The Journey to Fulfill his Dream
Peter Park’s 1989 journey from Busan, Korea to pursue better life
essay written by Aaron Park
Peter Park had a rough time as a little child. At the age of around thirteen, his father passed away and he had to go start working. Because of this experience, he did not want his children to face the difficulties he faced and immigrated to the United States. There he went through many difficulties. He had to overcome those difficulties to set up a good environment for his children.
Life before Peter came to the United States was very difficult. The death of his father at a very young age was a tragic incident. To pursue a better life, he moved to the United States. Although his journey to the United States was not difficult, his start in the United States was. He came empty handed, but through hard work, he was able to achieve success because “he worked hard and no one [abandoned him].”1
Peter Park was born in Young-Ju Dong, Busan in 1960. He lived with his mother, his father, his younger brother, and sister. Life was very difficult when he was little. His mother and father would be working all day, trying to make money to support the family. Growing up, he did not receive much help from his parents and had to take care of his younger brother and sister himself. For example, there was a time when his little brother came back home crying because an older kid was bullying him. Of course, Peter went to help out his younger brother, even though he was not a good fighter. When he got to the park, he found out that it was his friend. He asked him why he did that and his friend said that he did not know it was his brother and apologized. Without fighting, he was able to resolve the problems. Peter was a good role model for his little brother and sister. He would act like the parents by telling them to study. Whenever his siblings got in trouble, he would get in trouble by his parents instead for not taking good care of them. As the oldest son, he took responsibility in everything his siblings did. In second grade, he had to move out of his house because they were going to build new apartments. So, he moved to a city in Busan called Dongnaeboo Dongsangdong. He grew up there until he moved to the United States.
Although he was not the best in the school, he had the desire to study hard and, “had that selfishness to become smarter and did not want to lose to others in studies.” 2 Park also played soccer. Every weekend, he would go out to the park with his friends to play. There was one day when his mother bought him these expensive sneakers; Sneakers those days were very expensive. Before, he wore a rubber shoe. He was very happy and would go play soccer everyday. Eventually, a hole was made on the shoe and Peter got scolded by his mother. Other than playing soccer, he also liked to read manga. Every Sunday, he would sneak out of his house and go with his friends to the manga store, so naturally he would get caught and would be dragged back home to get a good beating from his parents.
When he finished elementary school, he could not attend a decent middle school because, he had to pay school tuitions, which his family did not have enough money for. Instead, he went to an inexpensive middle school where he learned engineering. “[He] did drawing, machining, welding and other stuff related to machinery.”3 Even though he did not attend the best school, he was happy because he was able to learn. He thought that engineering was still good because there were many factories being made during that period of time and would make it easy to get a job. In his second year there, his father passed away. Because his mother could not make all the money to support the family, he was obligated to work. With the help of his father’s friend, he was able to get a job as a newspaper boy in the neighborhood. Everyday, he would wake up at 4:00 in the morning and run to where the newspapers unload, which usually took around forty minutes. He would then jog around the neighborhood passing out newspapers until 8:30. After passing out the newspapers, he would go to school; however, he would always be around thirty minutes late. He told his teacher that his father passed away and that he had to earn money for the family. His teacher understood and he complimented him. He made up his mind up his mind to study even harder. His life as a child was very arduous.
He decided to immigrate to the United States because his aunt did. She was able to immigrate because her sister’s sister-in-law came to the United States and invited her. This happened when Peter was in his first year of middle school. When he heard that she went to the United States, he had big dreams because he had heard that one can achieve success in the United States as long as they work hard. He said, “I heard that they live well and if they work hard, they get paid well and get nice cars and houses.” 4 Because his aunt told them that she would send an invitation to them as soon as possible, his family worked hard and waited patiently in Korea.
For eight years, his family waited. Finally after his aunt got her citizenship in the United States, she invited his family to the United States; however it still took around ten years to get registered. Finally, in 1987, his mother and sister were able to go in to Arizona. However, his brother and he could not go with his mother because Peter was 27 and his brother was 24; People who were over twenty one could not enter the United States together with their parents and had to enter separately. So, his brother and he had to wait for two years. During that time Park met his wife, Sook Hee Lee. They planned to marry when they went to the United States. However, his wife’s family opposed the marriage. Because they were going to a far country, they would not be able to see each other often and could not see each other when they wanted to. In Korean culture, it was tradition to live in an extended family and to see each other daily. For this reason, her family opposed them moving to the United States. Miraculously, he was able to convince his wife’s family and was granted permission to live and get married in the United States. Instead of being nervous going to a new country, he “really wanted to go and work hard so that [he] could be successful.”5
Finally, two years passed and his mother sent the invitation to come to America. When they went to get their Visa and do an interview, there was a problem. Their father’s registered name and his name on his resumé were different. He had Park Dong Soo in his resumé, but he was registered as Park Doo Soo. During the interview, the interviewers asked him which name it was. They were both correct because when he was born, they named him Park Doo Soo, however they changed it a year after and they did not register his changed name. They changed it because people said that if one changes their name, they will live long. Because of the name, Park was confused. If he were to say the wrong name, then he would not be able to get the Visa. When he told them the wrong name, they denied his Visa. But he explained to them that his father had changed him name after birth and they did not re-register that name. They understood and told his brother and him to wait. After two hours, there was no call, so he went and told them that their names had not been called. Park and his brother had obtained the Visa and were overjoyed.
