Minstrel of love wanders north, still needs ride to Dawson

To simply listen Kenny J Kim strum and sing AM gold hits on the street corner would miss most of the experience.

To simply listen Kenny J Kim strum and sing AM gold hits on the street corner would miss most of the experience.

The street balladeer, a self-described professional busker, is not easy to listen to.

Stealing glances as they passed by, people refused to stop and listen as Kim belted out The Beatles’ Hey Jude yesterday afternoon.

They don’t know how to take the gyrating gypsy.

He’s plugged into something weird and fantastic, despite playing a taped-up battered acoustic guitar.

A strange vibe blanketed the street corner, and a local hotdog vendor looked uncomfortable as he watched this loud, flailing South Korean do his thing.

“He writes his own lyrics, eh?” says a woman, trying to continue a conversation over the music.

Kim has spent five days in Whitehorse, having busked all the way from Victoria, with stops in Kelowna, Kamloops and Fort St. John.

He’s leaves for Dawson on Monday. He has yet to find a ride.

If you’re heading that way and can offer one, just follow Kim’s hits to street corner downtown.

Make sure to stop and listen, but to really understand the Kenny J Kim experience one must talk to him during a set break.

That’s when music and man collide into a coherent idea.

A “Heart out power soul singer,” according to his pamphlet, Kim is all about love.

Unconditional love, love of mankind and of Jesus Christ.

“I have no fear,” he says during the break.

“If someone loves somebody, as long he truly loves, there’s no fear.”

He just wants to sing and bring a bit of joy into routine lives.

“People rush, rush, rush — they don’t smile enough,” says Kim, 45.

A loud, unconventional singer, Kim brings a physical element to his performance usually reserved for Sloan concerts or seizures.

But he’s not looking for money or handouts, just a ride and a small audience.

Twenty-one people have helped drive him along his journey since he left Victoria in May.

He is staying at the Salvation Army while in Whitehorse because the long road trip has worn him down and he needs to conserve energy for busking.

On a hot Wednesday afternoon, Kim is wearing a tweed cap, hiking boots, plain navy sweater and a vest and jeans covered in patches.

He doesn’t just stand in one spot when singing, but twirls and struts, raising his guitar and bending down close to the ground as he rips the strings.

And he doesn’t even break a sweat.

“It’s my job,” he says.

“I’m not passing time; I’m not showing off what I can do.

“I’m showing unconditional love for the creator of mankind.”

A man of strong faith, Kim injects gospel songs into his standard hits from Neil Young, Bob Dylan and The Eagles, his own songs and Korean pop and folk hits.

He learned guitar in South Korea from his brother, who, at first, was reluctant to teach him.

“He was afraid I’d become a gypsy musician,” says Kim.

“He wanted me to study.”

Kim learned songs from friends overseas and in Vancouver and Victoria.

He quit his job as a cook at the Salvation Army in Victoria and moved to the streets.

When he’s home, his home is a Victoria visitors’ information centre doorway.

A Canadian friend gave Kim the well-worn guitar he still schleps along the highway.

One of his 350 songs is dedicated to his temporary homes, changing the subject to fit whichever city he finds himself in at the moment.

Kim appreciates Vancouver and Whitehorse and every place in between.

“How beautiful and sexy you are, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada,” he sings.

“That’s my gift to you,” he says, bowing.

His performances aren’t always appreciated.

RCMP have been called to stop his one-man show.

“Sometimes I’m too loud,” says Kim.

“I say sorry, and then I leave.”

Victoria has warmed up to his tunes, to a point where a group of youth established underground mayoral campaign for Kim.

He had to decline, citing lack of political experience.

Kim moved from South Korea to Canada 10 years ago.

His brother owned a business where Kim worked for several years.

“I owe Canada lots of love,” says Kim.

As gratitude, he sings O Canada twice a day.

The anthem is his favourite song.

He became a Canadian citizen in 2003, around the same time he felt adrift in an unfamiliar society.

“I was totally lost,” he says.

“I’m in Canada from another country. There was a language barrier, a culture barrier. I was isolated. I left everything behind (in South Korea).”

A friend started driving him to and from church, where his faith grew into the life-affirming beliefs he spreads on the streets.

On his way north, Kim spend many hours on the edge of highways waiting for a ride.

He sings and dances alone, confusing the drivers who pass him by.

But Kim plays to a crowd.

Bears have wandered out from the bush into the ditch while Kim played.

“They might have liked it — I swear they made eye contact,” says Kim.

You can find Kenny J Kim online at www.youtube.com/kennyjkim or www.myspace.com/kennyjkim.

Just Posted

The Yukon’s current outbreak of COVID-19 is driven by close contact between people at gatherings, such as graduation parties. (Black Press file)
Yukon logs 21 active cases as COVID-19 spreads through graduation parties

Anyone who attended a graduation party is being asked to monitor themselves for symptoms.

Yukon RCMP and other emergency responders were on the scene of a collision at Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway on June 12. (Black Press file)
June 12 collision sends several to hospital

The intersection at Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway was closed… Continue reading

Artist Meshell Melvin examines her work mounted in the Yukon Arts Centre on June 7. The show includes over 1,000 individual portraits. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Double portrait show at the Yukon Arts Centre features art that looks back

“I hope they’ve been looked at fondly, and I’m hoping that fun looking comes back.”

Sarah Walz leads a softball training session in Dawson City. Photo submitted by Sport Yukon.
Girls and women are underserved in sport: Sport Yukon

Sport Yukon held a virtual event to celebrate and discuss girls and women in sport

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bagged meter fees could be discounted for patios

Council passes first reading at special meeting

Kluane Adamek, AFN Yukon’s regional chief, has signalled a postponement to a graduation ceremony scheduled for today due to COVID-19. She is seen here in her Whitehorse office on March 17. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
AFN Yukon’s post-secondary grad celebration postponed

The event scheduled for June 14 will be rescheduled when deemed safe

(Alexandra Newbould/Canadian Press)
In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on.
Terror charges laid against man accused in London attack against Muslim family

Liam Casey Canadian Press A vehicle attack against a Muslim family in… Continue reading

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, poses for a portrait in the boardroom outside his office in Iqaluit, Nunavut, on Sept. 30, 2020. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Two cases of COVID-19 at Iqaluit school, 9 active in Nunavut

Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle… Continue reading

The Village of Carmacks has received federal funding for an updated asset management plan. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Federal funding coming to Carmacks

The program is aimed at helping municipalities improve planning and decision-making around infrastructure

Paddlers start their 715 kilometre paddling journey from Rotary Park in Whitehorse on June 26, 2019. The 2021 Yukon River Quest will have a different look. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
The 22nd annual Yukon River Quest moves closer to start date

Although the race will be modified in 2021, a field of 48 teams are prepared to take the 715 kilometre journey from Whitehorse to Dawson City on the Yukon River

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its June 7 meeting

Letters to the editor.
This week’s mailbox: the impact of residential schools, Whitehorse Connects, wildfires

Dear Editor; Anguish – extreme pain, distress or anxiety. Justice – the… Continue reading

PROOF CEO Ben Sanders is seen with the PROOF team in Whitehorse. (Submitted)
Proof and Yukon Soaps listed as semifinalists for national award

The two companies were shortlisted from more than 400 nominated

Most Read