Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Dear Workplace: Season 3

Falling in Love with Korean Culture with Sam Paik

Dear Workplace – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

Reimagine how you thrive at work through conversations that matter. Hosted by workplace creativity expert Monica H. Kang, we’ll study the latest trends, changes, and challenges to untangle workplace people problems. We’ll talk with executives, innovators, and experts and visit different industries around the world so that you get first dibs into the changing workforce. 

Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your preferred platform of choice!

In this insightful episode of “Dear Workplace,” host Monica H. Kang welcomes Sam Paik, an entrepreneur and educational innovator, to explore the transformative power of integrating cultural heritage and play in education. Sam shares his journey from a successful career in finance to creating impactful educational programs such as Momo Camp, which aims to connect children of Korean heritage with their culture in meaningful ways. Through stories of personal experiences and professional endeavors, this conversation sheds light on how education can evolve to better serve the next generation of global citizens.

As they delve into the specifics of Sam’s educational camps and the role of technology in modern learning, listeners will gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in creating educational environments that foster curiosity, identity, and cultural appreciation. This episode is a must-listen for anyone interested in educational innovation, cultural heritage, and the development of leadership among youth. Join Monica and Sam as they discuss the future of education and the significant impact of embracing cultural roots in learning and personal development.

Guest: SAM PAIK

CEO, ChatENG Inc.

Sam Paik is a distinguished alumnus of Wesleyan University, where he graduated in 1990 after attending Culver Military Academy in 1986. His professional journey spans significant roles in the finance sector, including serving as the Head of Korean Equities at BNP Paribas Securities, Head of Korean Equity Distribution at JP Morgan, and Head of Korean Sales at Morgan Stanley. He later ascended to the role of Executive Director at Morgan Stanley London. Sam's entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish several ventures: SA Camps Hawaii (Camp Hokukea) in 2016, SA Leadership Charity, a 501c3 organization, in 2018, and ChatENG Inc. also in 2018. Beyond his professional and entrepreneurial achievements, Sam's personal life is enriched by his family and community engagements. He is married to Phoebe, and together they have two adult daughters, Ellen and Lauren, as well as two cats that famously do not get along. A trailblazer from a young age, Sam was the only Asian student in his primary and middle schools, and he captained the Wesleyan Men’s Soccer Team. Having lived and worked in London for a decade, he remains an active member of the Wesleyan President's Council. Currently, he is dedicated to expanding his philanthropic impact by launching a new camp in Korea for children of Korean heritage.

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Episode Shownotes

1. Episode Title: Falling in Love with Korean Culture with Sam Paik

2. Host: Monica H. Kang, Founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox

3. Episode Description:

After years in finance and business, Sam Paik noticed a troubling trend: overwork starting from childhood. Reflecting on the importance of childhood play and creativity, Sam saw a gap in the next generation’s access to these vital experiences. Determined to make a change, he founded several education-focused companies, including Momo Camp. As a serial entrepreneur and educator, Sam is on a mission to revolutionize education, fostering environments where learning, play, and self-expression thrive. Momo Camp, his latest venture, offers a unique opportunity to experience Korea and delve into its history, addressing a significant gap in global education. Join us on Dear Workplace to discover Sam’s inspiring journey and his vision for reshaping education and youth programs.


4. Guest:
Sam Paik, CEO, ChatENG Inc.

5. Key Topics Covered:

  • Integration of play and cultural heritage in education
  • The impact of Sam’s childhood experiences on his educational endeavors
  • The importance of technology in modern education
  • Development and influence of Korean culture on a global scale

6. Highlights

  • Sam Paik discusses his transition from a finance career to founding educational programs focused on Korean culture.
  • Insights into the development of Momo Camp, a unique educational camp in Korea for children of Korean heritage.
  • The importance of play in children’s learning and development highlighted at the Hawaii camp.

7. Quotes from the guest:

    1. “I think a lot of parents think that play is bad, but actually they learn through play, and that’s instinctual, and that’s the best way that they learn.”
    2. “Korea has moved very quickly in the last 30 years… It’s very dynamic, it’s very modern, and it is worth sending your kids here, because at the end of the day, they need to see the difference from what they may have heard from the older generation.” 

