I was born in Busan, South Korea to a welding engineering lecturer and a resident physician. 3 days after drop shipping to planet earth, there was an uprising in the city of Gwangju, South Korea . The known death toll, which is still debatable, came to 144 civilians, 22 troops and 4 police killed, with 127 civilians, 109 troops and 144 police wounded.
In 1987, my family immigrated to the United States which was 2 years prior to overseas travel ban becoming generally lifted in Korea. On the day after I had celebrated by birthday my family got on American Airlines and headed to America. I still remember taking that flight from Gimpo to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. My parents were graduate students at THE Ohio State University back in the day when there weren’t many Koreans or Asian students on campus compared to today. And I believe they had about 70 US dollars at their disposal with 2 young boys.
The first in-person interaction I had with an American was at a gas station. I was standing next to my dad while he was pumping gas into our old beat up Dodge Aspen when a gentleman dropped a quarter which eventually rolled toward where I was standing. I had tried to pick it up so that I can hand it back to him. Then the gentleman immediately stepped on my hand and told me to step away. I still remember my dad explaining to me and my brother about the journey we’re going to face later that day. I remember him mentioning that this country wasn’t going to be a given paradise. In addition, he had told us that to achieve the “American Dream” we’re going to fight for it and that respect was going to be earned.
Along with my little brother, we were both placed in public elementary schools from day one. We weren’t allowed to watch MTV back then but there was enough school and street violence available everyday. We’re fortunate enough that lunch money was never an issue. And on some occasions, I had invested my lunch money to buy and trade baseball cards.
I don’t think anyone, probably not even my family, can describe the amount of opportunity which was available to us. Because we were living in a country that anyone can become anything. At times, being an honor roll student wasn’t enough. Winning the gold medal in state didn’t bring me or my family good luck. Receiving an award from the president was amazing but even that didn’t provide me with a path which was going to set me for my future.
However, learning new things and working on my craft did help me move forward. I saw a personal computer (PC) for the first time in 1987 when my family landed in America. I started learning BASIC programming language from the year after. Robotron was by far my favorite game on the PC. It was about this time of my life that I decided to make a business selling code which was hand written on a college ruled paper from the streets of Buckeye Village. I had sold none of my code after standing out in the streets of the student housing area everyday after school for several weeks.
On September 1993, my dad had received a job offer from Korea which he couldn’t pass on. At the same time, my mom had received an even better offer (which is my personal assumption til this day) from one of the largest hospital located in one of the most dangerous areas in the US. Our family eventually immigrated back to Korea. Due to this move my mom had decided to volunteer and go pro bono. It was tough getting used to the new culture.
After few years, the Korean language still wasn’t my greatest forte. But I was freelancing creating ANSI pages for BBS communities living on VT mode terminals. And few times, I was lucky enough to find a gig to develop homepages which paid close to 300 US dollars per HTML page.
It got to a point where I had started a computer club along with couple friends attending the same school. This computer club developed and released the very first high school website in Korea; although a private company (one of the school donors) took all the credit for actually building the site themselves. In 1999, the same group of friends eventually started a web agency which turned out to be my first job and my first startup company that I founded.
The reason why I wrote my “About me” page mostly about my upbringing is due to the fact that I am who I am today only because of how I was raised and the values which I learned since childhood. All the recent “stuff” that I was able to achieve or the shenanigans which I had to endure and overcome doesn’t really define who I am today; at least not too well.
Last but not least — not really knowing when my journey on planet earth will end, I could only hope to live the rest of life with integrity, grace and courage.
“None but the brave deserve the fair.”