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STL Jeffrey Kim: A Transnational Odyssey, and More
Mar 26, 2024
Peking University, March 26, 2024: Jeffrey Kim's path to the School of Transnational Law (STL), Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School (PKUSZ), was more of a serendipity. Born in the United States of America with a Republic of Korea nationality, Jeff embarked on his legal journey in the U.S., studying American common law at St. John's University while concurrently dedicating to ROK law through online courses offered by Cyber University of Korea. 

Jeff’s diligence bore fruit as he successfully passed the bar exam and commenced his legal career in the U.S. However, the unforeseen arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped his trajectory, from which Jeff seized a unique opportunity to visit STL. Now, after two years in Shenzhen, Jeff, as an LL. M., has embraced a new role as a lawyer, specializing in IP litigation and cross-border mergers and acquisitions at Liangma Law Firm. It is in this vibrant city that Jeff would like to put down his roots, marking an intriguing twist in his odyssey.

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Jeffrey in Rowing Training

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Upon his arrival at the STL, Jeff found himself embracing a novel life, that in all ways distinguished with his previous law education in St. John’s University in New York where he received his first master degree in Law.

Amid the tapestry of his academic voyage, Jeff was drawn to the practical courses offered at STL. These were not conventional, run-of-the-mill classes, but were keyholes that unlocked the real world. For example, how to draft a perfect multilingual contract? “We simply think that we can make a transcript translation and then provide it to clients,” he explained, “but the truth is that, the gaps are huge.” In facing of this labyrinth of challenges, Jeff indulged, and willingly navigated throughout it. “Even though we cannot make a 100% same contract in another totally different language, but how about practicing over and over to that end?” The answer is positive, or at least in STL, a school that believes “practice makes perfect”, a truth.

Yet, his journey at STL was far from one-dimensional. The school's ethos is not confined to textbooks and lectures but branched out into the realm of transcultural experience. From an LL. M of United States law school, with A+ in most of ROK Law courses, to now the LL. M of Chinese law school, Jeff’s transnational journey was like a multi-colored thread interwoven into the fabric of his education. 

“One of my favorite courses is Traditional Chinese Legal Thought taught by Professor Norman Ho.” Even today, Jeff could recall the enigmatic allure of Professor Norman’s classes on Chinese ancient legal philosophy and Confucianism, and how he was immersed in those sophisticating, ancient cultural philosophical thoughts that were far from his own. “Things like Confucianism are not easy”, Jeff laughs, “but the process to enrich the cultural understanding is nothing short of enjoyable.”

The diversified settings of courses, combined with a focus on practical education left an indelible mark on Jeff’s journey at PKUSZ. Just as Jeff’s remarks say, one “cannot actually make comparisons with these two schools,” because St. John's embodies American legal education, whereas STL stands as a beacon of transnational legal studies deeply rooted in China but, at the same time, aims to bridge the world’s legal education. But one thing is for sure, he said, “STL has changed my attitude towards the role of lawyer.”

“It is in STL that I started to think that, a lawyer is never merely a gladiator in the courtroom, yelling and fighting for the sole glory of the winning party. In a much bigger picture, a legal professional always seeks the win-win situation,” Jeff shared with us. During his journey at STL, the burdensome of winning at any cost that once pressured him started to fade away. Instead, what Jeff pursued, swiftly evolved, from becoming a lawyer, into a legal professional equipped with problem-solving skills and the willingness to engage sympathetically with counter arguments, whatever they might be.

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Jeffrey at STL's commencement 

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Jeffrey and the Rowing Team

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“The groups didn’t come for me; I went for them.” Jeff laughed. He seemed to be the embodiment of the term “social butterfly”, always eager to explore new horizons and interests.

You may never know how many sports he had taken participation: Chi-Kong, marathons, paddling, swimming, jogging, cycling... and so much more. One of his adventures led him to be a Jiaolong Paddler for PKUSZ, where he embraced the waters of the Dasha River. The dragon boat team became his avenue to glide through the gentle ripples, master the art of synchronized rowing, and express his vigor. It is a dynamic and physically demanding pursuit that Jeff reveled in.

