We will always remember ...
In Memoriam: Jongeun (Christina) Lee
The International Association of Korean Lawyers
Jongeun (Christina) Lee served as a member of the IAKL Board of Directors and a Regional Governor from the Middle East. Christina moved to the UAE from Korea and joined Al Tamimi’s Abu Dhabi office at the end of 2012, where she honed her legal practice as a natural ‘cultural interpreter’ between Korean and international businesses.
Christina was no stranger to the Middle East and was well positioned to advise Korean clients on Middle Eastern business practices, legal process and decision making. She spent time growing up in Iran and Libya. Her sentimental attachment to the culture and commitment to understanding its ways had brought her back here with her family.
Christina originally found an interest in law while studying to become a diplomat. She found the reasoning behind law attractive and technicality appealing to her logical, mathematical mind. At law school in New York she developed a fond appreciation of how laws are important to the way we live in society and conduct business, and remembers the US way of studying as very disciplined and exciting: “I really enjoyed the Socratic way the law schools conducted the classes in the US- lots of debate and hours of open thinking and discussion. I enjoyed every single day of law school. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Before graduating Christina had identified corporate law as the path she wanted to follow, “corporate law is adaptable and I realised it could take me to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Not knowing where life would take me meant that I could relate this area of law to most countries I might find myself residing in.” Immediately upon graduation, she started her legal career in the hard and fast-paced life at the New York office of one the world’s largest firms, DLA Piper. The birth of her son gave her time to step back and relocate her family back to Korea where she could take time at home as a full-time mum. “The break stopped me from burning out. It gave me a moment to prioritise and revaluate where I was going.”
It was around this period that her father died. Christina’s father had been a diplomat and with him she lived a very international life. She had lived in eight countries from Vietnam, to Iran, to Germany and the death of her father prompted a lot of personal reflection. “It’s challenging for me to reflect on my identity as it’s so linked to where you are from – which I struggle to really know. When my father died I thought a lot about how happy we had been living in the Middle East.” This led to a lot of soul searching and the revival of Arabic lessons.
With her young family a priority, Christina went back to work in Korea, at the largest firm, Kim & Chang: “The move from an international law firm to a Korean firm relied upon my business language ability. It gave me great exposure to mediating between foreign clients in Korea and Korean clients conducting business outside the country.”
During the next six years, her longing to return to the Middle East grew stronger.
Moving to an Arabic firm was a strategic decision for Christina, who saw gaining a new perspective and independence as the key to being the best mediator between Korean and Arab businesses. Christina enjoyed her job at Al Tamimi and life in Abu Dhabi, and she loved the varied international cuisine and opportunity to swap recipes with her colleagues.
Over the last six years, Christina led the Korea Group in Al Tamimi, devoted herself to address specific needs of Korean companies in the Middle East and was respected regionally for her extraordinary work. She was the first Korean lawyer ever who made a Partner in a major law firm in the Middle East.
[REFLECTIONS ON CHRISTINA’s TIME WITH THE AL TAMIMI BY HER COLLEAGUE]
JIWON HA, ESQ.
“Today I say goodbye to Christina – my dear sister, friend, mentor, and most of all, an inspiration. I suppose many people know about her professional and personal achievements, her charisma and leadership, her generosity and kindness, her beauty and grace. Christina was a courageous pioneer, opening doors and new horizons, venturing into unchartered territories. She was an ambassador, fostering and strengthening friendships and building bridges between peoples and cultures. She was a visionary, who had dreams and ideas beyond anyone’s imagination. She was a true leader and a role model.
I had never seen anyone as strong and tough as Christina – oh, and stubborn too. You could never win with Christina. She would always put your needs first before her own, even when she herself was going through difficulties and hard times. Christina was the most caring and giving person I knew in my life. She was like a mother to many. She would listen to and be concerned about others’ problems as if they were her own.
Christina was love. Christina was a remarkable, extraordinary woman. She will be missed.”
In Memoriam: Han Choi
The International Association of Korean Lawyers
(excerpted and edited from the Memorial Tribute to Han Choi from Ballard Spahr,
The life of Han C. Choi, Regional Governor of the International Association of Korean Lawyers (IAKL), was tragically cut short as he passed away at the age of 52 on March 26, 2018. Han served as Managing Partner of Ballard Spahr’s Atlanta Office, led the firm’s Korea Initiative, and was respected locally and nationally for his extraordinary work on behalf of Asian American lawyers and students.
Han was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 2017. He was determined to maintain his successful law practice, as well as his active civic and social life, for as long as possible. In the year since his diagnosis, Han traveled with his wife, Catherine Abrams, and their three children. He was honored by civic organizations he helped build and grow, assisted clients with their business needs, and—as always—participated in activities that enriched the lives of others.
As the Regional Governor for IAKL’s Southeast US Region, Han spearheaded the effort and Co-chaired the Host Committee that orchestrated bringing the group’s annual conference to Atlanta in September 2018. “I got to know Han through IAKL and enjoyed spending time with him during events in London, Seoul and Dubai,” said IAKL Overseas President Peter Rho. “Earlier this year, I was able to visit Han when he was in hospice care at his home in Atlanta. I was able to meet his wife Catherine and his children, Christopher, David and Hannah. While I was there I also met family friends from church who were visiting and Ballard Spahr Associate Stephanie Kim, who had been visiting Han on a daily basis. It was clear that Han was a family man who also had a deep impact on his professional and personal community. I am pleased that IAKL will be holding its annual conference in Atlanta for the first time ever, which was Han’s vision.”
“Han was a leader, a teacher, a mentor, a friend. He was all of those things in one,” Stephanie Kim said. “He truly cared about his clients, some of whom became his closest friends. And he listened to others because he didn’t believe that his way was always the right way. Even in the most pressure-filled situation, he remained calm and looking for solutions. That had a quiet, uplifting effect on everyone around him.”
Service and mentorship were strong values, and Han devoted considerable time to activities benefitting the legal profession and his community. He served on the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Georgia and was a Board Member of the Decatur Education Foundation. He was past President of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, and was a founding member and past President of the Korean American Bar Association of Georgia.
This year, IAKL has created the Han C. Choi Scholarship in the amount of $5,000, to be awarded this year to a deserving Georgia law student at the 2018 IAKL Conference Gala. The Scholarship will recognize the achievements of a law student who demonstrates dedication and service to the Korean American and public community at large, and who may also demonstrate a history of overcoming great adversity to achieve a legal education.
In a tribute video to be played at the IAKL conference, Han is shown in photos from childhood forward that highlight the personal attributes for which he was known—his engaging manner and brilliant smile, and the dashing figure he cut. The pictures are overlaid with written commentary. “Han has always rocked that fabulous head of hair and always maintained his sense of fashion & style,” one read. “Han is Mr. Business Development: always ready to shake a hand and work a room, but also always lending his support to amplify the voices of others.”
“Han was a trailblazer, a mentor, and a role model—not just in Atlanta, but nationwide,” said his friend and former partner, Byung “BJay” Pak, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. “He was selfless with his time and devoted much of his energy volunteering for the betterment of the community and mentoring Asian American lawyers. His infectious laugh and everlasting optimism inspired so many to be their best and to strive higher. For me, Han was not just a former colleague, but a mentor, a close friend, and a brother. I miss him dearly.”