Past Events


1st Asan-Yonsei Leadership Lecture: Yul Kwon

On October 5 Yul Kwon delivered the 1st Asan-Yonsei Leadership Lecture, a public lecture series co-organized by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and the Yonsei University Leadership Center. In it he described his youth and career as a Korean American struggling to establish himself in fields typically closed to Asians in the United States. He faced and overcame challenges in finding his identity while living in two different cultures—a traditional Korean culture at home and American culture outside the home. It was not an easy journey, and who he is today is far from who he was growing up.  

Yul Kwon believes that leaders are not born but made and his success is a testament to that belief. To overcome obstacles, he committed to setting goals and pushing himself out of his comfort zone to learn and grow as an individual. He explained how he gained admittance to top U.S. universities and how he found professional success as a lawyer, consultant, government official, and media figure despite the “bamboo ceiling”. This ceiling exists because of the perception that Asians are hard workers but lack the charisma and communication skills to be leaders, thus limiting their upward mobility. In order to excel beyond such limitations, he believes it is necessary to have mentors to help you grow as an individual and to become more assertive. He described his leadership style as empathetic, where introspection is key. This allows him not only to understand himself but to understand the needs and viewpoints of others. The younger generation, Mr. Kwon stated, that is able to assimilate cross-culturally will be the future leaders of tomorrow. Every person possesses the potential to become a leader, but realizing that potential is up to the individual.   

Following the lecture, students asked questions about finding one’s passion in life and how to deal with the challenges that arise from the expectations of family, friends, and society. He emphasized the importance of seeking such passion regardless of the external circumstances. He stated that because the opportunities in his life aligned with his ambitions. Even today he continues to live with the same passion and zeal for his work that he had early in his career.  

Date/Time: Wednesday, October 5, 2011/ 11:00-13:00

Place: Baekyang Hall, Yonsei University

Title: “The Korean American Dream: Finding Success in American Politics and Society”


Yul Kwon has enjoyed a diverse and successful career across technology, business, law, public policy, and media. He attended Stanford University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and received a degree in Symbolic Systems. He then attended Yale Law School, serving on the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal. He served as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, for whom he helped draft the Homeland Security Act, authored a landmark bill on nanotechnology, and organized a Congressional caucus on science and technology. He then transitioned into the business sector, first working at McKinsey & Co. as a management consultant, before joining Google’s Business Operations and Strategy group. In 2006, he became the first Asian American to win the CBS reality show, Survivor. Following Survivor, he worked as a special correspondent for CNN, co-hosted a show for the Discovery Channel, and served as Deputy Chief of the FCC’s Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau. He is now the anchor for LinkTV’s weekly news program, LinkAsia, and hosts a new series for PBS called America Revealed.