STUBBORN ARCHITECT AND HIS SEARCHING SON
space
For one Canadian, the winter Olympics and ski slopes of Yongpyong are layered with memories of his late father - and with regret. Taehoon Kim writes
space
By TAEHOON KIM
Special to The Globe and Mail
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Friday, February 9, 2018 – Page A12

Walking around Yongpyong Ski Resort for the first time, I couldn't believe I was actually there.

For two decades, my dad - Kwahn W.

Kim - had worked as the resort's chief architect. Though I had never been there, I had seen photographs of the resort my entire life, and now, I was part of the scenery.

Families rolled suitcases from their cars. A chime played in the distance, preluding an announcement for the skiers on a nearby hill.

I stood among the buildings that my dad had designed and built. The Dragon Valley Hotel, the condominiums, the golf course clubhouses: They were all here, and they were real.

My dad wasn't with me. He died in 2005 after a short but vicious battle with cancer, weeks before my high-school graduation. But I pictured us there together, walking the same meandering paths and breathing the same brisk air. We watched the snow gently dust the trees.

I felt closer to him than I had in years.

NO LOOKING BACK

I grew up knowing Yongpyong Ski Resort was one of my dad's great accomplishments. I also knew that the resort had arguably set the course for our family's story - during one of his many business trips to study other ski resorts, my dad visited Vancouver and fell in love with the West Coast of Canada.

When my dad retired, my parents decided to move to Vancouver. They believed my sister and I would find more equality and opportunity here. We never looked back. After immigrating when I was six years old, we rarely returned to Korea, let alone the resort.

His work at Yongpyong became history. My dad didn't talk about it, and I didn't ask him about it either.

We lived the story many first-generation immigrants know too well - with fewer and fewer places to find common ground, we drifted apart in our new home country. I was embarrassed he didn't speak English well. I was angry he didn't show affection like the parents of my Canadian friends. We argued about what it meant to be successful and happy, and how to get there.

As I tried my best to blend into my new life, the more I pulled away from him. Silent dinners and drives to school became our norm.

The day before he died, my dad held my hand and told me he loved me. It's the one time I can remember him saying those words. I remember wishing, in that moment, that instead of disagreeing with him at every turn, I had instead spent that time asking him about his work, his dreams and his regrets.

The hardest part of mourning was realizing I had barely known him.

WITH DEDICATION COMES SACRIFICES

When Pyeongchang won the bid to host the Olympics, and Yongpyong Ski Resort was named one of the host sites, I knew I had to visit. My dad didn't live to see his resort get the Olympics - the closest he got was back in 2003 when Pyeongchang had made its first bid and lost to Vancouver.

When I told my mom about my plans, she searched her house and found family photos, magazine articles and blueprints I had never seen before.

Poring over these documents, I learned about my dad's work and philosophy. He was only 28 when his company, Dae-Ho, started work on the resort. Yongpyong became the first ski resort in South Korea, marking a turning point in history when everyday Koreans could afford leisure activities - a remarkable feat considering the country was one of the world's poorest following the Korean War.

While he worked on many significant projects during his career, including university buildings, research centres and corporate headquarters, Yongpyong was where he poured his heart and soul okver the span of his 20-year career. He once claimed that his love for the resort was equal to his love for his children.

His dedication to the project came with sacrifices. Mom described his long trips away from home; with no trains or highways, a typical drive to the resort took my dad 13 hours (now, a journey from Seoul via the Korea Train Express takes about 90 minutes). When he was home, my parents rarely spent time alone - Dad and his employees would spend late nights working in their cramped apartment, while Mom cooked meals for everyone.

He gave his life to work and expected the same level of commitment from others. He could never relax for a moment at the resort, even on family trips. My aunts described him worrying about how the table settings looked in the Dragon Valley Hotel, the first building he designed for Yongpyong. He never, in all his years building a ski resort, learned to ski. He spent weekends doing personal inspections and battling construction crews - if something wasn't done to his liking, he ordered crews to demolish and start over. His demands for perfection earned my dad the nickname "the Stubborn Architect."

CONVERSATIONS WITH MY FATHER

I decided to visit Yongpyong to do a photo project about my dad and the work that had defined his career. I wanted to feel and, if possible, capture his presence at the resort. But in the weeks leading up to my trip, I agonized whether it was too soon - I didn't feel ready or mature enough to do my dad's story justice.

