[K PEOPLE] Challenge of “Airport King” doesn’t stop

Interview with Yoo Jae-song, chairman of “JDDA Group,” which operates 16 U.S. airport stores

50 years ago, he went to America as an agricultural trainee…Raise the largest cleaning company in the US

Entering the airport business through high barriers…$60 million in annual sales

Despite numerous donations, he claims to be a “shadow”…”Always God First”


Born in Gamgok-myeon, Jeongeup-gun, Jeollabuk-do, famous for rice farming and pepper cultivation, the young man studied in Jeonju, a “big city,” and graduated from prestigious Jeonju North Middle School and Jeonju High School. He envied my friends who went to prestigious universities after graduating from high school, but he had a higher dream. It was to immigrate to the United States and succeed. For a young man who was not afraid to pursue new things, Korea was too small a land.

Yoo Jae-song, a 25-year-old young man who graduated from college after three years of military service, caught his eyes when he saw a notice titled “Recruitment of Government-funded U.S. Agricultural Trainees” introduced in a newspaperl. Although he grew up in a rural area, he had never done farming before, but he had a hunch that he would not be able to go to the United States if he missed this opportunity. Although he was on the verge of falling out due to his lack of farming experience, he managed to participate in a training program at the University of Missouri in the U.S. with the help of a senior from Gamgok-myeon, who works as a newspaper reporter. It was only possible 50 years ago, and senior reporter Kim Won-ki would serve as chairman of the National Assembly 26 years later.

The young man arrived in Abilene, Kansas, on August 15, when the shooting of the late First Lady Yuk Young-soo took place. A white couple talked to him at a grocery store while he was learning English. “I have daughters from Korea at my house, so why don’t you come and eat ice cream?” The word “daughters from Korea” was strange, but he followed them without any doubt because he missed people. He was shocked at the couple’s home, where he arrived by car. This is because a couple with a teenage daughter and a son adopted and raised two young Korean girls. The Korean way of thinking of “family is the same blood” was incomprehensible, and it was surprising to adopt two children who were completely unknown in faraway Korea.

The young man, who started attending the Methodist Church where they attended at the recommendation of the couple, observed the Lord’s Day because he liked the food provided by the church and the friendship at the couple’s house. However, it could have been more curious about “God,” who gave the couple the heart to adopt a child from a war-torn country. A hymn called His Name is Wonderful, which he sang every Sunday service, suddenly grabbed the heart of young Yoo Jae-song one day and was baptized in March 1975. Forty-eight years later, the same tears were in the eyes of Chairman Yoo Jae-song in his 70s, who met with me and explained his impression at the time.

The 27-year-old man, who moved to San Antonio, Texas after completing his training, meets his wife Yoo Ok-ju at the introduction of local Korean church members and marries her. My father sent me to study more in the U.S. to make a newlywed living. Later, he moved to Houston with his married wife “because she has a pretty face” and started the so-called “stock” job of displaying goods there for a minimum wage of $3.25 an hour. The young man, who didn’t want to settle for reality, began to learn cleaning work part-time, visited the local manager of the “7 Eleven” convenience store, where he worked as a clerk, and boldly demanded, “I can’t live with the clerk’s wages, so let me work as a supervisor.”

The local manager, who dismissed the request at once, contacted him again two weeks later and left him as the supervisor of the crime-ridden area. This was because the previous supervisor was kidnapped by robbers and wrote his resignation. It has always been a target of crime because it was to collect sales from 10 stores every day and deposit them into banks. However, the young man, who does taekwondo and judo, swung a bag containing money to suspicious people waiting in front of the store and relaxed, saying, “If you want to take it, take it.” This courage and courage became the driving force behind the transformation of young Yoo Jae-song into a businessman Yoo Jae-song.

◇ a monthly cleaning check of $550,000A large check model frame was hung in Chairman Yoo Jae-song’s Houston JDDA Group office, which we visited on the 17th. This is a check for $554,534.06 issued by Westinghouse on January 30, 1995. Chairman Yoo said, “I received it for the first month of cleaning at the Westinghouse Nuclear Power Plant located on the coast of the Savannah River near Georgia.” Houston Building Service (HBS), which was operated by Chairman Yoo, won $550,000 in cleaning services per month.

The service contract for the plant lasted 10 years, and the contract alone earned HBS more than $50 million. The company, which was founded in 1980 and failed to meet a monthly contract of 10,000 dollars, won the largest contract in the U.S. in 15 years, making it a hot topic in the industry. Chairman Yoo said, “Through careful management and cost reduction, we have won contracts from oil refineries such as Shell, Exxon, Texaco, and Chevron, and orders from major mainstream companies such as Dupont, Dow Chemical, Walmart, and Enron High-rise continued.”

