A patient safety advocate is chastising the state medical board for a slow disciplinary process in the case against an Irvine doctor who threatened his wife and her male friend and fired a shotgun outside his own home, which prompted the family’s nanny to whisk his children away to safety in Bakersfield.
The incident happened in October 2014, Dr. Richard Byoung Soo Kim was convicted by a jury in September 2016, and he was sentenced to five years probation by a judge in January 2017.
“Our Medical Board [of California] couldn’t be bothered filing an accusation until Dec. 11, 2018, almost a year later,” writes Eric Andrist of 4patientsafety.org in an email to the Weekly. “Law enforcement and the courts did all the work for them and then they just sat on it for a year.”
The medical board sent the Weekly a statement, which you can read in full at the end of this post, explaining that it cannot comment on specific cases under investigation while also sharing the process for probes based on criminal justice outcomes.
Los Angeles Police Department officers were sent Kim’s home after being contacted by his wife, identified as “S.K.” in medical board documents, on Oct. 19, 2014. She reported that her husband had fired a shotgun at a tree in their front yard earlier that morning, and she requested that cops go there to confiscate the weapon that their nanny had hidden under a bed after an intoxicated Kim went to sleep.
Kim’s wife of eight years–and the mother of his two children–also told cops the doctor believed she was cheating on him. Two days before phoning police, S.K. spent the night at the home of a male friend, identified as “S.F.” by the state.
On Oct. 18, 2014, Kim texted his wife messages threatening to destroy her property and beat up and strangle S.F. Based on the threatening texts, a fearful S.K. spent another night at the male friend’s home.
S.K. thought she had calmed Kim down, but then he went on to tell her “that he intended to murder S.F. with his shotgun,” according to the medical board’s accusation against the doctor. Kim texted his wife the following morning to say he had fired his shotgun at a tree in their front yard. Worried for her life as well as S.F.’s, she then made the initial call to LAPD.
Kim’s wife would also tell police of an alarming text message she received from her family’s live-in nanny on Oct. 19, 2014, confirming that the doctor had indeed shot up a tree. The nanny added that Kim had been drinking heavily before passing out on his bed, at which point she fetched the shotgun, hid it under her bed and then took the couple’s children to her own family’s residence in Bakersfield.
Police say they met Kim at his front door and immediately took him into custody.
“LAPD officers quickly observed numerous loose shotgun shells on the living room coffee table, as well as two spent shotgun shells on the floor of the [doctor]’s bedroom,” reads the state accusation. “The shotgun was located under the nanny’s bed and seized by the LAPD officers. Lastly, the LAPD officers located two loaded 9mm handgun magazines and three cases of 12-gauge shotgun ammunition.”
While being detained by officers, Kim conceded he was responsible for calls to LAPD dispatch concerning gunshots in his front yard, explaining that he did not hurt anyone and that he only meant to threaten his wife’s male friend. Kim was then taken to jail.
S.F. shared threatening text messages he had received from Kim with officers, who noted in their reports that the victim “was visibly upset and shaken when interviewed” and that he believed the doctor “would carry out his threats of violence.”
Kim, who in the recent past has been affiliated with the medical cannabis facility Nirvana Clinic and the weight-loss specializing Pacific Longevity, both in Los Angeles, was found guilty by a jury on Sept. 28, 2016, in LA County Superior Court of two felonies: making criminal threats and discharging a firearm with gross negligence.
The judge sentenced Kim to five years of formal probation on Jan. 3, 2017. Terms of probation included no possession of deadly weapons; no use of force or violence against any victims or witnesses in the case; and no communication or getting near those people, their residences or their workplaces.
Based on the criminal conviction and sentence, the medical board opened an investigation and later filed an allegation against Kim on Dec. 11, 2018.
“He’s just on judicial probation so he could have been practicing all this time,” writes patient advocate Andrist, “although Yelp says his business is temporarily closed.”
The outcome of the criminal case against Kim is the basis for the first cause of discipline (“Conviction of a Substantially Related Crime”) outlined in the medical board allegation. He is also accused of “Unprofessional Conduct.”
The medical board staff is seeking a hearing by the board to determine whether Kim’s license to practice medicine in California should be suspended, revoked or placed on probation.
It will be interesting to see if the medical board also looks into Kim’s actual performance as a physician, given posted Yelp complaints such as these:
To be fair, Kim has received many more words of praise in Yelp reviews.
Here is the aforementioned statement from the Medical Board of California:
The Medical Board of California (Board) is unable to comment on this specific investigation as complaints and investigations are confidential. However, in most cases, when a physician is convicted of a crime, the Board has to obtain court documents and any other relevant documents pertaining to the case in order to prove that the conviction is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties of a physician. In addition, the Board will interview any witnesses and the subject physician. Once that process is complete, and the Board believes it can prove a violation of Business and Professions Code section 2236, and/or other sections of the Medical Practice Act, occurred by clear and convincing evidence, the case is transmitted to the Attorney Generals’ Office, which reviews the case. If they believe the Board can prove its case, they will draft an accusation. As with any process, it takes time to investigate cases, even those where the individual has been convicted of a crime.
Each case is different, but they all require the Board to prove its case by clear and convincing evidence. Each case must be thoroughly investigated to meet this high standard of proof.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.