The Journey of a Founder: From Seoul to Los Angeles via Quito

Born in South Korea, my early years were marked by a profound cultural shift when my family relocated to Ecuador when I was just twelve. For seven transformative years, I steeped myself in Ecuadorian traditions while attending an American missionary school, where my seven best friends all had dual citizenships, providing me with a multi-colored view of global cultures.

As I ventured to Iowa for my college education, I found myself immersed in the Heartland of America. A distinct contrast from my previous experiences, yet a continuation of my journey through the complexities of cultural assimilation. After graduation, I made my way to the city that would further shape my perspective: Los Angeles.

I initially entered the workforce as a banker in Downtown LA. It became immediately apparent that the city had a culture all its own, quite unlike anything I had previously encountered. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was the underbelly of racial tension and prejudice that I discovered upon settling in the City of Angels.

April 29 was a pivotal day that disrupted my naive perception of my new home. I heard gunshots, witnessed the sky choked with the smoke of burning establishments, and felt the palpable tension of the Saigu Riot—more commonly known as the LA Riot. This upheaval shattered communities overnight, including my own.

Korean American immigrants, who had tirelessly worked around the clock, year-round, saw their dreams reduced to ashes within hours. They were stripped not only of their material possessions but also of their dignity, as media outlets portrayed them as “greedy” entrepreneurs exploiting their neighborhoods. African Americans too were vilified, further widening the divide. Yet, amidst this chaos, a few voices emerged, fighting to protect the stores of Korean immigrants, recognizing that these businesses were integral to their local communities.

In the wake of such violence, the immediate response was understandably defensive, with many opting for firearms to protect their families and livelihoods. However, this can only be a temporary shield. Over time, attempts were made to bridge the gaps through dialogues, but words alone couldn’t mend the deep-seated wounds or dispel lingering misconceptions.

As a real estate professional serving diverse Californian communities, I have witnessed firsthand the stark income disparities that exist. Yet, I have also found a universal truth: regardless of socio-economic status, families everywhere aspire to provide their children with education, put food on the table, and shelter.

So, what is the remedy to the pervasive housing and societal issues we face? While dialogue and awareness-raising events have their place, they are not sufficient. We must dig deeper, beginning with foundational changes within our own families and extending these shifts to our broader communities. Only then can we hope to foster meaningful, lasting impact on society.

We need to focus on bolstering communication, enhancing education, and improving the implementation of policies and programs. Armed with the expertise and perspectives that my unique journey has afforded me, I am committed to taking the first steps by addressing housing disparities. Together, we can weave a tapestry of solutions that elevates everyone.

Peter Park, Founder of KAREP and Dreams Come True Foundation