Henry Sangtai Kim, who helped establish the first Koreatown in Maryland, died of a lung condition at a local hospital on May 28. He was about to turn 76 on June 10.
Kim was an accountant and business advocate who dedicated his life to serving Asian American communities in the mid-Atlantic region.
Born in Seoul, Kim immigrated to the U.S. in 1971. Having previously earned an economics degree at Yonsei University, he pursued a master’s degree in accounting at Syracuse University in New York.
Described by loved ones as a hardworking man, Kim established his certified public accounting business in Baltimore and Silver Spring, Maryland, after eight years.
His son, Thomas W. Kim, said that not only was his father passionate about his work, but he also enjoyed “doing social work in the Korean American community” and “helped so many people.”
Kim was instrumental in the founding of the first Koreatown in Maryland by helping raise over $700,000 while serving as the chair of the Koreatown Planning Committee Board Inc. in Ellicott City. He attended the celebratory ceremony of the Koreatown opening in October 2021, during which he introduced Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to the program.
He first served as vice-chair of the Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission under former state governor Robert Ehrlich before serving as its chair under Gov. Hogan. He was also the past chair of the Korean Society of Maryland and the Korean Business Enterprise Association.
One of Kim’s economic initiatives in Maryland was helping relocate several Washington, D.C., businesses to the state in 2018. Additionally, he helped to negotiate with and attract several Chinese and Korean companies to Maryland in 2017 as a delegate during Prince George’s County’s China-Korea Trade Mission Trip. He also helped secure nonprofit exemption status from the IRS for the Korean American Grocery Organization of Maryland, the Korean Businessmen’s League, the Korean School of Baltimore and Korean churches.
As a former senior adviser for the Advisory Council on Democratic Peaceful Unification in Washington, Kim was recognized by the Korean government for his efforts toward the reunification of South and North Korea.
His recent recognitions include the 2021 President’s Gold Volunteer Service Award and the 2022 President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He also received Distinguished Public Service awards from Ehrlich, Hogan, Parris Glendening and Martin O’Malley.
Kim is survived by his brother, his sister, his two sons and wife of 43 years, Dr. Youngja L. Kim.
“My husband was blind for the last seven years of his life. He didn’t want to use a cane, and he walked by himself in familiar areas. Other places, we walked together, side by side,” his wife said.
“He never compared himself with anyone else,” she added. “He set a goal, and then he achieved it. He was optimistic. He said, ‘Doing things for other people is like doing things for yourself.’”
Featured Image via Dignity Memorial (Submitted by the Family)