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'It's who you are not what you are': Jeffersontown police officer credits his Korean heritage for success

"It's me trying to be a good person, me doing the job, and doing it well and treating other people well," Officer Mike Kim said.

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. — Each work shift, Jeffersontown Police Officer Mike Kim takes the routes he now knows by heart, familiar with a city that's become so special to him.

"We like to hit all the main roads -- Taylorsville Road, Hurstbourne, Blankenbaker and then Watterson Trail," Kim said. "It's always good to know the backroads."

It's been a natural transition over the last three years, patrolling the streets of Jeffersontown.

"I guess that's where that's one of the reasons why I came here, is that small town feel. Everybody knows everybody," Kim said.

He's used to a tight-knit community. Born in South Korea, Kim moved to the United States when he was four years old. 

Credit: Alyssa Newton, WHAS11 News
The everyday second shift route has been a natural transition for Officer Kim over the last three years.

Kim grew up in Madisonville, Kentucky, a small town 150 miles southwest of Louisville, with an Asian population of just under 2%.

"I could probably list all the Asian Americans in that town on one hand," he said. "You had to almost be like a chameleon and be able to adjust and adapt."

But Kim didn't just adapt to his surroundings, he also modified expectations from within his household.

"As most first generation, second generation Asians -- it's one of those: Doctor, lawyer, engineer," he said.

Sure enough, Kim got his degree in Biology from the University of Louisville, but soon realized it wasn't his passion.

"I kind of fumbled through life, did different sales or business jobs," he said. "And then my wife kind of inspired me to, you know, 'This is what you like, you always talk about, try it.'"

Kim took his wife's advice and switched gears, fast forward to 2023, and his decision has proven to be the right one.

"It's been a very fulfilling job," he said.

After 12 years of work in the Louisville Metro Police Department's Homicide Unit, Kim -- now a father of three -- works for the Jeffersontown Police Department.

"It feels good to be a good representative," Kim said. "I'm appreciative of my upbringing, my discipline, the morals that my parents taught me, it played well."

In some ways, Kim is breaking the mold as a Korean-American in law enforcement and the only one within this department.

Credit: Alyssa Newton, WHAS11 News
Officer Mike Kim speaks with WHAS11's Isaiah Kim-Martinez.

Though for him, that's never been the focus.

"It's nice to break those stereotypes, but again, I try not to think about it I guess," he said. "It's me trying to be a good person, me doing the job, and doing it well and treating other people well."

"It's who you are not what you are," Kim added.

And it's who he is, a compassionate person, that's allowed him to build trust.

"Community works with the police department and vice versa," Kim said.

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