8. Contact Information: Sam Paik can be followed on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.


9. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

Monica Kang emphasizes the importance of reconsidering educational approaches and integrating cultural heritage into learning, and looks forward to exploring these themes in future episodes.


10. Episode Length and Release Date:

Episode Length: Approximately 26 mins
Release Date: May 9, 2024


00:00

Monica H. Kang
If we think about education, we’re really a sponge. We become what we consume, we are inspired by our surroundings and we learn from the people around us. We often talk about nature versus nurture, but honestly, it’s kind of a mix of both. And as a result, educators today continue to ask how can we better prepare our next generation leaders to be inspired, stay curious, and not get bottled down by society’s perhaps pressure and systems that we create. Meet my friend Sam Paik, who wants to share a little bit more why as a result, play is so important early on and how he is rethinking education, especially with a little spin in Korean culture. 


00:49

Monica H. Kang
One thing perhaps though is that as a Korean American growing up in the States, he realized how hard it was to learn about Korean culture and tie his Koreanness as he was growing up in the states where theres not a lot of access. As he continued his career in finance and worked in New York, London and Korea, he noticed how hard it was to tie those together. So he made a pivot because he wanted to help the next generation of leaders. As an entrepreneur, he started holding summer camps, leadership programs, language programs, ChatENG, for instance that he started in 2018 is rethinking how you have language learning access through k twelve and leadership. Charity is a nonprofit he started in 2018. 


01:36

Monica H. Kang
And a summer camp that he started in Hawaii in 2016 brought together youth in Hawaii to have time to play, learn leadership, but also enjoy what it’s like to be a full being early on. And throughout all of this, he is very excited for his new initiative, a new camp in Korea for children of Korean heritage, that he has started, momo camp. So today I’m excited to welcome my friend Sam to dive into how we can rethink education. You’re listening to dear workplace by innovators Box. I’m your host, Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox. Let’s meet Sam. 


02:18

Monica H. Kang
Hello. What’s your cat’s name? 


02:21

Sam Paik
Leto. 


02:23

Monica H. Kang
Leto. Hi, Leto. 


02:26

Sam Paik
I’m gonna kick her out. 


02:28

Monica H. Kang
Okay, sounds good. Welcome to dear workplace. I am so excited to have my friend Sam Peck here on the show where we can dive all about continuing our conversations on korean culture, education, and all that jazz. Sam’s background especially is in education. He has done many different types of education businesses, and we’ll talk a little bit more about it, but I am thrilled to dive into a particular one that he has recently launched called Momo Camp, focusing on korean culture connected to Campi summer camp. So, Sam, welcome to the show. First, tell me what inspired you to get into a career of k twelve, education and child development. 


03:13

Sam Paik
Well, first of all, thank you for having me, Monica. Let’s see. My first career was in finance, so I did that for about 25 years. And, you know, after 25 years, I just want to try something new. But at the end of my sort of, like, finance career, I was a president’s council member from my university. That’s when I sort of, like, caught the education bug because one of the key subjects that were talking about as the council members was about sort of technology and its convergence with education. And, I don’t know, it was fascinating because how could technology change? Education was the key subject. And after I sort of finished my career in finance, I decided to look into that in a lot more detail. And so that’s how I sort of got involved in education, and it sort of started from there. 


04:07

Monica H. Kang
Love that. Tell me a little bit more about your first few ventures. How has it evolved and how did that lead you now to doing the summer camps? 


04:18

Sam Paik
When I first started in the education, it was sort of starting from scratch. I had no idea. I felt that I could start somewhere. And one of the things that I did when I was a kid was to go to camps, summer camps. It had a huge impact in my life. And so I thought, hey, you know, like, maybe we should look into that, right? And I was raising my kids in Korea. I saw like a very sort of different type of education in Korea versus, let’s say, what I was used to in the US. And I saw kids, to a large extent, having to spent a lot of time indoors. And I saw a lot of kids sort of stressing out. And even when my kids were here and, you know, there weren’t the hagwons. 


