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Survivor Cook Islands Interview: Yul Kwon

Written by Tashi from the blog Survivor Cook Islands: Interviews on 27 Nov 2007
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Yul
Last week 33-year old lawyer and computer science graduate Yul Kwon won the title of Soul Cook Islands Survivor against his series ally and competitor Ozzy Lusth.

After everything went down in the Finale I spoke to him for us to find out just how much of a nerdy McNerdison he is and see what he's wasting the million on. Here's what he had to outplay, outlast, outcrunch:

Tashi: Many congrats on winning the bucks! You obviously trained like a hooligan before going to the island.
Yul: I probably got too much in shape. I think I made a strategic error - I should have gained a lot more fat. I was always envious of Jonathan because he was about 40 pounds overweight when he went onto the show and he was never hungry and never cold - I was always trying to sleep next to him at night.

Tashi: *laughs* So you snuggled up to Jonathan. You must have been fit from before - you couldn’t get into that type of shape just suddenly before.
Yul: I was always pretty athletic but I’d been working for a while and I hadn’t been in shape for some time. When I got onto the show I figured I better get in shape so I rented as many seasons of Survivor as I could, I tried to read different books on preparation on wilderness survival and I worked out as much as I could.

Tashi: You’re such a natural Survivor - why didn’t enter the show sooner?
Yul: You know I never really had any particular desire to be on TV and the fact that I didn’t apply - I was recruited as were many of the others on the season. The reason I did is that growing up as an Asian American you don’t see a lot of Asian Americans on television - at least in the US TV and film industry - and I’ve just always thought it would be great to have more diversity and representation so when I was invited I thought it was a great opportunity to try to have more of that diversity on TV.

Tashi: How did they find you?
Yul: I think the show contacted someone who knew me and that person recommended me and they got in touch and asked if I was interested.

Tashi: Tell me more about all this recruiting that happened. They’ve never done it in such a huge way on Survivor before - did it happen ‘cos they were looking for minority people?
Yul: That would be my guess. Because they did the racial divide they obviously wanted to get more people of colour on the show - in general I think they probably had difficulty getting minorities to apply because you just generally don’t see a lot of minorities on TV. Most of the minorities I know, they generally don’t even think of it as a possibility or think they have much chance of getting on.

To their credit I think it was great to get more diversity on TV - I think our season of Survivor was probably the most diverse show on television during the year so I think that was generally a step forward. I think to get the minorities they had to do a lot more proactive effort.

Tashi: You say minorities don’t really even consider it as a possibility - is because they think they’ll be prejudiced against before they’ve tried or is it a cultural thing?
Yul: I think it’s probably a combination - it works both ways. It’s harder for minorities to be cast for roles on TV, just generally, on any film or movie - you don’t see a lot of minorities - especially Asian Americans being cast for lead roles. Because you don’t see it a lot I think it discourages people - for myself, when I was growing up, I didn’t see any Asian Americans on TV unless they were kung-fu masters so for me it was never a possibility or alternative that I considered to pursue a career in the media - so I think it works both ways.

Tashi: Did you have a strategy all planned out or did it evolve?
Yul: It definitely evolved. I hoped going into the show that I would be able to play a relatively clean game. I wanted to try to be a positive role model and I wanted to disprove the saying that nice guys finish last. I wanted to show that you don’t have be a jerk or deceive people left and right in order to get ahead. At the same time I didn’t know if that was going to be a winning strategy - in fact I thought I wasn’t gonna get very far in the game.

There were a number of times where I did have to change my strategy to accommodate changing circumstances - I think for the most part I was able to play the game that I wanted to play going into it, in fact I was quite surprised - I found out I didn’t have to have two different me’s to how I am in real life in order to win.

Tashi: Was there any moment in the 39 days where you weren’t crunching numbers or thinking about the next move?
Yul: *laughs* There were definitely times when I was thinking about what my next meal was gonna be when I got home. For the most part I think I played a pretty disciplined game - I think it’s hard to keep your mind focused for a long time under conditions of such duress - one of the advantages that I had was that I was able to stay focused. When playing usually it all gets to be too much and people start losing - you know they start acting out emotionally and say things they shouldn’t say - it was really tough but I kept my head together and I think that’s what helped me win.

Tashi: Do you think you used Becky to win?
Yul: I think we definitely relied on each other very much. The honest truth is that I would have been delighted if she’d won - early on I think we established why we were there and what we wanted going forward. Becky’s been a non-profit attorney her whole career and she’s always worked to help victims of domestic violence and after the show she started a non-profit to help battered women so I think from my perspective, and both of our perspectives, we would have been really happy if either of us had won. I think because we trusted each other we were really able to help each other to get further in the game than if we’d worked individually.

Tashi: I had such a laugh - there was one scene where you were strategizing with her and you were going: “And we’ll do this …” and then it changed to: “And then I’ll do that to get to the end,” and she was going: “Yes, yes.” She obviously wanted you to win much more than herself.
Yul: *laughs* There was a lot of editing. The part they didn’t show was that right before that I was telling Becky her strategy for how she could win and how I could help her win. We spent a lot time talking strategy and how each of us could get to the win.

