News & Stories

Breaking Boards for YNHCH

May 10, 2024

Little Ian — shown here with his parents Gunsoo and Seung Min — has had two open heart surgeries to repair
a congenital heart defect.

Taekwondo, the ancient martial art, has shaped every aspect of Gunsoo’s life. He began training and competing as a small child in South Korea, eventually becoming a Korean National Champion. He came to the U.S. because the University of Bridgeport — one of only a few schools to offer a bachelor’s degree in martial arts — offered him a scholarship. And he chose his profession as a Taekwondo Master and teacher because he wanted to share his love of the ancient martial art.

So it’s no surprise that when Gunsoo was looking for a way to raise funds for the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, he turned to Taekwondo.

Gunsoo’s very personal reason for giving

Gunsoo had the most compelling reason you could imagine to support YNHCH — our cardiologists saved his newborn baby’s life.

Gunsoo and Seung Min, a fellow student, married in 2019 and the couple were overjoyed when Seung Min became pregnant a few years later. Gunsoo remembers the first ultrasound at Seung Min’s three-month checkup. “I was joking around, suggesting funny names for the baby,” he says.

The joking stopped abruptly when the doctor told Gunsoo and Seung Min that something appeared to be wrong with the baby’s heart. A cardiologist soon diagnosed a rare, serious congenital condition called Tetralogy of Fallot.

A baby born with this condition has four different structural heart problems that cause altered blood flow through the heart and body. Gunsoo and Seung Min were told their baby would need open-heart surgery shortly after birth to repair his heart.

The parents-to-be were devastated. “Ian was our first child,” Gunsoo says. “We were so young, so shocked.” The fact that their families were far away in Korea made it even more difficult.

Ian was born on June 4, 2022. Seven anxious months went by before his medical team decided the time was right for the surgery in January 2023. Since then, he’s had another open-heart surgery and two more procedures to repair his heart. Today he is healthy and strong. Gunsoo was so grateful, he wanted to find a way to give back.

Kicking and punching for dollars

Gunsoo thought back to long days in the PCICU (pediatric cardiac intensive care unit) at YNHCH during Ian’s surgery and recovery. “We were lucky — with our flexible schedules we were able to be with Ian all day,” he says. “We felt very sad that many parents were working so hard to pay their medical bills that they barely had time to spend with their baby. I wanted to help those families.”

Last February, Master Gunsoo held a Valentine’s Day Parents Night Out at his studio, World Taekwondo Monroe. He raised $1,180 — and every penny went to YNHCH.

And in November, Master Gunsoo and Master KJ (his mentor and business partner), held an event called Breaking for Miracles to raise even more for YNHCH. For every five-dollar donation, a child got the opportunity to use their taekwondo skills to break a board with a punch or a kick. In just two hours, the event raised $3,150! And Masters KJ and Gunsoo matched it to bring the total gift to $6,300!

Thank you, Gunsoo, Seung Min, and Ian for your creative generosity!