05:06

Sam Paik
And, you know, I just felt that there’s something that we need to do to help them sort of decompress. I felt like this would be a good point of start to go into education by starting a camp. And I started that in Hawaii because we felt that a, it’s close to Seoul. It’s only like an eight hour flight. And also it’s like a, obviously, it’s a place to decompress. Parents love to come as well. So we started camp for elementary school kids. And so during the summer, we had american style summer camp, you know, water programs like learning activities in the morning, sports. And the content was like hawaiian culture. Hawaii is a wonderful place because it’s sort of like in the middle of, obviously, America and Asia for korean kids coming over to Hawaii. It’s quite familiar. 


05:58

Sam Paik
Something about it is familiar, and it’s a great place for them to feel safe. It’s not like a sudden change in that environment. So they’re smoothly transitioning into american society or american culture. And that’s why we decided to hold a camp in Hawaii. So we did that for about three years, about five iterations of the camp. 


06:18

Monica H. Kang
I love that. And I’m hearing already kind of your style of iterating to make sure you continue to improve. Taking a step back, because you’ve mentioned how this is your second career, you’ve started your career in finance and investing. I’m curious, like looking back now, even in your ventures with education, how has your previous work experience investment banking helped you be the type of leader and educator you are today? 


06:46

Sam Paik
Yeah, it’s obviously very different industries. 


06:49

Speaker 4
Right. 


06:50

Sam Paik
But I think the constant studying, learning in finance situations are always changing. 


06:58

Speaker 4
Right. 


06:58

Sam Paik
The variables are changing, and therefore you’re always having to adjust and learn new things and adopt. 


07:05

Speaker 4
Right. 


07:05

Sam Paik
So think outside the box. And I think those are all things that you could apply to anything, especially for education. It was helpful in trying to look at new ways to help kids adjust, new ways for kids to learn. And again, you know, going back to like, you know, what I talked to you about initially about like, technology and education on the crossroad, you know, there are a lot of variables in that. I think those skill sets that I learned in finance, you know, I was able to apply fairly easily into, you know, what I was doing with education. 


07:39

Monica H. Kang
And remind me, Sam, you grew up in the states. Where did you grow up in the states? 


07:44

Sam Paik
I went to the US when I was nine, and I grew up in a town called Michigan City, Indiana. So if you can imagine, like Lake Michigan, right at the tip of Lake Michigan, southern tip of Michigan, that’s Michigan. Lake Lake Michigan is where I grew up. So about an hour east of Chicago. 


08:04

Monica H. Kang
And I assume that’s not necessarily a neighborhood, you’ll see a lot of asian culture or korean culture growing up. How was it for you when you thought about korean culture growing up? 


08:13

Sam Paik
I guess I had some base. I lived in Korea for a little bit, right. And it was my first language. But going to Michigan City, Indiana, I was the only asian kid in my elementary school, and in my junior high school, I was the only asian kid. So if you could imagine, it was a bit of a shock. But also at the same time, it was a huge growing and learning experience. I had some korean friends, but they went to all different schools. And maybe over a weekend our families would get together and have a barbecue or something. But my exposure to korean culture pretty much ended as soon as I got to Michigan City. 


08:54

Monica H. Kang
And I know your reflection of your childhood is very much a part of the reason why you were sharing with me that you want to use the camp as an opportunity, whether it’s korean american diasporas or korean diasporas around the world, to have the chance, or those who want to learn more about Korea have the chance to not only learn Korea from afar, but actually grow up and understand the culture and heritage. To your point, even though we see a lot on the news in everyday experience, many of the korean diasporas are minorities. Maybe one of the few. Could you tell me a little bit more about that? 


09:27

Sam Paik
Yeah, I think growing up in the US, just looking back, and obviously I didn’t notice it when I was a kid. 


09:33

Speaker 4
Right. 


09:33

Sam Paik
But looking back, you go into class, into school, and you go into history class, and you don’t really get that much exposure to Asia, first of all. And my first exposure to Korea in a us history class of any kind was about korean war. 


