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UPDATED: December 18, 2013, at 2:36 a.m.
In 2009, then-high school sophomore Eldo Kim ’16 earned first place in the state of Washington in the U.S. Institute of Peace essay contest for his composition, “Cultural Genocide: A Look into the Unknown.” On Tuesday, he was charged with threatening to set off explosives in Harvard buildings.
Kim, the Quincy House sophomore who will appear in federal court Wednesday morning in connection with Monday’s bomb scare, was described by his peers as involved on campus and engaged in his schoolwork. They were stunned, they said, to hear that he had confessed to sending an emailed bomb threat to avoid a final exam.
Kim has close ties to sites affected by the bomb threats in and around Harvard Yard, which was closed for several hours Monday morning amid building evacuations, a six-hour search by authorities, and the cancellation and rescheduling of final exams in several large courses.
According to former Thayer residents, Kim lived as a freshman last academic year in Thayer Hall, one of the four buildings he is charged with threatening to target. He also has an older sister who serves as a proctor in Weld Hall, according to a former Weld resident.
“I find it very shocking that he would actually do this,” said Edward Cho ’16, who lived in Thayer with Kim last year.
Kim is not listed on the Harvard College Facebook or the University’s online directory. His entry in the freshman register for the Class of 2016 says he hails from Seoul, South Korea, and attended Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Wash. On the website of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, a profile of Kim from last academic year described him as a prospective psychology concentrator, while a cached version of Kim’s taken-down LinkedIn profile identifies him as a psychology and sociology concentrator. The Crimson could not immediately confirm Kim’s concentration.
Friends and acquaintances, as well as online records, indicate that Kim was involved in a variety of campus activities, ranging from research to student media publications.
Kim’s taken-down LinkedIn profile lists him as research assistant at the University’s inter-school Behavioral Insights Group Research Lab, a community teaching assistant for the HarvardX course CB22x: “The Ancient Greek Hero,” and a research scholar at the IQSS. The profile also lists Eleganza, the Harvard Independent, and the Harvard International Review as campus organizations in which he has been involved.
Vivian E. Lee ’14, an executive producer for Eleganza, wrote in an email Tuesday evening that Kim was involved with Eleganza’s fashion committee. Lee wrote that she “only knew him in the context of Eleganza” but that she “knew him as quiet but very sweet.”
“He always took the time to say hi in the dining hall and had some great ideas to contribute for the show,” Lee wrote. “Given my opinion of him, it was quite a shock to find out that he was responsible for the bomb hoax.”
Kim is listed as a senior staff writer on the staff box of the Independent’s Sept. 19 issue. Angela Y. Song ’14, the Independent’s president, confirmed in a phone interview Tuesday evening that Kim was a writer for the publication.
Christine R. Wolfe ’14, the Independent’s outgoing editor-in-chief, said in a phone interview Tuesday that few if any on the paper’s staff knew Kim well. Kim came to meetings infrequently, she said, “but when he did come, he was nice.”
James R. M. Watkins ’16, a member of the HIR’s executive board, said Tuesday night that Kim had comped the organization but decided not to join this spring. Kim’s LinkedIn page indicates that he left the organization in March.
Most of the two dozen acquaintances and friends of Kim approached for comment by The Crimson could not be reached or declined to comment, but several who did agree to be interviewed emphasized their shock upon learning that Kim was the suspect.
Cho said it is “pretty surprising to hear that [Kim] went to such great lengths to avoid a final that he probably would have done well on anyway.” Cho, who said he is “pretty good friends” with Kim, called Kim “naturally bright” and said he thought that he did “pretty well” in his classes last year. He added that Kim “has been a supportive influence for a lot of people, myself included,” and is a “pretty nice guy.” Cho noted that he has not spoken with Kim in two or three weeks.
A College student and friend of Kim’s who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, called Kim a “great kid” in a phone interview Tuesday night. “I wouldn’t have expected [this],” the student said. The student suggested that Kim “probably studied a lot” for his exam on Monday, but may have gone into “panic mode” and “did something really stupid because he didn’t know what to do.”
“He did have a stressful semester,” the student said, declining to go into further detail about past conversations with Kim.
—Matthew Q. Clarida, Daniel R. Levine, and Kamara A. Swaby contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.
—Staff writer Brianna D. MacGregor can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @bdmacgregor.
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