Staff Writer: Tzu-Hsun Hsu
Dr. Ji-Ho Kim is a Sports Science professor at Wingate University and is from Busan, South Korea. Dr. Kim came to the United States in the summer of 2002 for the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at UC Berkeley.
Dr. Kim played baseball as a student-athlete in South Korea, and he wanted to have a sports-related career. There was no sports management program in South Korea when Dr. Kim was a college student.
“When I was a college student, there was a movie Jerry Maguire which
talked about sports marketing and business, and that was the first time I heard about sports business,” Dr. Kim said. He joined his brother studying in the United States.
When he first arrived in the States, Dr. Kim faced several language barriers. He still remembers his first day in America at the airport immigration gate, the custom’s officer said something that he did not understand, and a Korean-American staff member helped him to get out of the airport.
As an international student, Dr. Kim faced ordeals, he recorded all the lectures and his American friends shared notes with him.
As a graduate student in Nashville, Tenn., Dr. Kim had a lot of interesting memories.
“They have a strong football culture and college sports cultures such as tailgating, parties, and moonshine. I had a really good time and memories with my friends,” Dr. Kim said.
Some of the most difficult things for Dr. Kim as an international student were language and cultural differences. His first year as an international student was in California, and there were many Asians and foreigners, which is different from Nashville.
“Their accent is different, my Konglish works well in San Francisco and Berkeley, so I had confidence in my English,” Dr. Kim said. “When I went to Nashville, Tennessee, I realized this is real American culture.”
He successfully went through these difficulties. “Coming to America was my decision, nobody asked me to come here, so I was open-minded,” Dr. Kim added.
After earning his Ph.D., Dr. Kim got his job at George Mason University as a sports management professor, and Wingate University is his second job in America. Dr. Kim has family, children, and jobs here, which are the reasons why he decided to settle down in the United States. He still tries to visit Korea during the summer or winter each year.
When Dr. Kim was an international student, he missed home on holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. After making friends, getting married, and having children here, it became different for him. Dr. Kim’s wife cooks Korean food every day, they have many Korean friends, meet other Korean families, go to a Korean church, and sometimes visit Koreatown in Atlanta, Georgia.
In Dr. Kim’s office, he has a lot of sports business books, awards, and a doll of Shohei Ohtani, a Japanese professional baseball pitcher, which tells us more about Dr. Kim and his passion for sports business.
His students like him, as evidenced by gifts from students in Dr. Kim’s office.
“Dr. Kim is a legend,” said Diana McDonald, a 2019 Wingate sports management alumna. “He has taught me different perspectives in the sports world. Being a student in his class and having the opportunity to learn from him is a great honor. He is a great educator in class and also outside of class.”