09:55

Speaker 4
Right. 


09:56

Sam Paik
And you don’t get a very good sort of idea of what Korea is like from, like, one paragraph. The first time that I actually had exposure to asian culture was in college. I took a ancient history of China, and it really connected with me like no other history. And so I decided to major in asian history when I was in college. And I actually even sort of transferred to another university just to take a korean history class because my school was quite small. Like, it’s a small liberal arts college. So I had to go to a large university to even sort of have. 


10:40

Speaker 4
Access to korean history. 


10:41

Sam Paik
So that I think, to a large extent, stuck with me, I think really throughout my life. And I felt like when I was raising my children, I was like, it’d be great if we could actually have a program. They could expose the kids to korean culture early because there’s really no formal programs out there anywhere, really. Maybe like occasional churches, maybe like occasional sort of conversation with grandpa. But you’re not getting really reliable sources of well structured and age appropriate for. 


11:12

Speaker 4
The kids to learn. 


11:14

Monica H. Kang
And building on that note, you’ve hinted a little bit, but could you elaborate a little bit more why it feels hard to really understand about Korea or Asia? Outside of Korea and Asia, I think. 


11:27

Sam Paik
Probably the most important is that there’s limited resources available, and also the resources are not necessarily age appropriate. It would be very difficult to talk to a seven year old or eight year old who has no real historical content of the world and then tell them about Imjin war. 


11:47

Speaker 4
Right. 


11:48

Sam Paik
It’s very difficult to understand, however, if we look back at how we learn history or how I learned history, let’s say in America, people are like, you learn about heroes, you learn about, like, Lincoln, you know, and you learn about Washington, and you understand history through studying of heroes. And I felt that’s the kind of program we need to develop for children of korean diaspora. So that, again, you can sort of understand that. Oh, by the way, Korea also had, you know, somebody as great as Lincoln. Korea also had a general that’s perhaps more celebrated in Korea than, let’s say, I don’t know, MacArthur, like, in the US, for example. 


12:30

Speaker 4
Right. 


12:31

Sam Paik
So I think you need to be able to sort of help children understand from their point of view. 


12:37

Speaker 4
Right. 


12:38

Sam Paik
And I felt like there’s no program, you know, as a parent, you know, raising my children, I never found that program. So I felt like, okay, let’s make one. And so that’s why I started this momocamp. 


12:51

Monica H. Kang
Tell me a little bit more about Momocamp. What can people expect if they were to participate in? What’s the age range that your audience is? 


12:59

Sam Paik
The camp that I was running in Hawaii was for elementary school kids, grade one to six. This one’s for slightly older children from grade five to grade eight. And it’s for older kids because we wanted to have, we wanted to make sure that it has some context of Korea. And also it’s a boarding camp. Because it’s a boarding camp. We wanted to run a program that’s for older kids. And also, I think that age group is very important. That’s, like, between ages from ten to 13. That’s when also kids wonder about who they are. They really try to understand, like, oh, you know, why do I look the way I do? This is when they begin to sort of question their identity or try to develop their identity. 


13:42

Sam Paik
I felt that this would be a good age group to work with when they have those questions already and bring them to Korea and discuss these as and when they’re ready to discuss them. 


13:55

Monica H. Kang
And you also mentioned that unlike ha gon style, this is meant to also include a lot of play. Tell me a little bit more why that play and that summer camp type of experience is important in education for youth. 


14:07

Sam Paik
Yeah, I think a lot of parents think that play is bad, but actually they learn through play, and that’s instinctual, and that’s the best way that they learn. And also, in a camp, you are in a situation where you have so many different things happening, and kids can try different things. It is also summer. It’s downtime. It’s decompressing. Time to get away from sitting down hour by hour and doing homework. It is really a time to be experiencing new things and learning through experience. And so what you’ll find that camps are about is really kids sort of going out there and learning by doing and running around and de stressing from their school experiences. 


