Evening classes change life for Korean woman at 74 in Fukuoka

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FUKUOKA – Kifun Kim found new meaning in her life when she signed up for night classes to read and write Japanese at the age of 74.

Kim came to Japan from the Korean Peninsula around 80 years ago, when it was under Japanese colonial rule to marry her Japanese-born Korean husband who worked in a coal mine in Iizuka, prefecture. Fukuoka.

She has raised five children while working in a vegetable stall, a clothing store, and as a street vendor, among others.

But Kim never had the opportunity to learn to read and write Japanese. She was unable to even put her own name on the visitor list when she went to her children’s school or took them to the hospital.

When Chiyo Junior High School near her home in the Hakata district of Fukuoka opened evening classes, Kim was the first student to show up on day one.

Kim always sat in the middle of the front row and became the most famous face in the class. She has hardly ever missed a class for about 20 years.

A book of student notes contains a passage she wrote: “Studying has always been my dream since I was a child. School is my goal in life.

Classes are offered to those who have not had the chance to learn to read and write Japanese due to various circumstances.

Kim has diligently practiced writing Japanese characters in her notebooks. One is filled with hiragana script words, while another is filled with repetitive attempts to write kanji characters.

When she learned enough to be able to read a sign along a street where she walked frequently, a delighted Kim went there every day to read it over and over again. The sign read: “This road ends with no way out. “

Photos of Kifun Kim are displayed in a classroom at Chiyo High School in Fukuoka during a rally in his memory on November 3. (Ikko Ishida)

His dream was to read the newspapers.

“Journals are difficult because they are written with (so much) kanji. I’d ask too much if I want to read the papers, ”she once said with a smile.

Kim’s goal was to live to be 100 years old. But she died in November 2020 at the age of 97.

A private meeting was scheduled at the time to remember her, but it was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

He finally stood with about 70 people in attendance on November 3, before the first anniversary of her death, in the classroom she had served in for all these years.

Photos of her smiling and dancing happily, as well as her notebooks filled with Japanese characters, lined the site.

During the rally, attendees learned how Kim compared her class to a pair of glasses.

“The reading and writing class is a pair of glasses for me,” she wrote. “I couldn’t see things even close to me, but now I can see things so far away. “

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Kifun Kim wrote his name in hiragana characters several times in his notebook. (Ikko Ishida)


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