Then I read an article featuring my dad, written near the 10th anniversary of the resort's opening. His designs had won a prestigious award from the Korean Architects Association, earning him some minor fame. In the article he lamented he had been recognized too soon and that he considered his first works at the resort as embarrassing early failures.

I could only laugh - I tried for so long to be different from him and it was a reminder that in many ways, I am his son. No amount of preparation would be enough. I just had to go.

Thirteen years after his death, I still daydream about having conversations with my dad. Walking around the resort, seeing the physical manifestations of his creativity and hard work, made me think about what our relationship might have been like if he were still alive.

We had disagreed the most on what it meant to achieve success and happiness. After he died, Mom told me Dad saw himself as an artist who never enjoyed the business aspect of his company. I had an inkling - after his retirement, he had devoted himself to watercolour painting. Dad was most at peace sitting in his office in front of a canvas, sketching and painting scenes.

As a father, however, he had pushed strict and traditional definitions of success. Everything, like his work, was to be done to perfection. I was encouraged to dabble in arts and sports, but never too much, as it would distract from school. I needed to go to an Ivy League university, nothing less, so I could study the "right" major and work in the "right" career.

For some time, I was angry. I found it hypocritical he had pushed these ideas when he had found his own happiness in creativity. Of course, now I know why he pushed so hard - no parent wishes a life of risk and uncertainty for their kids.

But I wish it wasn't his absence that finally made me feel free to pursue what I wanted.

Instead, I hope that we would have grown to understand each other. Maybe we would have opened up to each other about what drove and frustrated us.

Maybe we would have bonded over our mutual love for photography. Maybe we could have even created something together.

A THANK YOU

The mountains at Yongpyong reminded me of home, and parts of the resort felt like the neighbourhood where I grew up after we immigrated. I understood why he might have felt a connection to Vancouver when he first visited, and how that might have informed his work.

I thought about how hard it must have been for my parents during their early years of marriage, and I was sad knowing I wouldn't get to see them grow together through our family's milestones. I thought about how hard it must have been for my dad to leave it all behind - his comforts, his friends and his legacy - for a place where no one knew who he was or what he had done.

I climbed to the top of the Villa Condominiums, a complex that was completed in 1989. Cleaners got apartments ready for the next guests. Over the trees, I watched skiers make wide turns down a hill.

I thanked my dad. I told him I was sorry I hadn't asked him about his stories. I told him I hoped he was proud of me, and that I was proud of him.

Later, I met a father and daughter who were skiing together. I told them about my dad and showed them his photographs, which I carried with me during the trip. The father was impressed.

"You must come from a good family," he said. "Not just anyone gets to build something like this."

He was right. It wasn't just anyone. It was my dad.

Associated Graphic

Taehoon with his father, Kwahn, in 1989. Kwahn died in 2005, weeks before Taehoon's high-school graduation, after a short battle with cancer.

COURTESY OF THE KIM FAMILY

Equipment is left outside while skiers take a break at Yongpyong. Yongpyong was the first ski resort in South Korea, marking a turning point in his story when everyday Koreans could afford leisure activities.

TAEHOON KIM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Taehoon's sister, Minjae, right, skis with an aunt and cousin on a family trip to Yongpyong in 1990. After Taehoon's father retired, the family immigrated to Vancouver when Taehoon was six years old; after that, they rarely returned to Korea, let alone the resort.

COURTESY OF THE KIM FAMILY

Taehoon as a toddler at the resort.

COURTESY OF THE KIM FAMILY

Taehoon Kim stands at the top of Balwangsan mountain at Yongpyong. Taehoon decided to visit the resort to do a photo project about his dad and the work that had defined his father's career.

ABIGAIL SAXTON

Kwahn in the mountains of Pyeongchang during a survey visit while designing Yongpyong. Kwahn was only 28 when his company, Dae-Ho, started work on the resort.

COURTESY OF THE KIM FAMILY

A view of the Dragon Valley Hotel from the Tower Condominium at Yongpyong Ski Resort. The hotel was the first building Taehoon Kim's father, Kwahn W. Kim, designed for Yongpyong.

TAEHOON KIM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Jeffrey_Simpson Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page