In 1965, the Immigration and Naturalization Act abolished immigration based on national origin, allowing Yoon-shik Park the opportunity to immigrate to America. Exceeding the expectations of his farming family, Park received the one full scholarship provided by his alma mater, Kyung Hee University in Seoul, to study in the United States. Thus Park immigrated to the U.S. with $16 in his pocket to study at Harvard Business School. He left his family and college girlfriend behind in Korea, promising her that, once he finished his studies, they would marry.
Though there were few Korean immigrants in the area, Park was able to find a small community through the local Korean church, which would convene in an American church for services each week. Once he finished his doctorate in business administration, he kept his promise, and his fiancé, Heawon, joined him in the U.S. They were married at the Harvard University chapel by a local Korean minister. The two moved to Washington, D.C. in 1970, after Park received an offer with the World Bank. At the time, D.C. didn’t have much to offer in terms of Korean culture, as there was only one Korean restaurant, one Korean grocery story and only one Korean immigrant church. By the late 70s, Park had developed a reputation as an international finance expert, and so, the Founder and Chairman of Samsung Group tapped Park to serve as Financial Advisor in Korea. Park’s family stayed in Korea for two years, before deciding that United States would offer more promise for the entire family’s future.
Back in D.C., Park accepted an offer to teach at The George Washington University. While teaching, he also began to consult for organizations like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, and many other private and public institutions globally. Additionally, he assisted Lee Myung-bak, former CEO of Hyundai Engineering & Construction, in obtaining a visiting scholar position in D.C., before he went back to Korea to be elected as the mayor of Seoul and then the president of Korea. Between 1998 and 2009, Park also served on the Board of Directors of Samsung Corporation in Korea. He clearly is considered to be a scholar mandarin of the highest order.