But when asked about nationality, Kim responds with a forceful, "I am an American" and a smile.
And so it makes perfect sense that the artist, who emigrated to the United States in 1977, finds inspiration in the institution that is perhaps the most American thing of all: the presidency.
Kim's reverence for presidents, past and present, has extended into his art, which is currently on display at the West New York Public Library, located on 60th Street.
Due to be on display through the end of the month, the collection of presidential portraits (done in oil on canvas), are the work of an experienced artist who displays an uncanny ability to bring the subjects to two-dimensional life. Especially impressive are his portraits of Ronald Reagan.
Kim is characteristically modest when praised for his work, but shows an obvious pride in it.
"This is a show of respect for my country," said Kim in a recent interview. "This is my country now."
At 81 years of age, Kim is a surprisingly fit and trim man who carries himself with an air of confidence.
His work has been recognized for years and displayed in many prestigious venues such as the Rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington D.C.
Kim's work was recognized in 1998 by Congressman Thomas J. Manton (D-New York), who commented in a letter to his colleagues, "...his work concentrates on making the ordinary subject look extraordinary. His style truly defies imitation."
Kim also received a citation from ex-Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler in 2000 for "his unselfish commitment to the Jersey City Korean and artisan community."
While Kim's forte is Presidential portraiture, he does work in other mediums and styles. His still-life paintings include sweeping landscapes of his native Korea, which he calls "a beautiful country with mountains, rocks and hills."
Two of these paintings are called Daedoon Mountain of South Korea and Arched Bridge of South Korea. Other still life paintings of Kim's include History is Always Created by Workers and Heat of the Earth.
Even at his age, Kim still paints and draws. Said Kim recently, "I will paint until I die."
Pen and ink, too
Kim also does pen and ink drawings to keep his portrait skills up. "These take a lot of time," said Kim. "But oil painting is very difficult." Oil paintings that possess the detail that Kim's do require the artist to work with very small brushes and are very time consuming.
But Kim would have it no other way. "It makes me feel good when I paint," said Kim. "It makes me very happy and satisfied. It is absolutely satisfying because I love the United States."
Interestingly, Kim has never returned to Korea. When asked why, Kim shook his head vehemently and simply said, "It's hard to live there."
Kim, a widower, has two children, a daughter Jessica, and a son, Kim Bong Bum, who Kim said with a laugh, "owns an antique store on Broome Street in New York City." Both offspring are artists. Jessica is a modern artist working in Seoul, South Korea.
"I am very proud of my children," said Kim with a wide smile on his face.
Kim's latest portrait is of current President George W. Bush. In the painting, Bush sits at a desk, fingers laced together, while an eagle soars in the background over his left shoulder.
Kim takes his portrait ideas from magazines and newspapers, "and then I put my own ideas to them," said Kim. He changes poses, backgrounds and facial expressions to suit whatever mode or feeling he is trying to get across.
West New York Library Director Weiliang Lai is ecstatic to have Kim's paintings shown at the library. Said Lai, "He's a wonderful artist. I think this is the real stuff. It's very high quality material." Continued Lai, "This is a very beautiful thing. I wanted to find a local artist to display their works here. We have always strived to show culture and the arts. I have already had comments by patrons and they love the pieces."
During the interview, a cadre of Korean woman were looking at the pieces on display. When asked how that made him feel, Kim replied, "Feeling good, feeling good."