Rancho Santa Fe resident receives 2017 Ellis Island Medal of Honor


Chun Bin (Charlie) Yim, D.B.A., a Rancho Santa Fe resident and Encinitas businessman who was born in South Korea, was celebrated as one of Ellis Island Medal of Honor 2017 recipients from across the nation at a ceremony presented by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) in New York on May 13. In addition to Yim, this year’s honorees included former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, journalist Fareed Zakaria and other renowned individuals.

One of the nation’s most prestigious awards, the Medal of Honor recognizes people who have maintained the traditions of their ethnic heritage and country of birth while upholding the ideals and spirit of America. Yim, who grew up in South Korea during a tumultuous time, served as Lieutenant at the DMZ during the Korean conflict, was hired by the U.S. Peace Corps in its early days to train American volunteers headed to Korea, and immigrated to San Diego, where he furthered his education and became a self-made, successful entrepreneur who has given back to the Asian-American community and American community at large.

Having successfully navigated between cultures, Yim states, “I am a proud South Korean immigrant and an equally proud U.S. citizen. I strongly believe in the ability of cultures and countries to come together for mutual benefit. That is why I played an instrumental role in the fledgling maquiladora program in the 1980s, which created jobs in America, Mexico, Korea and Japan. And that is why I have worked unstintingly to evangelize peace and foster mutual understanding and economic prosperity between North and South Korea, and among people of diverse nationalities here in the U.S.”

Yim says, “Being at the site of Ellis Island was very moving. The Statue of Liberty represents a beacon of hope and opportunity for immigrants like me. I want people from all backgrounds to understand that they, too can succeed, if they work hard. I give motivational presentations and have written a book to provide a road map to their success.” Yim’s compelling memoir, “I Will Work for Nothing … How I Harnessed Courage, Creativity and the Spirit of an Entrepreneur to Achieve the American Dream,” is available on Amazon. It reveals how he obtained his first two jobs in the U.S. by literally offering to work for no pay – after which both employers enthusiastically hired him.

Yim has received the 2007 Asian Heritage Award, 2009 Korean Presidential Achievement Award and 2014 United States Service Achievement Award. He also received an “as American as apple pie” accolade when he was selected to throw out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball spring training game for the 2016 champion Chicago Cubs in Mesa, Arizona. His decades of successes include more than 30 businesses and 50 real estate transactions. He currently owns Encinitas-based Sierra Padre Mill Company and is a well-known philanthropist, humanitarian and keynote speaker.

Along with a lifetime of accomplishments, Yim remains a humble man with a buoyant spirit and well-honed sense of humor. He relates, “Returning home after the Ellis Island ceremony, I was stopped at the airport security checkpoint and asked by a security official what I had in my bag. I said, ‘It’s a medal.’ When he and his fellow officers opened the bag to discover the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, they congratulated me by saluting. One officer said, ‘You must be a billionaire. How come you’re not traveling in first class?’ I replied, ‘I like to be with the economy class people. They have common sense in life. I started in economy and I will never change that.’ The officers applauded me and nearby passengers clapped also. This was the most heartwarming part of my entire trip!”