By Chris Chanaud
It was about a week after Euni Kang was raped and murdered, that I went down to Venice to meet up with her 2 closest friends. I had never really spent a lot of time with them but I’d heard enough about them from Euni that I felt I already knew them. It wasn’t really a fun or cheery sort of visit. There were a lot of harsh realities for us to face, and emotions to experience. At some point one of us mentioned being hungry so we all went next store to the local soup n’ sandwich place. As the ladies went to make their orders, I sorta spaced out remembering a nice quiet lunch in that very same place with Euni a few weeks earlier. She’d gotten the french onion soup and it looked so much better than the sandwich I’d ordered. I was jealous and kept taking sips of her soup.
We always shared food when we ate together. It came my turn at the counter and I ordered the french onion soup. When my name was called the guy behind the counter was saying something about the oddity of three orders in a row of the same thing. Euni’s two friends and I had all unknowingly ordered the same thing. Now most people wouldn’t pay this much mind or they’d say that it was coincidence, especially if it didn’t fit with their world view. But to me this was just Euni’s way of saying hello from wherever her spirit had gone. It was just like her to add some warm comfort to a cold chilly occasion.
Euni was my girlfriend for 6 years, and I’d never felt so close to anyone. When I look at her footprint in the world the real tragedy to me is that more people know her for how she died than for how she lived. Her parents had her cremated with neither service nor marker. They were unfortunate enough to have to bury her only other sibling (a brother) just 7 years earlier when he died of cancer. The reason Euni moved to America was to spend time with her brother as he passed.
Euni grew up in Seoul South Korea. Her parents who had expected the traditional normal child had no idea what they were in for with Euni. She defied nomality and social conditioning. She had a tendency to ditch school and go explore the city when she was young. Euni was always a few steps ahead of everybody else and smarter than most. When she was in college, she joined a commune and participated in student protests against the government. She saw her friends beaten down by riot police and tear gas. But it never mattered what you did or said to her. She was stubborn as an old oak tree, immovable and unshakable. She was always quick to see through lies and propaganda.
A few years after her brother died, Euni purchased a dry cleaning business in a big office tower on Wilshire. Most of her customers were lawyers and business executives. She got along with most of them but sometimes her clients would give her an attitude of pity like “Gee how did you end up here?”. Sometimes they’d even try to offer her what they considered help “up the ladder of success”. Essentially the more materialistic ones tried to make her more like them. She tended to laugh a lot at these offers. She always laughed at peoples egos and insecurities. She thought it was so funny that people assumed that their criteria for success was the same as hers. But she really enjoyed her simple 6 hour a day job. It allowed her to do all the things she loved like surfing, drumming and dancing.
I always admired her ability to enjoy life. She’d wake up one day and decide that she wanted to try something new like drumming. By midday she’d be online at work looking for drumming classes. By evening she’d be in a class doing it. She found the greatest of pleasures in the simplest of things. I once asked her what was the best meal she ever had. She looked up for a moment to think and said “I made some tomato and squash soup the other day. And it was really good!” But then tomatoes were one of her favorite things in life. Like charge bars on a cell phone or lives on a videogame, Euni had an imaginary tomato status bar floating in her head. She had to have a few every day or she’d feel incomplete.
In a lot of ways she had a pretty childlike sense of jubilance and fun. Her favorite movies were the animated films of Hayo Miyazaki. Months before his latest movie Ponyo came out, she had memorized the theme song in japanese (her second of three languages) “Ponyo ponyo sakana no ko…” she’d sing to herself whenever she had the chance. But one of her favorite childish pleasures was annoying my cats. It became clear pretty early on in our relationship that one of them (a girl kitty) was intensely jealous of me and Euni. So, for example, when we’d be sitting there watching a movie, and kitty came over to me for petting, Euni would jump on my lap and throw her arms around me. She’d look down at the annoyed kitty and say “No… You can’t have him. He’s mine”. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was often her first thought when she came over to visit. “Where are the kitties?” shed say in her childlike tone ” I’m going to bug them! Im feeling buggy.” But it was never anything mean.
Euni’s death was a real tragedy for those lucky enough to have known her. But most of the time when I think of her I smile. We had so many good times and great experiences together. Those memories have helped sustain me as I deal with her departure from this world.
It’s hard to see the sense or good in her transition. But I have faith in upper management. I know I’ve learned a lot since she left. And I rest easier knowing that she did no harm in the world and a lot of good for those around her. For me the best way to honor her memory is to be strong and appreciate the here and now. Enjoy life to the fullest, and always try to give more than you get. That’s exactly how Euni Kang lived her life.