Tony is a Korean-born US citizen. His mother recently moved back to Korea after living for 18 years in America. This is the inspiring story of how she has found a way to flourish in the new and frantic business world of South Korea with her beautiful hotel Plea de Blanc, told in Tony’s own touching words.
There and Back Again
I’m a firm believer that the Asian-American immigrant experience is unique to each individual. However, while our stories may vary, I think one common thread that runs through all of our tapestries is the presence of our amazing mothers.
I’ve always been awed by my mother’s spirit, courage, and discipline–qualities with which she steered my family towards success, mainly defined as academic success for me and my little brother.
But as I checked off academic and professional achievements one by one with my mother blowing the wind in my sails, I often wondered:
what could this woman have achieved if she hadn’t been been bound to put her sons first? What if she had been allowed to pursue her own career?
Well, I now I have a chance to find out. Because my mom recently went from being a middle-class housewife for 18 years to being the CEO of a beachfront hotel in Busan, Korea.
Below is a crazy story describing how that happened and a plea to anyone thinking of visiting Korea, and specifically Busan, to consider her hotel.
You’re Never Too Old…
A few years ago, my mom and many other families in the same building contracted with a hotel management company to rent out their unused apartments, airbnb style, in return for a modest percentage of the revenue.
Unfortunately, it turned out that the “hotel management company” was actually conspiring with local gangs.
They had never intended to give the invested families their promised share. When threatened with a lawsuit, they disappeared with the money – of course, after changing the locks on the doors out of spite and saddling the owners with months of unpaid utility bills.
In response, my mom got together with the other families to follow through on their lawsuit. As the lead plaintiff and witness, she spearheaded the group’s litigation efforts, winning a verdict that terminated their obligations to the previous management, leaving the families free to once again rent out their apartments–this time on their own.
My mom had initially only wanted to bring about a just outcome for all the apartment owners. But by the end of the process, she had also earned the trust and respect of everyone, so much so that they asked her to be the CEO of a new independently run hotel formed out of the just-liberated apartments.
Now, I need to point out that my mom is a 50-year-old with literally zero professional experience apart from a little tutoring in the early 1990s back in Korea.
Ever since my family immigrated to the United States in 2000, she has sadly been confined to our home, unable to speak English, instead looking after our family while my dad worked. Her managerial experience is limited to tiger-parenting me and my little brother through high school. Her hospitality experience is limited to cooking soul-nourishing Korean food for our family. But based on what I’ve seen, her drive and courage seem limitless.
Something from Nothing
For the last several months, she has been living alone in Korea, forging ahead on her unexpected late-life adventure, setting up a brand new hotel company from scratch. And it is finally open.
I felt compelled to share her story after a recent video call with her. She looked excited to be chasing her new dream, but also incredibly worried and tired behind her smile.
The hotel lacks recognition and is not getting enough guests. Meanwhile, even though she’s the CEO, due to the company’s infancy and uncertainty, she’s getting paid the equivalent of the New York State minimum wage while working 15-16 hour days.
Apart from translating some marketing material, I felt totally powerless to help the woman who uprooted herself across the planet to help me achieve my potential.
As the son of this amazing woman, I ask that if you or anyone you know is considering vacationing in Busan, Korea, to consider staying at my mother’s hotel.
The hotel is literally a minute from Haeundae beach and it’s got everything from in-suite kitchens, washing machines, free parking, buffet breakfast, a fitness center, and even an indoor driving range. I am no hotel connoisseur, but based on the website and my mom’s ability to run a tight ship at home, I think you’ll have a great stay (and my lasting gratitude).
There are several ways to book a stay at Plea de Blanc:
If you contact the hotel directly about staying during the off-peak season (September – November, January – May), the rates can be even more affordable. They especially welcome group reservations. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel. +82-51-742-2277.
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Jess is the creator and editor of Books and Bao. She's passionate about the world, its literature, food, culture, and people. She enjoys sharing her travel tips with others and capturing those perfect moments.