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Yachtsman vows to finish Clipper Race around the globe

The first South Korean to enter a globetrotting clipper race vowed to finish it “no matter what” in a recent interview with The Korea Herald, adding that he hoped his endeavor would help raise awareness about yachting in South Korea.

n Aug. 30, Han Kim, 41, will be the first South Korean to attempt to complete the Clipper Round the World Race, a circumnavigating 40,000-nautical-mile race among 12 international teams beginning and ending in the U.K.

The race begins at St. Katharine Docks, London. The teams will sail to Brazil’s Rio De Janeiro, South Africa’s Cape Town and then Australia, China, the U.S. and Panama before ending in London next July.

“I’m looking forward to this race. I’m nervous, scared, but I’m ready,” Kim said.

Kim and most of his crew members are not professional yachtsmen, but hobbyists aiming to turn themselves into sailors. This year’s CRWR includes an atomic physicist, a salesman, a marine biologist and a medical doctor, among others.

Kim Han. Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald
Kim Han. Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald

Kim, a former sports promoter, began yachting on a club team at his alma mater Yonsei University in 1994.

“At first it was really tough, because our team was fairly young,” Kim said.

“At the same time, all the sophomores had gone to do their military service, so there was no one to train us.”

“I had to join the national team practices at Gyeonggi-do Sailing Federation’s sailing club located in Asanman to get training,” Kim said.

Yachting remained with him as a hobby after graduation. He would frequent domestic races, national team practices and regional competitions. 

It was only recently that Kim decided he wanted to make yachting his life.

“This is a tough field to dedicate your life to,” he said at a coffee shop in southern Seoul earlier this month. “It offers you a limited income. The competition is tough. And it’s a field where it really pays to be a winner, and where it really sucks to be the loser,” Kim added.

“But I do it because of the people here in the yachting field. I have come to enjoy their company,” he said.

Kim spent his youth in Madison, Wisconsin, in the U.S., where his father studied at
University of Wisconsin–Madison, the same school Kim would later attend. Kim became fluent in English and kept his bilingualism in Korea by shadowing Mormon missionaries from the U.S. working in South Korea. 

“I used to tail those guys and just grab them and start talking in English,” Kim said, chuckling. 

“Once they figured out I wasn’t interested in converting they would try to run away, but I would still follow them around, asking to converse in English.” 

After graduating from Yonsei in 2001, Kim experienced the ups and downs of youth. After working at a stable, well-paying job, he started his own business, and ended up losing millions of won. 

“Long story short. I lost a lot of money, and I was on my butt at the end of it.”

But the maverick picked himself up and went to study in the U.S., graduating from Tufts University’s Fletcher School and then working on a Ph.D. in economics at the University of Wisconsin. Kim worked for a security electronics company before deciding to become a sports promoter.

“I do what I love. Can’t help it,” Kim explained.

Yachting is a relatively unpopular sport in Korea, but Kim hopes to change this by promoting it through his efforts at the Clipper Race.

“I know I’m just one person, and just an amateur. But I’m going to try to make it,” Kim said.

Already, local governments have been showing keen interest in the yachting industry, with Dangjin in South Chungcheong Province vowing to speed up its development of a marine port as part of its marine leisure industry.

The city also announced last week it would work to attract the Clipper Race’s 2019 edition.

By Jeong Hunny (