From despair to hope – A special lecture by the Chairman of Rainier Group Soung Eun Hong
On the value of relationship, care and patience, and his great business success in America
On Monday, November 27 at 12 p.m., the Korea University Academy of Human Resource Development hosted a special lecture “From Despair to Hope: A Korea University Graduate Embraces the World” by the Chairman of Rainier Group Soung Eun Hong in the Global Conference Hall, Centennial Memorial Samsung Hall. In addition to being the chairman of Rainier Group, Hong has also served as the Chairperson of the 9th World Korean Business Convention, the Chairperson of the Seattle chapter of the National Unification Advisory Council, and the Founder and Chairperson of the World Federation of Korean Association of Commerce.
Hong said that the key word of the lecture “HOPE” stood for: (1) promised Hope, (2) finding new Opportunities, (3) sharing hope with other People, and (4) happiness rising from Emotional bonds.
He also emphasized the value of relationships, care and patience – offering them as another set of key words of the lecture. While relationships with others often bring about good results, he said, such social networks and the subsequent opportunities are not simply given, but have to be earned through effort. He then went on to talk about how Koreans are far from being considerate of others and need to care for others, with the example of holding doors for others. Lastly, he expressed that Korean society, in which everything is hurried, needs to take a step back and learn the virtue of patience.
He continued the lecture to talk about what it is like to live in the United States as a Korean. Since he started a new life in America 40 years ago, Hong has gone through tough and lonely times as a result of the linguistic and cultural barriers he had to face. However, he eventually established himself as a successful businessman. He took over and successfully grew Tamiment Resort in Philadelphia as well as Homewood Suites by Hilton Detroit-Troy, which he later sold in 1992 at a price 10 times the value when he purchased it. But he never forgot his mother nation. When the Korean War Memorial was built in Kissena Park, New York in 2011, he offered a blank check, thereby contributing to the establishment of a matching fund for establishing the memorial.
Hong credited his employees who have believed in him and his success. He explained that his valuing relationships with others, care for others, and patience with others played a great role in his businesses. Actually, he never addresses the members of Rainier Group as “employees” or “staff,” but always regards them as business partners. Abiding by his own mission of “growing our relationships deeper and greater,” he has never laid off a single employee. In Rainier Group, where “everyone grows together,” more than 20 employees have worked there for over 20 years.
Hong has taken over hotels and resorts under serious financial crises and has successfully grown them, for he thought of them as his own homes. Behind such successful businesses, he emphasized, was his conviction that “the answer is always in the business battlefields, not in the armchair.” Hong also said that his motto that one should pay his debts – financial, social, and emotional – greatly helped in the leading his businesses.
Hong suggested that the students practice the virtues of empathy and positiveness as Korean-Americans have done so for the past 40 years in order to overcome ceaseless difficulties, discrimination, and loneliness in foreign lands, while their home is under political, economic, and social despair. He also talked about what he has done to make contributions to the Korean communities all over the world – such as the foundation of the World Federation of Korean Association of Commerce, a donation for building the Korean War Memorial, and the organization of H2O Mutual Aid Campaigns.
A Q&A Session followed the lecture. Min-Gyu Kim (’15 School of Health and Environmental Science) asked Hong about the greatest regret he has had since he started living in America and his future goals. Hong responded, “I’ve never regretted anything. I am displaying my collection of Nam June Paik’s pieces at the Main Stadium of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics this year. I hope to bring other Korean art pieces spread all over the globe back to their homeland.”
Another audience member, Na-Young Lee (’15 Department of Russian Language and Literature), said of the lecture, “I got to learn how important it is to value relations with, take care of, and show patience to each and every person we’ve ever known – even after one has already established his/herself as a successful leader.”