Out of the many voices that we are privileged to hear in this excellent short novel, Kim's voice is the voice that opens this story, and it is Kim who first has the idea of starting the garden which brings the neighbourhood of disparate individuals together in such an amazing way. If you briefly read through her account of how she takes the seeds and plants them in memory of her father, we are clearly told her country of origin. Note how her father is refered to:
All his life in Vietnam my father had been a farmer. Here our apartment house had no yard. But in that vacant lot he would see me. He would watch my beans break ground and spread, and would notice with pleasure their pods growing plump. He would see my patience and my hard work. I would show him that I could raise plants, as he had. I would show him that I was his daughter.
Kim is therefore planting these seeds so that she can show her father that she is following in her footsteps and to remind him of the way that he was a farmer back in their home country of Vietnam, and that this is something that can be continued even in the most urban of settings. Kim's family is therefore from Vietnam.
As with most other Korean family names, there are many Kim clans, known in Korean as bon-gwan (본관, 本貫), each of which consists of individual Kim families. Most Kims belong to one of a few very large clans. Even within each clan, people in different families are not related to each other. These distinctions are important, since Korean law used to prohibit intermarriage in the same clan, no matter how remote the relationship; now, however, only those in a relationship of second cousins or closer are prohibited from marrying.
As with other Korean family names, the Kim clans are distinguished by the place from which they claim to originate. A very large number of distinct Kim clans exist, besides those listed here. The 2000 South Korean census listed 348 extant Kim lineages.