The University Record, November 20, 2000

Student dies after alcohol-related incident

By Julie Peterson
News and Information Services

Byung Soo Kim, a U-M student and a native of South Korea, died at about 6 a.m. Nov. 13 at University Hospital after consuming a large quantity of alcohol Nov. 10.

His parents, Ha Young Kim, M.D., and Jung Sun Park, M.D., issued a statement in which they asked the community to remember their son as “selfless, supportive, considerate, loving and kind. He had brought great joy to us and was a loyal friend to many,” they said.

“We would like to emphasize that this incident does not represent our son’s usual behavior; he did not drink regularly and according to his friends was often the one to take care of friends who had had too much to drink.

“It is our heartfelt desire that the entire community can learn a lesson from this tragedy and reach out to those who need help.”

Details of the events that led to Kim’s death are under investigation by the Ann Arbor police. Reports indicate that Kim, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, may have consumed as many as 20 shots of alcohol in a short period of time while celebrating his 21st birthday, which was Nov. 9.

Friends called 911 when they became concerned that he did not appear to be breathing.

As of Record press time, Washtenaw County Medical Examiner Bader Cassin had not issued an official cause of death, but he said that Kim had a blood-alcohol content of .39, an extremely dangerous and toxic level.

“We are here for a tragic and heartbreaking purpose,” Provost Nancy Cantor said at a news conference Nov. 13. “Our community is in grieving over this terrible occurrence. At this time our greatest concern is for Mr. Kim’s family and for our student community, including those many students who spent the weekend at the Hospital watching over him and praying that he would pull through.”

Cantor encouraged students and other community members who are feeling distress to seek out counseling or other campus and community resources available for support. These include Counseling and Psychological Services, (734) 764-8312; the International Center, (734) 764-9310; and pastors and churches in the Korean religious community.

Cantor said the U-M, like other universities, has struggled with the problem of student drinking and has attempted many educational efforts aimed at reducing risky drinking behavior among students. These include alcohol-related discussions at orientation, peer education programs, poster campaigns, and a number of initiatives in the residence halls and in the Greek system.

“It has been hard to measure how effective such programs have been,” she said. “The one thing that is clear is that this is a very complex problem, and one that must be addressed with sustained efforts from multiple directions over a long period of time. We need the support of all members of our community—faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, health care providers, law enforcement agencies, businesses and the media—if we are to make any progress.”

E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, called the decision to drink excessively a “life-altering decision.” “We have focused our efforts over the years on helping students understand how their choices to drink excessively affect not only themselves, but the entire community,” she said. “It makes me feel incredibly sad, and frustrated, that we are here together today to talk about how deadly this decision about alcohol can be.”

Dr. Kim and Dr. Park described their son as a “sincere, diligent student” who was “passionate about helping others and hoped to one day use his gifts for that purpose.” He also was proud of his Korean heritage, they said, and was an active participant in Korean traditional music ensembles and the Korean International Student Association. The family hopes to establish a fund in Kim’s memory that will serve international students with education and assistance on substance issues.

A memorial service was held Nov. 14.

Click here to view Kim family statement.

Tips on alcohol consumption

Here are some tips regarding the safe and responsible consumption of alcohol:

  • Abstaining from alcohol is the safest choice. It is illegal for individuals under age 21 to consume alcohol.

  • If you plan to drink, set limits on your drinking before going to a party or bar. Experts advise drinking no more than one alcoholic drink per hour; no more than three drinks in an evening for women and four drinks in an evening for men.

  • Eat before you drink, because food slows the absorption of alcohol.

  • Delay your first drink of the evening, and then alternate alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks throughout the evening.

  • Don’t mix alcohol and other drugs, including illicit, prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

  • Know the content of what you’re drinking and watch your drink at all times to make sure no one spikes it with another substance.

    The following drinking behaviors are extremely high-risk:

  • Drinking games, chugging, shots, or drinking out of a bowl or trough.

  • Drinking to get drunk.

  • Drinking too much too fast.

  • Driving after drinking, or riding with someone who has been drinking.

    Alcohol overdoses can result in bizarre behavior, depression of breathing, unconsciousness and death. Don’t assume someone can safely “sleep it off”—people may pass out before all the alcohol reaches the brain. A person’s heart and lungs can slow to the point of stopping.

    What you can do:

  • Try waking the person. If no response: Get help!

  • Turn and keep the person on his or her side to prevent choking on vomit.

  • Check the person’s skin. If pale, bluish, cold or clammy: Get help!

  • Check the person’s breathing. If it is irregular, shallow or slow (less than 12 breaths per minute): Get help!

    If you encounter any of these conditions, stay with the person and call 911 immediately.

    Source: University Health Service, November 2000.