Behind Father Kim’s 1984 Exile to Japan (Part Two)
During a conversation in Father Kim’s office, the woman excused herself to use the bathroom. When she returned, Father Kim was sitting in a different chair. He asked her to come closer. He then asked her to lift up her white skirt “a little bit.” She did, but only to her knees. Father Kim grabbed her, pulled her to his lap and started kissing her. Soon after, Father Kim directed her to the floor behind his desk. During the encounter, Father Kim put his hand between her legs, under her clothing.
She chose to leave Collegeville the next morning, instead of in the afternoon as previously planned.
“At that time, Father Kim was my whole emotional life,” she said. “He had all the power. I thought that he really cared about me. I trusted him.”
Father Kim told her to journal about her “personal, inner life” and provide him with the pages.
“He told me to trust him,” she said. She claims that Father Kim told her that others were also journaling for him. When he was finished, he promised to burn the writings in the school’s incinerator.
“I really needed to talk to someone. I thought I was special but, looking back, I was set up.”
The woman had an apartment in a Twin Cities suburb. On at least five occasions, Father Kim stayed the night at the apartment, and each time they engaged in sexual contact, including oral sex. Father Kim’s visits were usually on Saturday night, so that he could say mass on Sunday morning at a nearby parish.
By early May of 1984, she finally summoned enough courage to ask for Father Kim’s respect. Father Kim was seated on the couch in the woman’s apartment, she kneeling on the floor. She said the sexual relationship between the two had to stop because she had met someone her own age and wanted to have a “normal” relationship.
Less than two weeks later, Father Kim informed her that he leaving for Tokyo for seven years. The move required Abbot Jerome Theisen’s approval.
According to the July 1984 Saint John’s Abbey Quarterly, a publication of Saint John’s Abbey:
Prior Aloysius Michels asked for Fr. Chrysostom Kim to assist in the formation program at the Priory. Since the University has granted him a leave from the honors program for the fall semester and January, Father Chrysostom left for Tokyo at the end of May.
Seven years later, in 1991, Father Kim was still in Tokyo. Father Kim tried to communicate with the woman several times while in Tokyo. He sent her postcards. He sent news articles, He sent her photos.
She had valued his friendship, and since they were no longer sexual and he wasn’t a threat, she wrote back on occasion.
In 1989, Father Kim wrote on a post card:
“Now that you assure me that you are being very careful about not putting me in jeopardy … I think you are by and large except when you are frantic– is one way to free yourself from being chronically pained, not that you would stop worrying.”
In January of 2000, after a long period of no contact and at the age of 72, Father Kim found the woman’s address and phone number through the college’s alumni department. His first note included a $100 bill.
“It was a relief to know that you kept in touch with the alumnae office regarding your last whereabouts … Promise me not to use the phone of your parents or siblings, to call me … I would have liked to find out how you had been doing in some fifteen years … How are you really doing? Have you remarried? Do you have a job? How do you make your living? Are you on some medications?”
The two reconnected via telephone for a short time. During these phone conversations, Father Kim tried to direct the conversations toward topics of a sexual nature. She didn’t want to participate. Instead, she called him on his conduct. She also showed some anger and brought up the past. Father Kim acknowledged that he “wasn’t a choir boy.”
“It amazed me,” she said, “that he would think I would be interested. The other time, it was connected with his helping me. In 2000, it made no sense whatsoever.”
She shared her story with a new counselor she was seeing, who confirmed the inappropriateness of the relationship and the multiple boundaries crossed by Father Kim.
In a 2001 handwritten letter to Father Kim she asked that he not contact her again.
Why did she agree to share her story?
“I used to feel I was special. Now I am certain that I am not alone,” she said. “It disappoints me to know that Saint John’s Abbey has been aware of allegations regarding Father Kim for years, but has made no attempt to ascertain what occurred, how many people were affected or how many people might currently need help.”
“I realize now that there were red flags,” she said, “but was blinded by his power over the relationship and how little I could differentiate myself, emotionally, from his directions.”