Who is Chang K. Park? As the founder of URC (formerly Universal Remote Control) 25 years ago, he’s an icon in home technology, yet so few people know him. For that reason, I applaud CEDIA for honoring Mr. Park with the organization’s highest honor, the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Traditionally, CEDIA recognizes leaders who are … recognizable. But Mr. Park is a quiet man who runs a good company and enjoys mingling with customers.
Five years ago, I joined a few members of the press for one of the first URC Total Control dealer trainings. One day, Mr. Park came in and spoke for about 15 minutes … very quietly but with such great passion that nobody so much as glanced at their cell phones. You could tell he appreciated everybody in that room, from the trainers to the dealers to us lowly reporters. He was truly grateful that each of us had taken the time – had made such a sacrifice – to bless URC with our presence.
It’s that humility that makes Mr. Park such a wonderful choice for the CEDIA award. But it’s all the more remarkable since he built one of the seminal businesses in the home-technology industry.
As CEDIA says of the visionary: Mr. Park “foresaw the birth of the ‘home theater’ in America and changed the course of control by expanding his company beyond producing remote controls for subscription broadcast providers and many of the world's most recognized brands to sophisticated RF remotes and control devices for the custom installation industry.”
I asked CEDIA chairman Dennis Erskine how it was that the organization selected such an unassuming man for the Lifetime Achievement Award, when most of the past winners were quite visible and especially active in CEDIA.
“It was one of those things where someone mentions a name and you have that ‘aha’ moment,” he tells me. “He’s a genuine person who is quiet, unassuming and one heck of a philanthropist. And you look back at the start of URC and what he’s done over the years and you think, ‘Why hasn’t he bubbled up in the past?’”
Chang K. Park, the Philanthropist
I have been fortunate enough to share many meals and conversations with Mr. Park over the years. Born in Korea, he tells of how he came to the U.S. as a kid after the war, all alone, speaking no English, and living on the $200 he was fortunate to have arrived with. His mother had sewn half of the money into Mr. Park’s shorts to skirt restrictions on currency exports.
Eventually, Mr. Park entered a top engineering college, Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech), failed out of chemistry in his first semester because of his difficulty with the language, and graduated five years later. He went on to graduate with an MBA from Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
He gave the commencement speech at Michigan Tech in 2011, telling recent grads:
So if there are any graduates here today who were in the same predicament as I was in their first semester, don’t be discouraged. You will do all right. In fact, you will do very well in life. You managed to survive against such great odds at Michigan Tech that whatever challenges life brings to you from now on will be a piece of cake.
When you speak with Mr. Park, he will tell you how proud he is to live in this great country, and how important it is that every American has a voice, and that elected officials are held accountable to the people.
As such, he is a member of the National Governing Board of Common Cause, a public interest organization “dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.”
In his commencement speech, Mr. Park urged students, “Keep your faith in what our system can be and participate in the political process that affects us all. If you opt out, we may end up where we do not want to be as a society.”
No truer words!
In addition to his involvement with Common Cause, Mr. Park chairs the Chang K. Park Foundation, an organization that supports human rights, the elimination of poverty and hunger, the implementation of political reform and economic justice.
And I’ll close with this advice from Mr. Park from his commencement address:
Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and face new challenges. You will be amazed to discover the vast pool of untapped talents that you never knew you had within you as you struggle to overcome the challenges. This is how we all grow in our life.
I’m proud to call Mr. Park a friend and pleased that CEDIA recognizes his accomplishments and his spirit.
He will be recognized at the CEDIA Opening Keynote on Wednesday, Sept., 14.