An Obituary: Joonki Kim

January 29, 2024

Joonki Kim, 78, died peacefully at his home in Bedford on Jan. 25, 2024. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Susan, his daughter Tracy (Michael), his granddaughters Madison and Kayla, and his siblings, Wonki, Minja, and Choongki.

A futurist devoted to creativity, Joonki was born in Seoul, Korea. At age 5, the Korean war broke out and his family fled to Busan. After the war, they resettled in impoverished Seoul, where Joonki excelled in post-war Korea along with the many family members living under his parents’ roof.

He graduated from Seoul National University in 1968. He then journeyed to the United States to study computer science at Columbia University before the school had a computer science department. He earned his PhD in 1973.

Joonki became a researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY, where he worked for 25 years. As early as 1977, he dreamed about a world in which all children would go to school with an encyclopedia-sized computer that would contain books and communicate with other computers. An expert with six patents on gesture and digital handwriting recognition, Joonki helped create that future. His group’s work led to the creation of the Thinkpad tablet computer in 1992.

He then moved back to Korea for just over a decade to serve as executive vice president for Samsung SDI and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT). There, he focused on managing researchers, gesture and touch inputs, the future of screens, creativity, and more as he led SAIT’s communications and computer science research and established many new groups.

Joonki Kim

With his growing interest in creativity, Joonki authored a book on creativity in Korean that can be loosely translated as “Creativity that Gets Recognized;” authored a monthly column for the New York edition of JoonAng llbo, a Korean newspaper about creativity; and was active in the American Creativity Association and Creative Problem Solving Institute.

Upon his retirement in 2008, he moved back to the United States. He and his wife left White Plains, NY and their beloved United Methodist church community at the Korean Methodist Church and Institute to move to Bedford a few years after the birth of his grandchildren, his pride and joy. Here, he continued his passions: remaining active in the United Methodist Church, skiing, golfing, swimming at the Beede Swim & Fitness Center in Concord, and following the pursuits of his grandchildren with active interest and lending his talents to help them in their own creations and sparks of imagination.

The viewing and funeral service will be at St. John’s Korean United Methodist Church, 2600 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to the international disaster fund at https://advance.umcmission.org/ in his memory.

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