Tashi: The only move you made that I didn’t agree with was giving Poverty and Adam the satisfaction of voting Jonathan out before them. Why did you do that?
Yul: Actually I think that was probably the move that won me the game. Parvati and Adam told me that if they were eliminated from the game before Jonathan they’d vote for Ozzie at the end and they would try to get everyone else to vote for Ozzie as well so I didn’t have a shot of winning the game.

The deal I made with them was: “Look if I boot Jonathan before you will you vote for me?” and they both said yes. As it turned out Parvati didn’t honour that agreement but Adam did and he ended up becoming the deciding vote.

Tashi: What was your take on Jonathan - they went on about how you didn’t like him etc.
Yul: Jonathan's an interesting guy - I felt a strong bond with him and I was really surprised and hurt when he mutinied on us. I thought that I kind of understood him and that we had a bond - in fact during most of the game I was almost defending him because everyone thought - for whatever reason - he was playing too hard and wasn’t trustworthy and for myself I didn’t see it.

After the mutiny I thought to myself: "I was completely mistaken, he’s not a trustworthy guy," but afterwards when we reunited into a single tribe I asked why he did it and he said he felt he had no choice because Candice had mutinied and he had to go along with the numbers. Subsequent to that we’ve gotten to be friends - I think he made some decisions based on lack of information. He didn’t know that I had the Idol - I don’t see him as being a weasly backstabbing type person, I think in his real life he’s probably not like that at all.

Tashi: Which jury question did you find the toughest?
Yul: Candice’s question to answer yes or no. I forget it exactl: “Did you shamefully manipulate or pander to get votes on the jury?” - something like that. The way she phrased it was difficult to swallow. I knew if I said “No,” I would lose her vote on the jury because she was looking for honesty for me, but the way she phrased it - “Did you shamelessly…?” I knew if I said “Yes” it would seem I’d somehow acted dishonourably. That was tough.

Tashi: What have you done with the cash?
Yul: The biggest expenditure I’ve made is contributions to different charities that I feel strongly about. Besides that I haven’t done much with it. I don’t want to use the money frivolously or squander it. There’s a rumour going around that I used it to buy a Lamborghini.

Tashi: Oh and now you’re hiding it so no-one can see it.
Yul: Well I did get a car but I just bought my brothers Honda Accorde that’s done 500 miles and I’m very happy with it. I feel like winning Survivor gives you such a great opportunity to try to be a good role model. I feel like previous winners haven’t been good role models - like Richard Hatch’s in jail for tax evasion and another one got arrested for spousal abuse and that makes me sad because we have such a great opportunity to reach out to a lot of people to do positive things.

Tashi: What are you up to now?
Yul: Most of my time’s spent doing charity work - going around trying to raise awareness for the need for more bone marrow donors to try to fight leaukemia, try to raise funds for leaukemia. My best friend in college died from leaukemia because he couldn’t find a bone marrow transplant - I’ve always been involved in charity work and I feel like I have such a great platform for trying to build awareness for the cause so I’ve been trying to do as much as I can.

Tashi: Are you working a regular job too?
Yul: No, fortunately I have some amount of financial freedom now to do the do-gooder stuff without having to worry about finances too much so I haven’t gone back to a regular job. A lot of doors have opened up to me in a lot of different interesting directions so fortunately I’m not in a position where I have to go back and make any more Power Point plays. It just all came out of the blue and into my lap - I feel incredibly lucky - that I don’t have to worry too much about how I’m going to earn money and I want to do something positive with that.

Ends



9 Comments

Renegade
26 Nov 2007 23:48

Nice one Tashi, thanks. Tell me though, when was this season of survivor done? More than a year ago I'm guessing?

Toxic
27 Nov 2007 01:05

It's so easy to hang on to every word he says----i could almost hear him speak. Thanks Tashi!!

Xhosa Chick
27 Nov 2007 02:20

Ncooooh, I just love Yul! Thanks Tashi.

six
27 Nov 2007 03:34

Great interview Tashi.  He comes across in his interview exactly how he represented himself on the show.  An awesome guy.  A extremely worthy winner.  Go Yul!!!  (And his gorge six-pack!!)

Prawn
27 Nov 2007 03:35

He sounds too good to be true - like really an awesome guy.

Enjoyed hearing how they also discussed how Becky could win it, it was editing that made it look otherwise!

Shirmell
27 Nov 2007 06:28

I take it Yul hasn't found himself a wife yet? He did mention that his mom wanted him to get married. I really like this guy, he's comes across so genuine on and off the show, a worthy winner indeed!

Xhosa Chick
27 Nov 2007 09:09

Love you Yul :) 
Can I help you spend your money? ...

LingoFingo
27 Nov 2007 09:42

Renegade, the finale of this season aired almost a year ago (Dec. 2006).  I'd guess that the island part was filmed in the summer of 2006.

Renegade
29 Nov 2007 06:32

Thanks LingoFingo, then i guess we not as far behind as i thought.


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