Jonathan Yoo Carfield


Jonathan Yoo Carfield




Seoul, South Korea



Own Words

I don’t exactly know when or where I was born, but I do know that in 1978, I was adopted by an American family, living in the farmlands of southwest Nebraska. They (adoption agency) told me I was lost in a busy market, near a bus station in Daegu, and that I told the policeman my name was Yoo Chang-ho and that I was 3 years old.

My new family came with two older sisters from a marriage that would later end in divorce six months later. As a stay-at-home mom, without a college education, life was financially hard. Both of my sisters had learning disabilities, so as soon as I was old enough, I delivered papers in the mornings, mowed lawns and worked on farms in the summers. I even read the paper to a blind lady who paid me a dollar each day.

Nebraska wasn’t exactly a hotbed for diversity and multiculturalism back then. In the 5th grade, Adrian moved to my town and was in the same grade as me. He was African American. He was killed with a hunting rifle shortly after. The boy who shot him was in my same grade too. I’m still not sure my mother realized that it wasn’t easy for me.

I wasn’t a big or strong kid and had what some call, a ‘smart mouth’ and it wouldn’t stay shut when classmates would call me ‘slanty’ or ‘chop stick.' Once the bullies realized that I didn’t know ‘karate,’ sprinting the mile home from school each day became my only strategy for survival. I guess, like an Asian Forest Gump, running paid off because by the time I was a sophomore I was pretty good – having earned a spot on the summer Junior Olympic team that would compete in Asia. Later, I’d host coaches that would come to my home, inviting me to run for their university. I guess I should sit down one day and write some of my classmates a ‘thank you letter’ for helping discover and develop my hidden talent.

In college, I learned about Economics, Advanced Writing and that I’d probably never become a professional runner. I settled for a job as an analyst at a brokerage firm and then later moved into consulting with stops in Denver, San Diego and Vancouver before finally arriving in New York City; where I worked for a small venture capital firm. Here, I learned a lot about making money. Kind of like being mentored by Michael Douglas in the movie ‘Wall Street.’ Life moved at a dizzying pace and before I realized it, I was living next to Bryant Park and working next to Rockefeller Center - earning more money than I ever thought was possible for a kid with such a humble beginning. However, I later realized that fancy suits and expensive dinner reservations wasn’t really me, so during this last economic recession, I left New York to move to the country that I was from, but knew very little about – South Korea.

I’ve been in Seoul for the last 20 months and I’m still not sure what I’m doing here. It’s given me an opportunity to rediscover some passions of mine like reading and writing - along with some not so pleasant things like humility and living without a corporate credit card. Currently, I’m the English-language editor for a Korean airline magazine, a corner host on several talk radio programs and do some project-based consulting for a few companies. In my spare time, I offer free English classes at a coffee shop in my neighborhood because I enjoy interacting with Korean people on Wednesdays.

To be honest, I’m not sure what is in store for my future, but I feel like my life has been a real “rags to riches” story. Not so much because of the financial wealth that I’ve accumulated over the years but because of what I’ve been through, the serenity and happiness I now have, and the tremendous people that have touched my life along the way.

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