In particular, it has gained a reputation as a “guarantee check” in the cleaning industry as it is also in charge of cleaning nuclear power plants and nuclear waste disposal sites in New Mexico, which require the best technology and security. Chairman Yoo introduced, “1800 employees provided comprehensive services across six states, including Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina and Louisiana.”

Chairman Yoo sold HBS, one of the largest Korean cleaning companies in the U.S., to a competitor in February 2016. It was to challenge a new business called Airport Concession in earnest. Chairman Yoo, who founded the JDDA Foundation, a non-profit foundation after the sale of HBS, promoted the invitation of soprano Jo Su-mi as his first business. Chairman Yoo said, “I set a goal to invite Cho Soo-mi, but the manager answered that the schedule was full for the next year,” adding, “But I didn’t give up and called her for six months to ask if there was a canceled performance.” Thanks to Chairman Yoo’s persistence, Cho Soo-mi fans in Texas and Georgia were presented with high-quality performances in November 2016.

◇ to open at the airport where one was cleaning up one’s clerk’s shop

The owner of an airport restaurant management company asked Yoo, who was in charge of cleaning restaurants at Terminal C at George Bush International Airport in Houston 20 years ago. He asked Chairman Yoo, “I think you are close to Mayor Houston and city council members, so can you help us extend our contract with only two years left?” Chairman Yoo made a lunch appointment with the city councilor in charge, and at the meeting, the city councilor told the management owner, “We will extend your contract just because Jason (Chairman Yoo’s English name) asked me to extend it.” It was a moment when the efforts of mayors and city councilors to help campaign in each election to win cleaning services from large liquor companies shone.

And, the owner of the company, which manages 20 restaurants in the airport, surprisingly immediately offered Chairman Yoo to “take over my company.” The sale price is $2 million, but the owner’s finance will be provided if he brings $100,000. He extended the contract right away, but he was tired of having to extend the contract again every time any mayor changed. Chairman Yoo immediately bought the company after reading the future of the airport business and extended the contract for 10 years to run the airport restaurant management business. The company’s job was to collect rent from restaurants in the airport, pay them to the city government, and receive a 5% commission.

At the end of the management contract, Chairman Yoo decided that it was much more advantageous to operate the restaurant store himself, so he participated in bidding whenever a new store was released. The number of stores increased one by one to 16 including nine at Houston’s George Bush International Airport, two at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and five at LA International Airport. The operating stores are also focused on Cash Cow brands, including two Chick-Fil-A and four Panda Express stores, and 7-Eleven stores, where he worked as clerks, were also opened at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

Chairman Yoo said, “If you open the lid of the airport business, it is still a white-oriented ‘interpersonal’ network, so it is very difficult for other races to participate,” adding, “It is not easy for Koreans to overcome these barriers, but we were able to increase their stores.” Annual sales of 16 stores operated by JDDA Group amount to $60 million.

◇ You don’t know what your right hand is doing…”Shadow donation king.”

Few Koreans know that Chairman Yoo Jae-song’s name is engraved in the Houston Police Department building and the Houston Museum. he donated $50,000 to the Asian Society, which was established to improve Asian rights and interests, and he is the first to deliver tens of thousands of dollars in cash and goods in the event of various disasters. Chairman Yoo, who happened to see a report on TV news in the evening of 2021, that a police officer was shot and killed by a robber, sent a $10,000 check to the Houston police chief, asking him to deliver it to the bereaved family.

He also donated the most money to the Korean community to help Ukrainian refugees and aid victims of the earthquake in Turkey, but his good deeds did not appear in any reports. Chairman Yoo said, “It is God’s blessing to immigrate to Texas, the largest land in the U.S., to work healthily, raise children, and live a comfortable life afterwards,” and explained, “A person’s name should not be highlighted just because he has donated money.”

Chairman Yoo, who was the first Korean to serve as the president of the Presbyterian Church in America(PCA) in South Texas, plans to visit the Abilene Methodist Church in Kansas, where he was baptized 48 years ago, with his wife Yoo Ok-ju on the 26th. The church has said that it will have time to prepare Chairman Yoo’s testimony and listen to the faith and God’s blessings that have been kept for life.

Chairman Yoo said, “I don’t have much to brag about, but I’m proud that I haven’t given up under any circumstances and challenged new things with a positive mind,” and added, “The challenge to complete the mission given by God is not over yet.”

Paul Lee, Managing Editor

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