When it comes to building a role as a pillar of the community, Jae Park is making all the right moves.
Park, 44, recently celebrated 20 years of business at Tae Ryong Park Academy, which he started with his father in 1993.
Speaking on the 36th anniversary of his family’s immigration to Winnipeg from South Korea, the blackbelt, who specializes in taekwondo and hapkido, talked about his road to entrepreneurial success and the key role the community plays in his Scurfield Boulevard-based business.
Park offers numerous programs for schoolchildren and has worked with many schools in the Pembina Trails School Division.
"The community is the key to our programs, as it supports our academy and builds partnerships," said Park, who lives in Royalwood, noting he also holds "bully-proofing" workshops and self-defence classes for women.
"I grew up wanting to be a lawyer, dad wanted me to be an engineer and mom wanted me to be a doctor," said Park, who has a criminology degree from the University of Manitoba.
"But I’ve done martial arts since I was three. Tae Ryong Park is my father’s father. We don’t do anything lightly. The name of the academy carries tradition and meaning."
"Martial arts was always a part of me and not just something I did as an activity. It’s a blessing and I can’t see myself doing anything else. I get to see my kids, nephews, nieces and my wife works with me, so the academy is a real meeting place," he added.
Family plays an integral role in Park’s life. Along with his sister, Joanne, who owns Interior Touches in St. Vital, Park was a successful speed skater before the siblings took the entrepreneurial path.
"We’re close in age and have the same mindset. We speed skated together for more than 10 years and spurred each other on," Park said.
His success has also been inspired by the work ethic of his parents, who had to adapt to a completely different culture and climate.
"When we landed in Canada, I still remember the voice of the woman from immigration," Park said.
"It’s quite interesting, because as a kid, nothing really bothers you. It was fun, but my father had a heck of a time dealing with the cold. Two days after moving to Canada, my father went for a run and got lost for hours because all the houses looked the same," he laughed.
"When we arrived, my parents worked for minimum wage in a sewing factory. Eventually, my dad got a bank manager that believed in him, he got a vehicle and built his first business from there."
To learn more about Tae Ryong Park Academy, visit www.trpacademy.com.