ATLANTA — Taegue Park had already served honorably in the South Korean army when he came to the U.S. at age 21. Seeking a college education — the first in his family to do so — he moved to Hawaii, entered community college, began learning English and joined the U.S. Army.
“The Army teaches you resiliency, teamwork and selfless service,” Park said.
When his military service ended, he decided to seek a career as a professional in the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a state investigative agency. With no family in the U.S., he also had to find a new place to live.
An Army buddy from McDonough, Ga., with a biology degree from Georgia State suggested Park visit Georgia and look around. He also recommended Park explore the degree programs at Georgia State.
“I checked out Georgia State and was interested in its criminal justice program, so I applied,” he said. “My being in criminal justice would be a whole new experience for my immediate family in Korea.”
Park enrolled at Georgia State in 2021, at the height of the pandemic.
“Most of the classes were online, but it wasn’t that difficult if you stayed caught up,” he said. “We were responsible for checking the schedule, following the syllabus and participating in the online discussions. I learned a lot, and enjoyed the self-learning.”
He also appreciated the depth of the subjects presented.
“I learned a lot about the criminal justice system and how race affects it — racial issues, probation and parole issues,” he said.
His instructor in one course was a parole board member. At his recommendation, Park applied to the Department of Community Supervision for his internship and worked in its Lawrenceville, Ga., office.
“While there, I shadowed community supervision, learning how they interact with probationers and parolees,” he said. “I had a chance to interview a probationer. This kind of field experience really got me interested in this field.”
Before his internship ended, Park decided to apply to the department for a job.
“I’d like to go into this field because I believe all people deserve a second chance — they need opportunities to become a better person,” Park said. “Why can’t a person be given the opportunity to be a better person, father or son? I want to help these people.”
Photo by Meg Buscema