14:55

Monica H. Kang
That’s so important. And I’m really excited that there is a program and that you are leading with such intention, taking a step back as you’re continuing all these endeavors. I also assume there’s still things that you really wish people understood better about Korea in general. What comes to mind when I ask you that? 


15:14

Sam Paik
Well, you may have felt this as well, but Korea has moved very quickly in the last 30 years, you know, economically, social development wise. What’s quite interesting is that a lot of the kyopos or, like, you know, korean Americans or korean parents who move there, like the first generation, are stuck in sort of that time when they left Korea. So they perceived Korea from that point of view. However, Korea has moved on so much from then, so that is something that I noticed is very different, even for my parents. They see Korea through the lens of the 1960s when they left it. They sort of look at it from very confucian point of view. 


16:00

Sam Paik
Although now in Korea, the biggest difference is that it’s very dynamic, it’s very modern, and it is worth sending your kids here, because at the end of the day, they need to see the difference from what they may have heard from the older generation. 


16:17

Monica H. Kang
So true. I feel like every time I come back to Korea, it’s like a new building. There’s a new trend, there’s something new everywhere. And to that point, I want to do a little rapid fire on all things Korea with all my guests. If you can share what comes to mind when I ask this, I’d love to hear it. Favorite korean food. 


16:36

Sam Paik
Favorite korean food. Nang myeon. 


16:38

Monica H. Kang
Nang myeon. Why? And how can you describe Nangbyeon? For those who don’t know what it. 


16:43

Sam Paik
Is, it’s cold buckwheat noodles. It’s a traditional, let’s say, north korean dish. And I grew up in a sort of north korean family background, and that was basically our comfort food. 


16:57

Monica H. Kang
Love it. Favorite korean word. 


17:00

Sam Paik
My favorite korean word would be chong. I like that word because it’s the word that’s between love and familiarity. And I think it’s a very uniquely korean word. It’s like love of something that you spend a lot of time with as well. It’s not the hot love, but it’s like a more deeper love that you have for something. So I really like that word. It’s hard to describe, actually, because I don’t think we have a word in English. 


17:34

Monica H. Kang
We don’t. That’s why I love asking the description from our guest on words like that. If somebody was going to Korea for the first time, where would you recommend them go? 


17:45

Sam Paik
You have to come to Seoul first. 


17:47

Speaker 4
Right. 


17:48

Sam Paik
And then really sort of understand, like, the development, like, how modern it is. Right. But within Seoul, there’s so many places I would really encourage people to do is go for a hike. I don’t think there’s a city like it in the world where you could actually take a subway to a station, get off, and then go for a serious hike, like 3 hours, and then come back. And that infrastructure is amazing. That’s what I would like, encourage people to do. 


18:22

Monica H. Kang
A mix of the history and modern is often how I like to highlight with the amazing public transportation that you’ve shared. 


18:30

Speaker 4
Yes. 


18:31

Monica H. Kang
What is a component of one of your favorite parts about korean culture or history that you would like to share with others? 


18:41

Sam Paik
The thing about Korea is that its history is really about survival and resilience. Because if you look back at korean history for the last, let’s say, three, 4000 years, there’s a Wikipedia map that shows you where all the conflicts were in the world, right? That’s a really cool map. They do the dots, right? And then you look at the world map, and one of the busiest places where there are a lot of dots are where Korea is, right. And there were so many times when Korea would not be Korea anymore. However, here we are. We’re still here. It’s a very distinctive culture, and now it’s a culture that’s affecting and influencing world culture. And I think that’s a pretty amazing thing. 


19:34

Monica H. Kang
Tell me a little bit more how you feel, in fact, about the changing landscape about Korea awareness and culture. 


19:41

Sam Paik
I remember, like, when I first got to the US, I thought it’d be, like, really cool to have my grandma make me some kimbap. And so I took gimbap in fourth grade to lunch, and I remember all the kids like, that smells, you know, and whatever. And what’s really cool is that, you know, with my kids, they’re like, dad, whenever I put something up about korean food, I have so many likes, or like instagram, you know, likes, right? It’s like a complete 180 degree turn of perception about korean culture. And I think it’s pretty cool. I just hope that it’s sustainable. 


