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Headline Archives

Here's What It's Like: Up Close and Personal


Graphic of Linguist Kyong-Min "George" KimKyong-Min "George" Kim came to the FBI after a spectacular career in science. With a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, Dr. Kim specialized in semiconductor materials--silicon crystal growth, in fact, to improve the quality and yield of computer chips, also working with computer mainframe simulations of silicon crystal growth hydrodynamics. He did a post-doc at MIT; worked at and retired from IBM; published 45 technical papers and 23 U.S. patents; and received an award from NASA for his work on Skylab at MIT.

Then, in 2002, he signed up as an FBI linguist contractor, and last September he arrived at our Los Angeles office for a new career as a Korean language specialist.

We asked him why--and we asked him some other questions besides.

Dr. Kim: Why did I join the FBI? I would have to say because the job is stimulating and fascinating, involving, as it does, assessments, in a way, of so many different human activities. Then, beside my genuine personal interest, it is knowing that my efforts, in small but real ways, continually contribute to safeguarding this free society of ours. Especially after the 9/11 attacks, this is a satisfying feeling--a fulfilling experience.

Q: What is a typical working day like?
Dr. Kim: My regular schedule is from 7:15 to 4:00, and I routinely support three Special Agents in the Los Angeles office by translating written data from Korean to English (and vice versa), monitoring & translating audio data, and occasionally interviewing people. The documents vary--they can be personal, societal, economic, political, technical & scientific, military, historical, ethnic, you name it. Beyond this, though, I am invited to assist with special assignments. Already I have traveled to 5 other FBI locations to test applicants, review translated documents, and help with cases--including going to Alaska in support of a local police investigation. And I travel to HQ for training so I can test and evaluate the skills of our onboard Korean language specialists.

Q: Last question, Dr. Kim. Can you describe the work environment, for people who may be interested in working as an FBI language specialist?
Dr. Kim: It is an excellent environment. Language specialists at FBI come with a wide spectrum of expertise not only in their specific languages but also in education, work experience, and cultural background. We are, indeed, part of America's global community. The work we do is mostly on a "need to know" basis, so we cannot talk to each other about it. But we enjoy each other's company very much and respect each other's high skills in language, professionalism, and work ethic. We are also blessed with good management. Most began as language specialists themselves, so they understand our needs and aspirations and they maintain a broad perspective on how our work is integrated to the overall business of FBI. My advice to people who qualify is simple: Apply. You will be glad you did.

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