Earlier this spring Michael Jones returned to live in his hometown of Williams Lake after living in Korea for 15 years.
Jones and his wife Jiyoung Hwang arrived in the lakecity in March and he began working for the first time in his life as a realtor.
His mom, Annette Giesbrecht, still lives in Williams Lake where for several years she ran The In Thing Hair Styling, which was later called Company of Friends.
Jones lived in Williams Lake as a child finishing elementary school but left as a teenager to live with his father, Allen Jones, in Eugene, Oregon.
“I went to middle school and high school there and attended Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, then moved to Nashville, Tennessee. I was there for about a year and then I moved to Washington, D.C. for about a year.”
In 1999, he returned to Williams Lake, working eventually with Big Brothers Big Sisters Williams Lake for Lorraine Levitt.
“I was an executive secretary, doing public relations for Lorraine,” he said.
When his contract ended with BBBS he decided to go to Korea, intending to stay for one year.
“I remember when I landed in Korea, I said ‘no, one year is not going to be enough because this is exciting,’. One year turned into two. Two turned into four. Four turned into eight and I ended up staying for almost 15 years.”
He lived primarily downtown “in the heart” of Seoul, working as a teacher at an institute, eventually getting a job at a tourism high school where he taught for three years, which segued into a job teaching tourism at a university.
“In the high school I taught kids who were looking to be cooks, flight attendants, event planners and preparation related to tourism, hotel management. Then in university I was teaching flight attendants and did that for eight years.”
In relation to teaching at the university he became involved with doing corporate training for companies such as Samsung and Korea Telecom, now KT Corporation and SK Construction.
He then began a six-year career in broadcasting with a weekly segment on a variety of different radio shows.
“In my first show I talked about psychology, and had to bring in topics such as western psychology versus Asian thinking styles.”
It was an English broadcast he said, admitting his Korean speaking capabilities depend on the topic.
“My Korean can be good in some context and if we’re talking business, sometimes it’s not.”
One of the things he’s most proud of and something he hopes to bring to Williams Lake are the skills he learned around community organizing.
“I joined Toast Masters in 2008 in Korea and I didn’t know how to give a public presentation. I was teaching, but public speaking is a little bit different. At that time in Korea there were a total of eight clubs with about 240 members total. I became so involved with it that as one of the main leaders, myself with a group of five others we led the growth and went from eight clubs in 2008 to more than 65 in 2015.
“They’ve continue to grow and are sitting at 75 now I think. In the process I learned the power of leadership, the power of community involvement and watching the power of entrepreneurship and growing something from nothing.”
Afterwards, Jones really wanted to return to Williams Lake and see how he could share some of the skills he’d learned into a way to contribute to the city and Canada even.
“Over the course of 15 years in Korea I watched and learned about how economies work, the way countries work and the way communities work and I was absolutely impressed with the way Korea and Korean people gather together to solve their economic problems,” he said.
Jones has applied at TRU to continue as an educator if possible and hopes to find ways to volunteer in the community.
Jiyoung worked for a Japanese Corporate Bank in Korea, basically a relationship manager, serving the needs of major corporations such as BMW, Volkswagen, big companies coming from Europe or North America or South America to do business, and so far loves living in Williams Lake, Jones added.
”We can afford a house,” he said. “She misses her family, but at the same time she has lived away from them before.“