Travelling to about 200 cities in 50 countries, researched the problems and practical limitations of the Maritime Labour Convention, the Award of PYNDA (Plymouth Nautical Degree Association) Prize for the Best Dissertation, the Excellent Research Prize from the International Academic Conference, the Naval Colonel Award, Sir John Parker's Scholarship, the Korea Maritime Research Institute Prize and working at Korean Register of Shipping (KR) London Office, the Korea Maritime Institute (KMI) Shanghai Office, and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) & Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) in the UK. This experience formed the framework of a unique career, and is the story of a 25-year-old Korean boy, Jisoo Kim, a merchant marine officer in IMS KOREA, who graduated from Busan National Maritime High School.
When he was a teenager, Troublemaker was his nick-name, and even his parents called him that because of his academic problems. In his final year in middle school, he became a student president with a poor transcript that changed his outlook completely. From that moment, he believed that a transcript should not be the only measure of academic success, or the only way to measure the potential of our future lives. For that reason, instead of taking the Korean A-level, he began looking for a unique high school to learn technologies or skills, in order to find what he was good at.
Finally, he made a decision to apply to the Navigation course in Busan National Maritime High School. There, Jisoo was selected as one of the cadet leaders since the first year of the high school and one shipping company employed him at second year with a scholarship. However, the reality became brutal for a young boy of 17 years old. The company was supposed to employ him as a cadet, but he was forced to work as an ordinary seaman to save on the company’s management costs.
The Chief Officer constantly shouted at him and ordered him around, never allowing him to sleep. One day, he lost his concentration because of lack of sleep, and fell onto the deck. Not only that, he was forced to work in enclosed spaces containing toxic and explosive gases without any protective equipment. This torture continued for two years. After that, Jisoo blindly went to the United Kingdom with all the money he had earned from his hellish experience, with an ambition to change his immediate circumstances, and to find where he really belonged.
Why Does a College Exist?
Jisoo's transcript was so bad, especially in English so that the very first thing he did in the UK was to stay in a library for as long as possible every day. He made a rule for himself that he would never leave until he was the only one left. After a year, he was accepted into the Maritime Business and Maritime Law course at Plymouth University, one of the largest marine and maritime colleges in Europe.
In his first class, he redefined his concept of college. In Korea, college is a place you must go when you graduate from high school, even though you do not really know what you want to do in the future. During the three years of high school in Korea, students struggle to compete in the university entrance exam. If accepted, they choose the course they think they want. However, the big wall waits for them. What they thought they would like may not actually turn out to be what they really love to do, once they find it.
Jisoo’s classmates at university, on the other hand, were mostly experienced students. They had already worked for several years in the shipping industry. As a result, they already knew what they were studying and grasped the concepts quickly with practice. Because of their previous experience, they had much more passion than young students entering the school as soon as they graduated from high school.
In the same vein, Jisoo realized that his experience in the maritime high school and in the industry made it worthwhile to be patient. However, due to his lack of English ability, he was already struggling on the very first assignment. He took a month to complete it, while the other students finished it in a few days. Nevertheless, unexpectedly, he scored an 84, which was the best mark in his class. That was when he began to believe, and hope, that if he tried to put forth his best effort, nothing would be impossible. Hence, he continued to improve at his studies with more confidence and enthusiasm and was eventually selected to receive a full scholarship for a short-term course at Shanghai Maritime University, where he studied Chinese and earned excellent credits.
Part of Jisoo’s living expenses was covered by working at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) & Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST), Plymouth. The following year, he received the Excellence in Logistics award at the Korea Maritime Research Institute and an internship at the Korea Maritime Institute in China. He attended the Foreign Affairs/Shipping/Logistics Conference in Shanghai, and the International Cruise Forum in Korea. While studying, he widened his knowledge and built his network. He did not hesitate to attend networking events and to constantly keep in touch with industry experts. Since then, he has been a scholarship student of Sir John Parker who is the CEO of the global shipping, port and logistic companies.
At the beginning of the last year, he began to write about the difficulties of the seafarer, which was based on his own experience. He especially concentrated on the contradictions of maritime labour agreements. He took advantage of the networks he had built around the world and collected over 400 surveys in 10 countries (Korea, China, Singapore, Philippines, Myanmar, India, Ukraine, Russia, Malaysia and Poland) in 26 days. Also, between Busan Port and agencies nationwide, he succeeded in conducting 20 short-interviews and five in-depth interviews. Another highlight during this time was the honour of meeting with the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation while working at the Korean Registry of Shipping in the London office.
Jisoo continuously asked questions of doctoral students and finally succeeded in compiling and analyzing the statistics and data from his surveys. A few months later, he finally proved the paradox of the Maritime Labour Convention in practice that marine workers are suffering more difficulties than we think due to the practical limitations.
For this work, he was awarded the PYNDA (Plymouth Nautical Degree Association) Prize for the Best Dissertation Award at the graduation ceremony. Nevertheless, Jisoo has never stopped studying. He has continued writing advanced research reports based on his dissertation even few minutes before joining compulsory army service. Even in military service, he did his best and was awarded the Naval Lord’s prize for excellent performance and leadership in Navy.
Few months later, he was honoured with the excellent research prize of three million won at the International Academic Conference as the only graduate with a bachelor’s degree. He donated it all to a scholarship to help needy high school students and create the Prize for Passionate Students With Great Potential in 2016.
He said that all these results would not have been achieved without the help of people around him, and that even if he had not, someone would have eventually revealed the problems at sea.
“I am just a 25-year-old boy who has just finished the first elimination round of my own life marathon with a participation medal. Not a gold, not even a silver, but a participation prize only. But it is more than enough for me.”
This young seaman, Jisoo Kim, who had a difficult ordeal at sea, is now building a bridgehead to change his world.
What Does the School Record Mean to a Dreaming Young Man?
The maritime career of Jisoo, started at the age of 15, it is now about 10 years. He is currently dreaming of a new project called Namu Sustainable Business. It is clear that the transcript is an objective element for evaluating students. However, by itself, it should not make student frustrated. What Jisoo would like to emphasise is not his grades, his university degree in foreign countries, or his successful career, but a spirit and ambition that accepts the challenge to achieve one’s dreams. His experience is a story of overcoming small and large challenges. It is his hope that his story is enough to awaken the younger generation to see what they, too, can achieve. When Jisoo’s mother saw her son’s elementary and middle school transcript again, she said that now she understands that poor school performance should never influence a student’s dreams and future successes.
The Importance of Various Experiences
Jisoo has met a variety of industry representatives. He conquers Mt. Halla every summer and he challenged skiing at the summit of Chamonix Mont Blanc in the Swiss Alps, surfing in Barcelona and Taunton in the UK, skydiving in Prague, eating delicious pizza and beer in Paris on the bank of the Seine, UNESCO APCEIU interpreting, briquette sharing service, and supporting two poor children in Africa. These various experiences ultimately lead to a new set of values, goals and development, and a larger network, giving him the opportunity to meet people in all walks of life.
Presently, Jisoo is an invited lecturer in middle schools, high schools, and universities in Korea. With his story, he encourages the enthusiasm of youth and instills the desire to face new challenges. As an officer on Japanese oil and chemical ships, he is currently completing his military service. He finally advised, “It is important to try to challenge yourself. Whatever it is, if you try, it will become a great part of your great future.” As we have seen, he has established his identity in many ways, emphasizing that all experiences, even bad ones, can become a positive part of life. All will become a light to illuminate the world now, and your life in the future. Today, Jisoo is on a voyage to the distant ocean of behalf of youth.