"The Pursuit of a Plan" by Sunny Park, Founder of Good Neighboring Foundation, Inc., Former Chairman of Education Committee, White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Sunny K. Park was born as Park Il-chun in the Wangsimni neighborhood of Seoul, Korea, in 1942, the only child of Pyungnim and Songhak Park. When he was eight years old, the Korean War broke out, which had a profound impact on him, as he saw people who spoke the same language and shared the same culture fighting and killing each other over ideology: democracy versus communism. He saw firsthand the brutalities of war: people being shot and killed in front of him, dead bodies lying in the street. He and his mother, Pyungnim, were forced to flee Seoul, and they walked to a refugee camp in Suwon and Seongnam, where they lived for three years.

When U.S. soldiers came in to help the South Koreans, Park also learned that there were people who looked different from him and his family—some were white with blond hair, some were black with curly hair. During this time, as he understood that they were fighting for him and his neighbors, he gained an appreciation and admiration for Americans. Since the schools were closed, Park spent most of his time in these years playing in the muddy streets and tagging along behind American soldiers. The soldiers always gave the poor Korean children wandering around the campsites something, such as canned meat, chocolates, or chewing gum. The first English phrase Park learned was, “Give me.” Sometimes, a child could bring home enough food to feed the family. Americans also sent food to fight hunger and malnourishment, coats to keep Koreans warm, and school supplies. The young Park came to view Americans as a “very rich and generous” group.

 

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