Laguna Woods, a city of retirees, is an hour and a half drive away on the I-405 from Los Angeles. The Korea Daily recent paid a visit to meet with one of its avid readers who sent a handwritten letter two months ago. Her name is Kim Min. The 76-year-old was a slender woman wearing a pair of purple sunglasses.
“Up until your 70s, you’re considered an ajumma,” said Min, referring to the Korean word, which literally translates to middle aged woman. “You should be 80 to be considered old.”
Min came to the U.S. in 1976. She moved from South Korea with her husband and two daughters to L.A., where her uncle was running a distribution business. She was convinced when her uncle told her that the U.S. grants happy lives to those who work diligently. After moving, Min’s husband ran a laundromat, while she worked under her uncle.
“My company was located in a neighborhood that was predominantly African-American,” Min said. “My uncle advised me to dress like a man, so I always wore a T-shirt and long pants and always kept my hair short.”
In 1984, Min ran a Korean barbeque restaurant. The restaurant soon became popular, as famous South Korean celebrities paid their visits whenever they were in town. However, it was difficult to make ends meet. Min failed to break even and closed the business after more than four years.
However, Min did not give up. She was introduced to a sandwich franchise near Redondo Beach. It was a business that was losing money despite its two owners who were lawyers. Min and her husband parked their cars near the business and surveyed it meticulously. They saw the employees running around with no organization.
“I thought then that I wouldn’t lose money as long as I manage the employees right,” she said.
Min soon took over the business. She first laid off seven employees. Min was in charge of the counter. It was Christmas only three months after the takeover. She had already begun making profits from the business after paying off most of its debt. The business was especially popular among African-Americans. It was even covered by the local newspaper. Min worked every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas.
“I go to the end once I start,” Min said. “I worked without ever taking a break.”
The first time Min learned yoga was when she was 61. She was merely looking to lose some weight. Then she realized that it was not as simple as she thought it would be.
“It was no joke,” Min said. “I wanted to quit after a few days. Twisting your body like that is not easy.”
Soon after, Min decided to dedicate herself even more. She began training almost every day. One of the instructors then told Min that she would be leading the class the next day.
“I obviously told her I couldn’t do it,” Min said. “But she insisted that I give it a try, so I did.”
Min’s first class was held in January 2014. Since then, she has been teaching at least once or twice per week. Most of her students are retired Caucasians. Each class has up to 50 to 60 students. The classes are free. After every session, the students leave with a smile on their faces.
“There is no such thing as being too late,” Min said. “That’s actually when you have to start.”
Min has been subscribing to different newspapers. Three years ago, she came back to reading the Korea Daily.
“It covers Korean news in more detail,” Min said.
Min did not forget to offer a suggestion. She asked the Korea Daily to inform readers about seminars and lectures earlier. Min also wanted the membership card to be more accessible.
“Reporting about an event on the day of doesn’t help people like us to attend even if we really wanted to,” Min said. “It’s hard to plan on such a short notice. I’d love to hear about these events earlier.”
By Sangho Hwang