A CAREER AS AN FBI LANGUAGE SPECIALIST?
Here's What It's Like: Up Close and Personal
Kyong-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.
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
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.