Vol. XI No. 19
Friday 9 May -15 May 2003

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by Parisa Santithi



Local Personalities: Kim Schnyder

by Dr. Iain Corness

Kim Schnyder is a director in the Casa Pascal fine dining restaurant. She is a small Asian woman, but is one who has managed to rise well above traditional Asian concepts to follow her own dream as a career woman.

Kim was born in Korea, in the capital Seoul, a country of some 45 million people, with seemingly 50% of the inhabitants having the surname ‘Kim’. Kim Schnyder is no different, with Kim being her previous family name, and only taking it as her nickname after she married Pascal Schnyder.

Her father was a very successful Korean businessman, while her mother was the traditional Korean housewife who stayed at home to look after Kim and her two sisters and brother.

At school, Kim excelled. "I was always at the top. I am still proud of that," she said. She nurtured the hope of becoming a teacher, a field of endeavour that received the approval of both parents. However, this ambition was thwarted when her father developed cancer and died, while Kim was still a teenager. Family fortunes and family finances reached such a low ebb that university dreams after high school had to be put aside. Despite the loss of the father figure, there was one teacher who was to instil some ‘fatherly’ advice for Kim and that was just to never give up on your dreams. "This teacher was my spiritual supporter," she said.

Security was the need, and Kim joined a bank, the bastion of security throughout the world. But Kim did not stop there - she had further dreams to be followed, and she enrolled at university, doing a four year course in International Business, while at the same time working for the bank.

Working and studying day and night leaves little time for boyfriends, and by the time she was 25 and still unmarried, her family began to get worried. This was still a country of matchmakers and arranged marriages, and much pressure was brought to bear on the young Kim. "There were not so many opportunities for young women in business in Korea, so I began looking for something else, as I wanted to further my career."

That ‘something else’ was to be an advert for a hotel management school in Switzerland. Despite the lack of maternal approval (mother wanted her to find a man and settle down), she went to Switzerland for the three year course. The decision was not easy to make, and the work was not easy either - tuition was in English, a language in which she was not fluent at all. "I had to work at 150% of the others. I would wake up at 4 a.m. to study my English, while the others woke at 7 a.m."

During practical experience in her first year she also had a chance meeting with a young Swiss chef, Pascal Schnyder, who turned out to be an adopted Korean orphan. He noticed the young Asian woman and asked if perhaps she were Japanese! She had been told that the young chef came from Korea, so she replied in Korean, a language Pascal could not understand at all.

From that unlikely beginning, Kim and Pascal’s romance slowly grew, culminating in their marriage in Switzerland during Kim’s last year of her management course. A traditional wedding in Korea was also on the agenda, so Kim took six months deferment and took her non-Korean speaking ‘Swiss -Korean’ husband to the land of his birth for their second wedding and a honeymoon through Asia.

When Pascal was offered a job in Hong Kong, while they were travelling, it was too good an opportunity to pass up, and Pascal returned to the kitchen life. However, Kim still wanted to finish her training and she returned to Switzerland to complete her deferred course, which she did successfully, and then rejoined her husband in Hong Kong.

Hotel offers came her way, but the offer that interested her most was the post as administrator with a Korean international school. She was not teaching as per her teenage ambition, "It was very challenging and it was close to teaching."

After two years, they returned to Korea, ostensibly for Pascal to understand more about his own culture and to learn the language, so he could speak to his in-laws! Kim knew the language so looked around for jobs that would satisfy her own career development, turning down a well-paid job with Intel to take a posting with a Korean investment bank, an enterprise that she still works for today, her work requiring her to travel to Hong Kong, Korea and Europe, becoming involved with multi-million dollar bond issue deals.

While this sounds like a dream of a job, Kim still had an unfinished dream, and that was to open a restaurant. Husband Pascal shared that dream, and the end result was Casa Pascal here in Pattaya, a country that they both enjoyed, having been here on holidays, and Pascal working here in a 5 star hotel.

With studying, working, travelling and giving birth to a new restaurant, Kim has not had the time for having her own family, and will probably not have any children, despite her mother’s exhortations to do so, in the traditional Korean mould.

Previously she was a very sporty girl, enjoying bowling, table tennis and athletics, but these days, after the restaurant and the investment bank travelling requiring her to be away for weeks at a time, there is no time for the active hobbies.

Kim Schnyder is definitely a woman who has kept her focus on her career and where she is going in life and has been called upon by young Korean girls for advice. Her counsel is simple: "Know what you want to be - just don’t follow others; and work to make it happen - don’t just dream about it. Life is not a movie. You have to study, work and put in the effort." Kim has done just that, and continues to do so. Very successfully!

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