In Memoriam: Kim Hyun-tae (@pintail)

I received a message on Saturday (2024.03.30) that Kim Hyun-tae 선생님 (@pintail on iNaturalist) passed away at the age of 56.

He wasn’t a contributor to the forum and I’m not sure how many identifications he made for users outside of Korea but he was an early iNaturalist user – the 280th person to make an account, back in 2009 – and a prolific observer with 68,984 observations from South Korea.


Kim Hyun-tae 선생님 was a high school biology teacher, which seemed to be a great fit given the passion he had for sharing his love and appreciation of nature with others.

I was able to join Kim Hyun-tae 선생님 on two nature excursions. The first was in September 2016 when we met at Yongmun Temple to look for amphibians.

My calendar for the day: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/whaichi/2016/9/24
His calendar for the day: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/pintail/2016/9/24

Near the end of our visit, while we were at the base of the mountain, Kim Hyun-tae 선생님 made a phone call and I wandered off to follow a cicada I could hear buzzing nearby. The cicada turned out to be a 참깽깽매미 (Auritibicen intermedius), a species that Kim Hyun-tae 선생님 said he had been hoping to see for the past 10 years: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/4199197. I was absolutely thrilled to hear that I helped find something that he not only hadn’t seen before but also had been trying to find for so long.

While chatting earlier in the day, he had pointed out that my camera lens wasn’t the best for photographing insects and spiders, which are my main interests. The phone call that Kim Hyun-tae 선생님 made was to his brother, who he asked to mail me a Nikon 60mm macro lens that wasn’t being used. It was such a generous offer and I still can’t quite believe he would do that for someone he had only just met in person. I suppose since it was going to be used to explore nature he thought it was going to a good home, and that’s what mattered to him.


The memorial page for his passing has many posts from current and former students talking about how much they miss him, and there’s also a post on his blog from a student that is quite touching. It ends with:

지금 선생님이 계신 곳은 아름다운 자연과 사랑하는 사람만 가득한 곳이길 빌게요.

I hope the place you are now is filled with nothing but beautiful nature and the people you love.

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Thank you for sharing this touching tribute. I’m sorry for your loss.

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I’m very sorry for your loss. He sounds like a great friend and a field companion we would all like to have when exploring nature. It is also a great loss to iNaturalist.

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Rest in Peace. I had identified some of his ladybug observations, he did a great job of representing the Korean fauna.

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This is very sad news. I started following pintail many years ago when he uploaded his enormous backlog to iNat - one of the first major users from east Asia, I believe. I contacted him and he was always very nice.

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Very sad news. Pintail has been a part of the iNaturalist community since almost the very beginning (definitely before I became involved). In those early days he was probably the only person posting regularly from East Asia and was such a welcome and amazing presence. I will very much miss pintail and the glimpses he shared of the natural world in South Korea.

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My condolences to his friends and family. Like other iNat old-timers, I remember when he was one of the few people posting regularly from east Asia, so while I didn’t known him personally, his user icon was a familiar face on the site, and indeed, he was posting new observations as recently as last week. I’m glad he was able to be with the creatures that so interested him right up to the very end.

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I am so sorry to hear of pintail’s passing. I also remember him from way back when, and I think we corresponded briefly before I went to Korea in 2016 for a bioblitz (unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet him). I hope that his family and friends know about his prolific iNaturalist account and that it can serve as a reminder of him for his loved ones.

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Thank you whaichi for posting this sad news. Like many others, I never met pintail, but his observations and interactions with me brought me joy from across the world. As mentioned, he was one of this community’s pioneers in sharing Korea’s nature with the world of iNaturalist users. Rest In Peace, pintail.

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Rest Well

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I didn’t interact with him much but I remember him from the earliest days I was on iNat. This is too bad :(

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I did not know him personally… in fact I only got to know his observations quite recently since IDing in Southkorea and in this way he was one of the persons on iNat I interacted most with this year so far. Just a few days ago I still saw him online. What a shame that he had to leave this world so early. He will leave a massive load of valueable observations behind.

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I am truly sorry for your loss. I never interacted with pintail on Inat, but I was aware of him for being a prolific observer in the top 100 observers on Inat. Rest in peace and I offer my condolences to everyone who knew him.

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As an educator, I feel this loss not just for those who knew and know him, but for the future generations of students that won’t. I’m sure he has made a huge difference in the ecological awareness of South Korean students.

Class dismissed, Kim Hyun-tae 선생님. Time to go home.

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I am so sorry for your loss. Rest in peace, Kim Hyun-tae 선생님

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This is very sad news, and he was clearly a terrific person. I only really interacted with him through his hoverflies, but you could tell how much he cared for the Korean wildlife he observed so broadly and carefully.

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Thank you for sharing. What an outstanding person he was.

Rest in peace, 김현태 선생님

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