When he first came to the United States in the Los Angeles Airport, there were many immigrants coming out of the plane and retrieving their luggage. He first felt astonished that he came to America and could not even speak English. He had planned to learn English before he arrived, but it was not that easy. His friends told him that it was easy to learn once he interacts with people who speak English. He just believed that it would be easy to learn English and came to the United States. When he first got on the 45 Freeway, he was surprised by how large the roads were here than the ones in Korea. He went to Garden Grove, where his mother was living. He said, “When I got there I thought it was Korea.”6 All the signs were in Korean and there were many Korean markets. He decided he might be able to live here even without knowing any English. That night, there was a party and there were abundant amount of food. He was astonished by the amount of meat because meat was very expensive in Korea. This made him realize that life in America was like heaven. Because Garden Grove was so similar to Korea, he was relaxed.
When Peter first came to America, he had no money. He had to work but he could not speak English and did not know where to go. He was worried because he had the skills to do any type of engineering job, but he did not know where to go. However after three months, he found out about a technical school of machinery in Anaheim called B.N.S. technical institute. He took a six month course and paid $6,000 dollars. Because he did not have money, he borrowed $2,500 from a loan, and the rest of the money, he got from a government program, which gave money to the immigrants. He completed the course in about five months. Even though he learned the course in a language he did not know, he still listened and studied. By the time he was about to graduate, he still had not gotten a job, even though B.N.S. technical institute guaranteed that they would get him one. He complained to them, and they told him that they would put him in the front of the waiting list so that he would be given the first available job. A few days later, they told him that there was a job available in Tal Tan Industry, which was in Los Angeles. The working hour was after school, starting from 3:30pm to 8:30pm. He was getting paid minimum wage of $5.25. He said, “I was happy because it was my first job in America.”7 Everyday he would go to work after he finished school. In a month, he graduated school and started to work full time. Nothing was difficult at work, but he had problems communicating because of the language. However, in a month, he was given a raise to $6.25 and after three months, he was promoted to a position that took ten years to achieve. Because of that, he was getting paid $10.25. Even then, the job was still too easy and boring to him. He would shape materials such as metal to create products such as car parts. He would then polish it and perfect it. Everyday, he would finish around seven products while the other workers only finished five. The other workers started to complain that he would make too many items. His coworkers had told him to only complete five items and then relax until work time was over.
One day, he discovered an ad in the Korean newspaper by a company called Aamco Engineering looking for an experienced engineer. He decided it would be better to work there because he felt that his current coworkers did not want him there. He then went to an interview and the president of the new company hired him and agreed to pay him $13.25 hourly. He was excited and notified the old company that he would quit and move to another company. Aamco was similar to Tal Tan Industrial. He would shape and polish materials to make molds. On his first pay check in the new company, they gave him an extra quarter for working well. He would work around fifty six hours every week, including overtime, and would get around $3000 a month.
He continued to work there, until in July 1995, he thought of starting his own business for plastic engineering. He said, “I had wanted to start a business in America because I needed more money and I thought I could [get more money] if I [started a new business].”8 However, he did not have any spare money and was scared to start a new business because he might fail. He “prayed and [he] came upon a verse in the Bible: just asking will not get you what you want. You should get up and start.”9 Inspired by the verse, he quickly resigned from his company and started a new business. He borrowed money from his friends and his siblings. Altogether, he had around $25,000. Even with that much money, it was not enough to buy all the machines he needed for the work. Luckily, he met a kind person that gave him $50,000 worth of machines that he could pay back later. He said, “With God, I could overcome my obstacles.”10 He was finally able to start with those free machines. And in 1995, he started his business Supreme Mold & Engineering. Although he had started the business, he had no workers and so he hired a secretary. Together, they searched through the Yellow Pages and called many of the companies to ask for work. They went there to see the companies’ presidents, but many times, they were kicked out. Finally, they met one company who gave them work. It was to make plastic injection molds. They polished it, shaped it and completed this work perfectly, and the impressed customers gave Peter’s company more jobs. Even today, they are working together. For 15 years, he has owned and operated this business. By this time, he had become comfortable in the United States.
He has lived in the United States for around 20 years now. He is very grateful to come to the United States, besides the fact that his mother passed away a couple of years after she arrived in the United States. Because his children do not have to work as hard as the students in Korea, he likes America. Also his sons were able to live here and learn the American culture while retaining the Korean culture. He had taught them a lot of the most important basis of the Korean culture. But because his sons have not fully understood the Korea culture, he hopes to send them to Korea after high school to learn more about it. He also enjoyed the life in the United States because of freedom, where he could work when he wants to and play soccer or golf with his friends when he wants to. Although there were times that were difficult, “[he] feels no regret in coming to the United States.”11
1. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 9.
2. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 2.
3. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 3.
4. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 4.
5. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 4.
6. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 6.
7. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 7.
8. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 8.
9. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 8.
10. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 9.
11. Peter, Park. Personal interview. 25 May 2009. 11.