20:18

Speaker 4
Right. 


20:19

Sam Paik
And I think that it could only be sustainable with understanding of history. I think Japan and China, there’s a much better understanding of its history, even by the western, non sort of chinese and non japanese. Korea, I think, needs to work on that a lot more. We have to be a little bit more intentional in raising interest of korean history, not just, you know, the K pop, but also the depth of its culture, I think, is very important in order to sustain that cultural impact that Japan or China may have. 


20:52

Monica H. Kang
Absolutely. So, so true. In fact, I was. What was, one of the questions I was curious is, what are your thoughts on, like, the future? Because if that’s how much has changed, how do we make sure we sustain that? And so you have hit directly to the point. I was hoping we could learn more. Bringing this back to education in the world that you’re in, what is one thing that you hope others can be mindful about education and just learning more about Korea? 


21:17

Sam Paik
Mindful about education, I think, again, I want to go back to theme of education and technology. I wish that people can be a little bit more. I mean, it’s not, I think, the parents or the students, but the educational system, be it the public education system or even the private education system, I wish that they could adapt a little bit faster to how technology is impacting education. I think the kids are ready, but I sometimes feel that the schools aren’t, or maybe the teachers aren’t. And that’s where sort of, that’s the space that I occupy. The offline education is through the camp. And I think that’s a very important mission in education. Fun learning and creating that sort of opportunity for kids to explore. 


22:07

Speaker 4
Right. 


22:08

Sam Paik
But I also am very focused on the technology in education, which is online education. I think online is being underutilized. And currently, I also operate a company that teach foreign languages to high school students in the US for credit. So this is for actual credit. That’s sort of like a business that I’m also very much focused on. We have teachers all over the world teaching into us, high school, teaching nine languages. We even teach Swahili. And kids should have a choice what they want to learn that could be delivered fairly easily now with technology. 


22:47

Monica H. Kang
I love that. Thank you so much, Sam, for sharing all those wisdoms and insights. What are best ways for people to stay in touch or connect with you? 


22:56

Sam Paik
Oh, let’s see. We have a camp website. It’s called momocamp.org. So momo camp.org dot. And also we have my language company is called Chatting Chateng Dot Live. L I v E. So you could go in there and you could send a message and then somehow, some weird way it’s going to come back to me anyway. So. 


23:22

Monica H. Kang
And he’s also on LinkedIn, so connect there and then at any point, of course, if you forget, just send me a note. I’m happy to help connect you with Sam as well. So Sam, thank you so much for joining us on the show. Very honored that we got to dive into this conversation and look forward to continuing to explore all of these questions with others as well. So thank you so much. We’ll see you all later. Bye. 


23:49

Monica H. Kang
Thank you, Sam, again for those inspiring insights. It sure makes us rethink about what we can do today, and perhaps more so for our next generation of leaders. Every small bit helps. So excited to see how it goes. Check out his work at Momocamp, but also his work at Chateng and more. Next week I’m excited to start a new series, a topic perhaps that we hear all the time, but I think we gotta dive deeper into M and A’s mergers and acquisitions. Why is it really still so hard? And why does it happen still all the time? I’ll be inviting experts each week to dive into those topics and shed a bit more light how we can navigate m and a differently. So I’ll see you next week for news stories. 


24:37

Monica H. Kang
This is your host, Monica Kang, founder and SEO Innovators Box, and you are listening to Dear workplace. Have a great day. 


24:53

Speaker 5
Thanks again for joining us. This is your host, Monica Kang at Dear Workplace and I’m so glad you are here. Shout out to audio Engineering and producing by Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering assistant by Ravi Lad, website and marketing support by Kree Pandey, graphic support by Lea Orsini, Christine Eribal, and original music by InnovatorsBox Studios. Interviewing, podcasting, directing, and all that jazz by me, Monica Kang. Share us your feedback and suggestions as we continue to look to improve and answer the questions that you have about the workplace. Have a great day and I’ll see you soon. Have a great day and I’ll see you soon. 

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