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James Kim--family man, technologist
By Greg SandovalStaff Writer, CNET News.com
Published: December 6, 2006, 6:04 PM PST
James Kim was a respected expert on bleeding-edge digital devices, an owner of a trendy clothing store, and a lover of the futuristic-sounding music known as electronica.
Yet most of Kim's life revolved around traditional values, according to friends: sacrifice, friendship and family. Those who knew him say they aren't surprised that Kim, in the last act of his life, demonstrated the ultimate expression of devotion to his wife and daughters.
A sad story unfolded in the Oregon woods over the past week. James Kim, an editor at CNET and TechTV personality, was found dead after a long and difficult search.
You've probably seen the basics of the story on the News, in the Nortwest newspapers, or in the raging forums at Digg.com, Fark.com, Fazed.net, and dozens of others. Here's the latest CNN coverage. There is a friends and family site, too. CNET also has a James Kim video tribute, highlighting a number of his appearances.
Kim, his wife, and two daughters were on their way back to San Fancisco after spending time with friends in Seattle and Portland over Thanksgiving. On their way from Portland to the Oregon coast, they ended up on a Forrest Service road that turned out to be impassable. They got stuck in the snow.
During the next seven days, the ran the car just enough to keep warm. When they ran out of fuel, they burned tires for warmth and to signal searchers. But after a week in the cold and with little food left, Kim left the car to go find help.
Two days later, a helicopter spotted the car and the mother waving an umbrella as a signal for help. A barely detectable cell phone ping led searchers to the general area. Rescuers airlifted Kim's wife and children out of the cold on Monday. They are doing fine.
Over the next two days, though, searcher continued to look for Kim. On Tuesday, they found a pair of pants he apparently left behind, possibly to mark his trail. They narrowed the search area and prepared to drop a bunch of emergency packages where Kim might find them.
This afternoon, they cancelled that plan when they found his body.
The computer technology industry is a small one -- and the marketing/PR side of it is smaller still. I doubt I ever met Kim, but it's possible I would have somewhere down the line. Geeks familiar with his work were all over the 'net expressing concern, frustration, and speculating about what happened. This incident seems to have touched the business in a way that general news and missing persons reports just don't.
I'm not sure why Kim's ordeal resonates with me the way it does. Perhaps it's his Geek cred. Perhaps it's that where the same age. Perhaps it's because I've spent some time on roads I probably shouldn't have been on.
People will say he was wrong to leave his car. In hindsight, that's clearly true. But when he made that choice, he was doing whatever he could to save his family, at great personal risk. That kind of life and death choice is one that very few of us are called upon to make. I hope I am never in such a situation. But if I am, I pray I will have to courage to make the tough choices and do whatever it is I have to do.