However, Jeff's kaleidoscopic interests didn’t stop there. The calligraphy club beckoned, and he eagerly followed the guidance of a seasoned teacher to delve into the world of Chinese calligraphy. “The instructor taught me how to grab a Maobi, meaning Chinese Calligraphy Brush, but it was hard to hold on.” Jeff confessed, but for someone who had previously considered his handwriting less than stellar, the calligraphy classes present an opportunity, and Jeff devoted to the practices.

Meanwhile, driven by a profound desire for transnational experience and public service, Jeff exhibited a generous spirit to public service. In the corridor between Building 6A and 6B at PKUSZ, he hosted small but delicate language courses, offering his colleagues and campus staff the opportunities to learn Korean. Such altruistic efforts created an inclusive and enriching community at PKUSZ.

“Everyone knows Jeff here.” That’s how Wang, a friend of Jeff, frankly commented. One might never doubt that Jeff found his sense of belonging at PKUSZ. And one might see it through the anecdotes Jeff shared, a simple journey with his friend from PKU HSBC Business School (PHBS) during summer vacation. “We ran, cycled for 10 kilometers, along the Dasha River to Shenzhen Bay Park, almost every day. Sometimes we even went there twice a day. We saw the sun rising, and we witnessed the sunset.”

There must be a moment when Jeff found inner peace along the serene shores of Shenzhen Bay, savoring the simple joy of friendships forged with those who ran, cycled, moved towards the same direction, and shared the same feeling of true friendship. These precious interludes offered solace and a chance to reflect amidst the hustle and bustle of his student life at PKUSZ. With a harmonious blend of those things, Jeff's existence at Peking University, one of the most prestigious in China, and in Shenzhen city, one of the most developed domestically, together with the zest for life, brim with fulfillment and vigor.

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Jeffrey in Interview

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“I decided to settle down here, try to buy a house, and bring my mother from the Republic of Korea to China.” Following the commencement of his legal career at Liangma Law Firm, Jeff began mapping out his future plans. To some, it may appear bold and precipitous for a young man to establish a permanent residence in a place after only two years of arrival. But wait, and hear why. 

“I want to stay, because I feel happy here in Shenzhen.” Shenzhen, a city renowned for its vivacity and energy, has woven its enchantment around Jeff, turning it into his second home. In this southern Chinese haven, he has uncovered a unique combination of elements that have truly endeared the city to his heart.

"What I adore about this place,"Jeff expressed, "is the weather, the food, and the people." The absence of a harsh winter means Jeff can bask in the city's charm all year round. "I can jog and cycle throughout the whole year." Whether it's the invigorating morning runs along the picturesque coastline or the leisurely evening cycling escapades, Shenzhen's climate generously provides the canvas for these outdoor pleasures.

In Jeff's eyes, Shenzhen is a melting pot, not just of culture and industry but also of delectable cuisines. Shenzhen’s diverse gastronomy has captivated Jeff, turning him into a discerning aficionado of its delightful offerings. Among the array of mouthwatering regional dishes, one that has left an unforgettable mark on Jeff's palate is the Fried Pork in Scoop, Guobaorou in Chinese pinyin – a traditional delicacy from Harbin, a Northeastern city of China. Expertly fried, it's the perfect fusion of sweetness, juiciness and tenderness that impressed Jeff. 

Yet, the most treasured reason for Jeff to stay in Shenzhen is the people. He has encountered a community of warm-hearted individuals who grace the city with their friendliness and erudition. "I truly admire all of you, everyone in PKU and the law firm", he reflects, "you are as much intelligent as you are kind." 

Shenzhen, with its temperate climate, delicacies and the people, has captured Jeff’s heart, etching an indelible mark on his short-but-will-be-long journey in China. In the heart of this bustling metropolis, we are happy to see that Jeff has found a profound sense of belonging and fulfillment in this vibrant community. And that’s probably why, when being asked again by the somewhat astonished journalists at PKUSZ’s Nanyan News Agency, about his decision to settle down in Shenzhen, Jeff simply smiled and responded, "I feel happy here. Isn't that the reason enough to stay?"

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Written by: He Zixuan, Yang Chufeng
Edited by: Yan Yuchen, Gu Jiayu
Photos by: Courtesy of the interviewee