Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Community Interest” May 2007.
Yoon came to the Bay Area from Seoul, Korea with his wife, Sun, and his then two-year-old daughter Diane, in 1981. Yoon had a sister in Fremont (and one in San Diego) and moved there. He got a job as a product inspector for Televideo in San Jose, which was owned by a Korean, and worked there for four years. It was a good living, but he wanted more, and started looking for a business he could own. A Korean language newspaper had a listing for Shelton Cleaners at 1417 Second Street (between School and Franklin). Another Korean was selling the business, and in 1990, Yoon became the new owner. He and his family, which now included a second daughter, Julia, moved to Napa and became the fourth Korean family at that time to live here.
Asked why he came to America in the first place, Yoon was quick to answer. “Better opportunity for my family, and a better education for my daughters.” Yoon had a good job in sales in Korea, his mother (who passed away in 2005) and brother were living there, but he said the future was too uncertain. So, with no English at the time, he moved to this country.
The first six months that Yoon owned Shelton were tough. Many customers left, unwilling to adjust to change, and Yoon wondered if he had made the right move. Sun worked at the cleaners and a graveyard shift at Napa State Hospital to make ends meet. After six months, customers began to return, and business picked up. Yoon has an easygoing manner and is quick with a smile. His work is very good, and customers like doing business with him. His reputation is good, and business is good enough that two years ago he was able to also purchase Park Place Cleaners in American Canyon.
Yoon’s daughters have lived up to their father’s hopes as well. Diane graduated from USC with a psychology degree, and now works there in the Student Research Education Department. Julia graduated from Berkeley with a degree in history, and is a middle-school teacher in Alameda.
Yoon enjoys many things typical Americans enjoy (he is a huge baseball fan, for example) but, as he and his wife discussed, something was missing. That something was citizenship.
Yoon said 9/11 had a lot to do with his decision to pursue citizenship. After that, he and Sun both noticed that people were less comfortable with minorities. His life and family are here, and this is his home. Julia is a born citizen, and the rest of the family decided it was time to begin the process to become citizens as well. Diane became a citizen two years ago, and last October, Yoon and his wife began to study for the citizenship test.
Applicants are asked ten questions, that include everything from demonstrating an understanding of the constitution, knowing who the elected leaders are at the State and Federal level, as well as knowing the national anthem and colors of the flag. A nervous Yoon took the test in January, and answered all ten questions correctly. Sun did just as well, and the two became sworn US citizens on February 5 of this year. It is a date Yoon and his family will honor every year.
For Americans born into citizenship, who don’t know any life other than this, it is easy to take all that this country has to offer for granted. For Kwang and Sun Yoon, who chose to sacrifice the life they had in their old country for the hope of a better one here, every day is a reminder of how good it is. No wonder they are proud to be US citizens.
Shelton – 1417 Second Street, Napa