Calvin Chung the story behind my greatest outlier, my father.
I identify myself as an outlier. I am blessed with full access to high education, I have a roof over my head, and I go forth on my path to my dreams without major obstacles in the way. My parents, most importantly, my father, have taken the troublesome, rocky roads to raise my sister and I to a flat, smooth road. As all parents do, they have influenced me in great ways to get me to where I am today. But my father himself is an outlier, who was shaped by outside factors to direct his path according to his aspirations.
Like Father, Like Son
Photo: (Calvin and His Father at Wol Jung Sa. 25 June 1991.)
One of the biggest influencers in my father’s life is my grandfather, the man who helped shape his life today. As parents do, they taught Calvin important skills and to grow certain characteristics like competitiveness. Competition, hard work, and perseverance, which are all major factors to success, began to become engraved in my father’s mindset, as he grew up watching his father succeed in life. He was taught to be a winner and compete hard to fight for what he wanted.
Photo: (Ho Gwang Chung Researching at Han Yang University. 12 Sept. 1962.)
“When I went to work, I always went earlier and left later than the others. I worked hard, and I was passionate in what I was doing. Because I always scored really well on my examinations all throughout my education, it helped me advance in my career. Before my job at daewoo, I worked at UNESCO, KAIST as an R&D researcher, Han Yang University as a professor’s assistant, Daewoo Electronics, then finally at Daewoo shipbuilding in Gojaedo, near Busan.” - Chung Ho Gwang (H. Chung Nov 1)
Calvin’s father was someone who worked hard for what he strived for. During his early 40’s he began to study English as he believed this would make him more advanced among the others for a successful job. Calvin would watch his father practicing English as the cassette tape played, and as a child, he learned the importance of working hard in order to compete with others. Later on, Calvin was passed on the cassette tapes, which he would listen over and over again when he grew up. Most Koreans at the time had a native accent when speaking English, and Calvin worked hard to master his English so he could be different from the others, just like his father.
When the Chung family went to Gojaedo over the summer, there were foreigners that worked at the Daewoo shipbuilding company, where Calvin’s father worked, as customers. Some were American and some were British, but their ability to speak perfect English is what sparked Ho Gwang (Calvin’s father)’s attention. “Dear, could you please cook up some fancy dishes? We’re having guests over”, is what Calvin’s father would say to his wife almost weekly. As a highschooler, Calvin was exposed to their stories of Europe, working in a global business. American pop was one of the few things that Calvin could connect to the British guests at the time, so they would talk about Michael Jackson, Madonna, etc. With the confidence and ambition Calvin had, stepping out of his comfort zone welcoming and talking to foreigners in his home was more than just an experience, it was crucial to his path to success. His exposure to internationality sparked interest in him, the idea of working in or with nations all around the globe fascinated young Calvin. If it wasn't for his father who wanted the best for his children, my father would have not received the opportunities essential to his dream. (H. Chung Nov 1)
My grandfather wasn’t blessed with being born into a wealthy family, but he had the determination to make himself get to the top. “He was a very successful employee in Daewoo Shipbuilding, was the best at his job, and he later became an entrepreneur”(H. Chung, Nov 1) . Simply due to Calvin’s admiration of his father, it was the one of the main factors that urged him to study long hours, work under pressure, and learn the importance of competition. Without my grandfather to look up to as he successfully did his job, my father would not have had as much motivation or ambition to strive for his dreams and fight through the hardships.
Korea’s current education system is infamous for its harsh expectations on students, and back before the 20th century, it was exactly the same. In almost all of korean high schools during 1986-1988 (high school is three years long), high schoolers including my parents were obligated to stay at school until 10 p.m. Once class ended, everyone stayed in the study hall to study daily, then went home, and studied even more.
Photo: ("Calvin at His High School Graduation". 3 Dec. 1987.)
An average school day was not the same for Calvin. His daily school routine consisted of waking up before the sun rose and coming home once the skies were pitch-black. All high school students were forced to stay after until 10, but Calvin would stay in the library for an extra two hours to study even more. As he saw the exhausted faces of the other students leave, he remained in his seat, and went back to his textbook. Studying was essential to my father’s success. By studying for extraneous hours, he would study more than the others. Calvin’s goal to get into the top 5% ranking for the nationwide, monthly performance tests (that enrolled 600,000 korean students) so that he could get accepted to the top universities in Korea. His competitive urge to be the best is what drove him to stay and study even more once everyone had left.
Korean children spend 220 days a year in school versus 190 in Finland and 180 in the United States. By some measures, the average Korean child spends 13 hours a day studying after supplemental class time is factored in. (Park, Education in South Korea)
Late nights were mandatory in the life of a Korean student. The number of hours spent studying exceeded way over the average American public school student. Like the 10,000 hour rule in the Outliers, the hard work that went into studying in school resulted in my father’s success and chances to get into a good college.
“We definitely did not have to ever force him to study, he was always a studious kid. We did help him and get him supplies like English textbooks and cassette tapes from the Incheon library since 4th grade. He was never a kid who read comic books, he would read proper, adult books unlike the others at the time.” - Grandma (H. Chung Nov 1)