'20/20' Exclusive: Kati Kim on Her Family's Harrowing Ordeal


It was a story that touched everyday Americans and prompted the biggest search-and-rescue mission in Oregon's history: The disappearance of the Kim family.

The Kims went missing on Thanksgiving 2006. Husband James, wife Kati and their two young daughters, Sabine and Penelope, had been on a road trip when a wrong turn left them desperately lost in the Oregon wilderness.

"Sabine is seven months old and Penelope is four, so we're just really worried about the kids," James Kim's sister, Eva Kim, told the media at the time.

VIDEO: Trapped in the forest, Kati Kim asked husband to kill her if the children died.
Kati Kim: 'I Failed... if My Children Died'

Watch a special two-hour episode of "20/20" tonight at an earlier time, 9 p.m. ET for more on Kim's story.

After nine days, the Kims' car was spotted from the air. But for the family that had captivated the nation, it was no happy ending.

In an exclusive television interview with "20/20", Kati Kim recounted her family's harrowing ordeal.

Met on a Road Trip

Kati Kim was a 21-year-old student in Seattle when she met James Kim, 26.

VIDEO: Kati Kim zipped her baby into her sweater, honked horn to keep bears away.
Kati Kim: 'Seeing Bears... It Was Terrifying'

"I took a road trip to Northern California with some college friends and it was then that I met James," she said. "He was the cutest thing I'd ever seen in my entire life. We got matching tattoos and that was pretty much how we met. We were inseparable after that."

The couple married in Las Vegas in 1999 and later had two daughters.

Michael Burke, a friend, said they were very happy.

"They were always looking to do something better, to be something better," he said. "They had dreams. They had lots of big dreams, and they were very proactive in making those dreams come true."

James Kim worked as a technology reporter for CNET while Kati Kim managed two small shops in San Francisco. For family vacations, the Kims liked to hit the road.

VIDEO: A missed sign, an open gate and no cell service put the Kims in grave danger.
Lost in the Dark, No 911 Service

"We were always going on road trips with the girls," Kati Kim said. "We tried to just include them in everything that we did."

A Happy Holiday

Just before Thanksgiving, 2006, the Kims decided to go on a holiday road trip together.

The Kims left San Francisco on Friday, Nov. 17, and headed north.

"We had been considering moving out of San Francisco for a long time and both Portland and Seattle were options," Kati Kim said.

But, she added, the main motivation for the trip "was to spend Thanksgiving with family."

VIDEO: Wrong turn in a blizzard leads Kim family to desperate straits. Watch Fri., 9/8c
Family Vanishes in Oregon Wilderness

The Kims did just that, spending a happy holiday with family and friends in Seattle, including Michael Burke.

"We had a great time. Everyone was happy," Burke said. "They looked a little tired from travelling but they had plans for the rest of their trip and then continued down [highway] I-5 to Gold Beach."

The Last Supper

Facing a five-hour drive to Gold Beach, 140 miles away on the Oregon coast, the Kims stopped at a Dennys in Roseburg, Ore.

"James wanted to order french fries and I told him no, because we had been eating travelling food for so long," Kati Kim said. "And so I made him order a side of steamed vegetables instead of the french fries."

VIDEO: A family stuck in a blizzard for nine days tells their amazing story of survival
"Wrong Turn" - A 20/20 special

Little did the Kims know at the time, it would be their last supper together. (CLICK HERE to see photos.)

After dinner was behind them, the Kims got back on the road, with James Kim behind the wheel and Kati Kim playing the role of navigator.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...