Kimmie is featured in our first photo essay. After a difficult childhood, Kimmie joined the Church in Korea. Now a successful business owner, Kimmie talks about how the healing properties of the algae supplements from her cosmetics company help people overcome debilitating illness. She has started a non-profit to help those who can’t afford the treatments have access to their benefits.
You’ve faced quite a bit of adversity in your life, especially in your childhood. Can you tell us about that?
I would say mine is a dysfunctional kind of family. I was the sixth child. The firstborn was a son who died when he was a baby. Then came three girls. My mom had a really hard time with all of those girls. In Korea at the time, girl babies were not as respected as boy babies. After the three girls came, another brother was born, and then I came. I wasn’t welcome because I was another girl, and I was strong. My father would say, “Oh the girls are all the same! They are so worthless!” I had to be kind of invisible when I was around my brother. I had to keep my distance from him. Whatever was given to my brother wasn’t allowed to me.
My parents were also very busy. My mom was so busy taking care of all her children, as well as a nephew and niece who had moved into our home. They had a farm to take care of. My father was an herb doctor, so he had to take care of his clinic. Because they were so busy, I was left to be cared for by my grandma, who lived with us. My parents just didn’t have much time for me. I know it didn’t mean that they didn’t love me, but I felt all alone. I felt like I was an outcast. I felt like no one cared about me.
How did you deal with these lonely feelings when you were a little girl?
I started to read books. Whenever I went missing, I could be found in the library. The librarian loved me. I found my peace and my sanctuary with all of those books. I read a lot at the time, even philosophy. Many of those books talked about a superpower. From this, I knew there was some Being stronger than my father, stronger than my grandma, and stronger than anybody else–someone who knew me as I was. I tried to find out more but I didn’t know where to go to find it.
My family had a big house, and we rented rooms to a few people. When I was eight or nine years old, a Roman Catholic family moved in, and they went to church every Sunday. Watching them go together to this church and seeing them wear the veil over their face and head looked really nice to me. I wanted to have that veil on my head, so I asked them if they wouldn’t mind taking me with them to church. I was overwhelmed by the serenity that I felt there. I knew the people there were looking for the same thing that I was looking for. I saw a statue of Saint Mary and also the baby Jesus. When I saw Jesus I felt like I knew him. I didn’t feel that kind of a feeling for Saint Mary. I couldn’t say exactly what but I felt something different about this little baby. I started asking around, “Where can I get that baby Jesus?” I wanted to have that doll. I had to have it. I had never asked for anything as a child, but I had this burning desire for the baby Jesus statue. Then something miraculous happened. I discovered one of the girls in my classroom had a small baby Jesus doll. She would let me play with it if I gave her a bowl of my corn soup or a small loaf of bread. Whenever I had that baby Jesus, I had this warm feeling inside of me.
How did this experience shape your young womanhood?
I continued to seek out Jesus. I asked the nuns many questions about Jesus and religion, and they always said, “Huh, you are full of questions!” Sometimes they couldn’t answer me; they couldn’t answer me simply because they didn’t know the answers to all of my questions. During this period I started to think seriously about religion. Whenever I went to church they offered the sacrament wine. I knew it was the symbol of Jesus’ blood, and I thought, “If I take the sacrament, then I will be different. I will be healed. People will love me. People will care about me.” I wanted to have that so desperately. I wanted to find peace inside of me. I wanted someone to look at me the way I was. I tried to find some relief in religion.
I considered becoming a Catholic nun. I already acted like a nun in that I didn’t have my own personal time, my private time. I was out there to help others. I spent a lot of my time serving others. When I walked along the street, if someone needed help, I was the first child to get there with a helping hand. I was different. I had this tendency toward helping less fortunate people. I think I got it from my mom or my grandpa. My grandpa was called “father” by beggars all throughout Korea. When he passed away, our place was flocked by beggars and homeless people from all the provinces.
When were you introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
When I was eighteen, my sister met the missionaries. I was also, coincidentally, contacted by my classmate, who was a Church member around the same time. I went with her to the LDS Church, and I met the bishop. He was a really nice and very kind man. In the building, I saw a painting of Jesus stretching out his arms. It had such a glorious background, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I knew that was Jesus. While I was listening to everyone, all of my attention was on that picture. It was beautifully done. I just loved it. Later I talked to my sister, and she said, “Oh I’m meeting the missionaries.” I thought, “Hmm, ok, I have to find out what the LDS Church is all about.”
I started to read the Book of Mormon, and I asked Heavenly Father if the book was true and if it was really from Heavenly Father. I asked that my heart feel a burning sensation. I didn’t get anything. I didn’t even get a burp. So I thought, “Hmm is it true?” My sister was baptized but I wasn’t baptized because I still wanted to be Catholic. But I also wanted to be supportive and to understand her more so I told her that I would like to meet the missionaries. I met the missionaries out of my love for my sister. After I met the missionaries, I got baptized. To tell you the truth, when I got baptized I didn’t really have the conviction that I have now. I didn’t really have the belief. Eventually, I stopped going to church and moved to America a few years later.
