Courageous conductor, creative consultant
A short vacation to China led to a life-altering encounter for Mike Kim and those he was moved to help.
Mike Kim's life changed forever in 2001 when he experienced an eye-opening encounter with a young North Korean girl while on a vacation in China. She had been sold to a Chinese farmer and fled after years of abuse. Her life as a refugee and as a victim of sex-trafficking led Kim, whose parents were born in South Korea, to make a heroic commitment to help other such victims.
A specialist master with Deloitte Consulting LLP, Kim works in the Federal practice in Washington, D.C. He seems to have an innate ability to network, and although he joined Deloitte only in November 2010, he is able to maneuver among the capital's power players with relative ease. But then the boardrooms of the nation's law enforcement agencies are far less threatening places than many others in which he has found himself.
Having returned from his 2001 vacation, Kim could not shake the harrowing stories he heard from the North Korean refugees he met in the northeastern part of China, not far from the border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). The refugees inspired him with their stories of overcoming adversity – famine, sex-trafficking, rape and torture – and the efforts they had made to escape and begin to build new lives.
"I was working in financial planning in Chicago and struggled with a decision on how I might best help people like the ones I had met," he says. "I made up my mind to go back to China and to get involved in assisting the refugees in any way I could. So I paid off my debts, liquidated all my assets and bought a one-way airline ticket to China."
Unwavering among uncertainty
He left on New Year's Day 2003 with $1,000 in his pocket and only a vague idea of how he was going to help. Kim spoke neither Mandarin nor Korean fluently, but he was strangely comfortable with the unknown and soon learned he had a gift for figuring things out as he went along.
Kim arrived in northeast China posing as a martial arts student (ultimately earning a second-degree black belt in taekwondo). He was a quick study when it came to learning the languages, and his warmth and character allowed him to quickly earn the trust of the local ethnic Koreans living in China. He was so convincing that he was able to travel into North Korea under the guise of exploring business opportunities, and he was even invited into that country to participate in its annual taekwondo competition.
The Korean community in China operated a series of safe houses and orphanages to assist the refugees. "During the evening and at night I would help the refugees who were fleeing along a 6,000-mile ‘underground railroad' to safety," Kim says. "I learned the trails and served as a ‘conductor' on the route that crossed Southeast Asia and helped lead them to safety in South Korea."
Every day brought the distinct possibility that he would be discovered, and Kim lived with that uncertainty for nearly four years. Seeking some way to bring greater attention to the plight of the refugees, Kim returned to the United States in 2006 and spent the next year writing Escaping North Korea: Defiance and Hope in the World's Most Repressive Country, which details the experiences of the refugees he had helped. The book was published in 2008 to critical acclaim from the Wall Street Journal. His book tour led him to appearances on television as guest to hosts such as Jon Stewart and Anderson Cooper.
"Not long after I was on The Daily Show, I started getting interest in my story from Hollywood," says Kim. "So now I have an agent and I hope that someday this story makes it to the big screen."
Widely acknowledged as a leading authority on human trafficking and illicit networks, Kim was searching for a way to connect his experience and knowledge with an even broader network. He hoped he could create more awareness and identify new solutions to the global epidemic of human trafficking.
That's when he found Deloitte.
Building a business
"I believed that in consulting I could make an impact and generate new business," says Kim, who had never had any experience as a consultant prior to joining Deloitte. "The role of specialist master was appealing to me because it's designed for people with specific subject matter knowledge who bring a high level of credibility that is used to pursue new business leads."
Potential clients embrace the in-depth knowledge and practical experience Kim brings to the table. He's widely acknowledged as one of the country's most knowledgeable people on issues related to North Korea, and his unique perspective and ability to provide solutions make him among the top non-governmental resources on the issue of human trafficking.
Tim Chase, a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Intelligence Sector leader in the Federal practice, and Thomas Beyer, a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Technology Lead in the Homeland Security segment of the Federal practice, were interested in Kim's background and saw the potential for applying investigative analytics in new ways with specific clients. Deloitte's analytics tools make extensive use of data, statistical and qualitative analysis, explanatory and predictive modeling, and fact-based management to drive integrated decision making.
"We've built a sound and strong practice by providing our clients with a wide range of solutions in areas such as technology implementations, human capital management and other business solutions," says Chase. "We've been interested in expanding our offerings to more directly impact the missions of the federal agencies that we serve. Mike has a unique level of eminence with broad national recognition for his work, and he's shown a great aptitude for consulting."
The federal government is always faced with trying to solve big, complex and challenging issues – and human trafficking is one of them. "With Mike's background and our data analytics capabilities, we can be huge problem-solvers for the agencies active in this field," says Chase. "We know how to leverage Mike's knowledge and commitment and surround him with the people and the know-how to create the kind of impact he's always imagined."
Information sharing across law enforcement agencies at all levels of government is decentralized, fragmented and rarely effective. Deloitte's solution for this problem is to provide direct and comprehensive data analytics support for the investigative field – leading to more efficient and effective investigations.
While that is more easily said than done, Deloitte is making some headway in this area, and Kim is playing a big role. "We've had some early success in performing human trafficking analytics at the Department of Homeland Security [DHS]," says Beyer. "For example, some of our findings led us to produce an entire list of indicators that help law enforcement agents identify sex trafficking victims. Producing impactful insight has been stunning to DHS officials. They'd not seen anything like that."
According to Beyer, the key to the success is in Deloitte's unique approach. "We don't just analyze data from existing databases, we get out into the field and interact with the law enforcement officers actually doing the work in the field," he says. "We not only gain credibility, we gain access to information such as 'pocket trash' found on individuals arrested by law enforcement officers that provides us with more data points to work with. Nobody has approached analytics in such a collaborative and comprehensive way before."
Much of the credit for these initial successes goes to Kim. "Mike's worked hard and is a great member of our firm," says Beyer. "He continues to learn the consulting business, and I'm confident that his efforts will lead to stronger relationships and new opportunities for our work."
Kim knows that the opportunities are out there. "I've been meeting not only with law enforcement and government agencies, but also nongovernmental organizations, philanthropists with an interest in how data analytics can help with issues such as human trafficking, forced labor and child labor," he says.
Recently Kim has had some engaging discussions with Jonas McCormick, a Deloitte Consulting LLP principal and the office managing principal for Deloitte in Phoenix, exploring how specialty areas within the Federal practice might be applied in the commercial marketplace.
"We are in the business of moving from issue to impact. We identify needs and bring to market the solutions that address them," he says. "Bringing in someone with Mike's experience broadens the level and range of problem-solving we can offer our clients. Sure, we will still do all the traditional things, but expanding the scope of what we can do opens new doors and reinforces that our brand has an expanding depth and scope to address the most complex issues our clients face every day."
Effectively managing, integrating and analyzing data on a scale utilized by the federal government is a huge challenge, but then Kim has never backed down from big challenges. Whether it's helping one refugee or one client, Kim recognizes that small successes add up to bigger ones. "We've undertaken a trailblazing effort here at Deloitte," he says, "and I'm proud of the confidence that's been shown in me."