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February 20, 2020

Atlanta business executive honors Korean War hero with international scholarship

As a hungry young boy growing up on the Korean peninsula in the early 1950s, Sunny K. Park was inspired to pursue a better life by the American soldiers fighting on his behalf during the Korean War.

Today, the accomplished entrepreneur, community leader and 2020 recipient of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s Freedom Award hopes a new scholarship honoring the late U.S. Gen. Raymond Gilbert Davis – a Korean War hero and past Freedom Award recipient – will inspire a new generation of students at Georgia’s Berry College.

With an endowment exceeding $200,000, the General Davis Korean-American Friendship Scholarship will provide funding for two rising seniors each year to participate in the Bahrom International Program at Seoul Women’s University or another similar program in South Korea. The goal is to promote cultural understanding while also preparing Berry students to succeed in a global economy. Preference for the award will be given to family members of Korean War veterans.

With the blessing of the Davis family, Park has funded this scholarship in hopes of shedding new light on Gen. Davis’ heroism in Korea, where he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor after spearheading the rescue of fellow Marines in fierce combat and frigid conditions at the Chosin Reservoir in late 1950.

The scholarship also extends the legacy of both men in service to Berry, an independent liberal arts college of approximately 2,100 students located on a 27,000-acre campus 72 miles northwest of Atlanta. Gen. Davis spent 30 years on the college’s Board of Visitors, providing wise counsel to three Berry presidents. Park followed him as a member of the Board of Visitors and later served as a college trustee, retiring in 2015.

While neither man attended Berry, Park feels strongly that the college exemplifies values he glimpsed in the soldiers he met during the war and American Christians who provided desperately needed essentials such as food, clothing and school supplies in the years after the 1953 armistice.

“I’ve always remembered those Americans as brave and generous,” Park said. “It wasn’t common to be like that, so I wanted to be American and Christian. I never gave up on that plan. I wanted to be brave and generous like Americans.”

Park immigrated to the United States in 1974 and ultimately became a naturalized citizen. Though he arrived with nothing, he achieved success with the 1983 founding of General Building Maintenance, today one of the nation’s top private commercial cleaning service providers. He has also invested time and energy in other successful business ventures and in nonprofit service, with a particular interest in mentoring high school dropouts. Notable achievements include past service as vice chair of the Georgia Ports Authority and recognition as an Atlanta Business Hall of Fame laureate and USO Patriot Medal recipient.

Park never actually met Gen. Davis in Korea – “there were over a million American GIs deployed on the Korean peninsula,” he noted – but in later years had the opportunity to serve alongside his childhood hero during efforts to fund the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“Gen. Davis was such a humble man,” Park recalled. “When you saw him in civilian clothes, he was like your nicest uncle. You could never imagine him fighting on the front lines in the bitter cold. He never bragged about what he did. He was just so polite and nice to everyone.”

After Gen. Davis died in 2003, Park articulated his feelings toward the man he considered a “father figure,” stating, “When I was a child, I could never say ‘thank you’ for what you did for me and millions of fellow Koreans now enjoying the freedom you helped to provide. Finally, when I met you in Atlanta some 40 years later, I wanted to say ‘thank you’ many times, but it could never be enough.” 

Park continues to honor Korean War soldiers like Gen. Davis with a dinner each Veterans Day. This new scholarship is one more way in which he can recognize the bravery and sacrifice that resonated so strongly with him as a boy.

“I want to inspire people who never met Raymond Davis,” he said. “I want to relay his heroism to Berry College students.”

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Learn more about Sunny K. Park at https://sunnypark.com

Written by Public Relations

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