Why did you move to America?
My mom and dad wanted me to marry a man I wasn’t in love with. They said, “You’ve got to get married to a man that we think is worthy and is good. Marry this guy.” I said, “No, no, no I don’t want to get married.” In Korea, you cannot go against what your parents say to you. So I tried to find a way to get away from home. I tried to get as far away from home as I could, so I moved to America.
I lived in America for three years and got married while I was there. My husband abused me and raped me. I felt all alone. One day I started to pray, “Where are you, Lord? I’m so stubborn. You have to let me know that Jesus lives, that he cares for me, that I’m still loved, and that I’m not all alone. Please let me know.” I didn’t get any answers. Then I wrote a letter to Heavenly Father. I tried to write everything. After I wrote it, I was going to burn it. I thought, “The ash will reach Him.” I was about to burn it when all of the sudden I got a phone call from a missionary who knew me in America. He said he was studying his scriptures before going to bed and all of a sudden I was there. He said he had this strong urge to call me. He said, “Are you okay?” I tried not to cry on the phone. I didn’t say one word because I was crying and crying and crying. He said, “If you are in trouble, know that the Holy Spirit is always with you.” He concluded by saying, “Know that I called you because I was led by the Holy Spirit.” That moment I knew I wasn’t alone. From that point, I became really zealous. I started going back to church, I filed for a divorce, and I moved back to Korea.
When you moved back to Korea, you started a health care business using algae as a healing agent. How did this come about?
I think I was destined to get involved in the algae business. I often went to a chapel to pray that medicine could be used to heal unhappy people. I promised God I would offer my own life in return if He answered my prayer. In my late 30’s, I found favor among people who harvested algae which has incredible healing properties, especially for damaged skin. The limited knowledge I had about microorganisms somehow impressed them, and I was offered a business opportunity. This opportunity to work with algae helped shape my plan to start a non-profit charity organization that would provide inexpensive algae supplements to less fortunate people who desperately needed to improve their health. I realized that I needed some high-end products to generate the funds for the non-profit and decided to use cosmetics as my high-end product. I began using algae as a skin-care ingredient and making my own formulas for troubled skin.
How have your spiritual beliefs informed your business?
When I give algae supplements to those who suffer from various—often serious—ailments, I first pray over the product to ensure that it is given with the right intention and that the healing properties will be fully realized. I also ask that those who take the algae do so with prayer and faith. I witness many miracles daily. People heal and recover from all sorts of ailments by using the products and advice I offer. They eventually realize they were given a unique opportunity to think about their bodies’ limits and potential power. I know that it is the grace of our Lord Jesus that makes them whole and healthy again. His absolute, unconditional love has incredible, incomparable healing power.
I also act as a member missionary through the interactions I have with my clients and co-workers. Some people I meet through work have shown sincere interest in my religion and some eagerness to listen to what I have to say about not only physical, emotional wellbeing but spiritual wellbeing and the restored gospel. I won’t stop my constant struggle to do business in a manner with which the Lord would be pleased. I could be surrounded by charming business people whose main interest is how to be beautiful, healthier, and gain more. But I chose a life where the Savior can use me as an instrument in His hands. I’d rather be surrounded by the sick and the suffering. I know I’ll serve them with my heart; these holistic products will benefit them physically, emotionally, and spiritually because they are enhanced with ingredients like unconditional love, my humble prayers, and many people’s blessings.
What sort of future do you envision for your business?
Even though the future of my business may not be free of occasional ups and downs, I will continue to employ ethical management models where honesty is always the best policy and charity comes before profit. I hope our eco-friendly products will contribute to changing concepts of what defines a successful business and a career woman. I also hope that nature-oriented products will be introduced and distributed throughout the world and that algae will be used for affordable but powerful treatments. Ultimately, I envision my small business becoming the foundation of the global algae community and becoming a steward company that shares the gospel with the meek and the sick and works to make the world a better place to live.
There’s no doubt in my mind that as long as I walk in the light and continue to gain my strength from the Lord by reading scriptures and visiting the temple, my business and I will be sustained. God lives! A very insignificant person like me has become a tool to help people. I pray that my business continues to be used as a tool in God’s hands!
At A Glance
Location: Seoul, Korea
Marital status: Single again
Convert to Church: 1984
Schools Attended: Chosun University
Languages Spoken at Home: Korean
Favorite Hymn: “Because I Have Been Given Much”
On the Web: www.Bioe3.com; www.klamathbeauty.com
Interview by Krisanne Hastings. Photos by Heather Willoughby and Robyn Larsen.