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While many children grow up with colorful toys and playing in green parks, Sun Yong Kim-Manzolini didn’t have that opportunity. Raised in an orphanage in Korea as a prisoner of war, the only family she knew was her sister.
Kim-Manzolini grew up never knowing what it meant to be free—to eat what you want, to go where you want. Being alive to see each day was a blessing. And yet, to wake up to the same life of hunger and poverty each day was also a curse that would have taken its toll on most.
At the orphanage, everything was scarce. There was only one toilet, a decent bath once a year, and just a single pair of clothes. Food, too, was limited. Most of the kids had to dig in the bin for extra food if they were hungry. In her 14 years in Korea, Kim-Manzolini had only ever eaten one apple.
“I used to dig through the garbage to eat more food,” Kim-Manzolini says, also remembering how much she wanted to try a piece of gum. “I accomplished the goal when I was 12 years old. I wanted to chew gum so bad. My friend and I went outside and we picked up a piece of chewed gum. It’s been walked on by many shoes, I’m sure.”
However, an American family adopted Kim-Manzolini when she was 14. It was a large family of 11 children, both biological and adopted. Kim-Manzolini came in a bit timid and nervous—and a bit afraid because of what she had been through without a trusting family of her own.
Adjusting to life in America, learning the new culture and language, was challenging for Kim-Manzolini. “I was homesick. And I don’t know why I was homesick because I didn’t have a family,” she recalls. “My family was all the handicapped kids that I grew up with—just friends. But I guess I really couldn’t get used to eating foods that I have never seen before.”
Before she arrived in the United States, Kim-Manzolini had suffered different kinds of domestic violence, physical abuse, mental abuse and emotional abuse. For her, life was constantly on the brink.
Years later, in America, when she would get married and have kids of her own, Kim-Manzolini suffered abuse at the hands of her partners, which led her to get counseling. In fact, it was only during one of these counseling sessions that she discovered that she had been a prisoner of war in Korea.
Kim-Manzolini became a successful, seven-figure entrepreneur who continues to live life to the fullest. She can afford to buy apples and gum and much more—she can stock her wardrobe with the best clothes money can buy. She can travel on luxury vacations with her family, no matter the price.