What started as a regular U of T alumni event for Jiyoung Park turned into something much, much more
U of T alumni events can be a good place to schmooze, see old friends or just relax after a day’s work. But as far as organizers are aware – no one has ever gotten engaged at one – until recently.
Max Jungho Bae, a student in the master of management and professional accounting program, surprised his girlfriend of 10 years – and dozens of fellow alumni – by dropping to one knee and proposing to her at a mixer in downtown Toronto. “Jiyoung, even though I served in the Korean army as an officer for three and a half years, you have waited for me,” he said. “Now it’s time to settle down. I love you.”
In an interview afterward, Bae said he wasn’t nervous because he had asked Jiyoung to describe her ideal marriage proposal. “I never said a public proposal,” clarified his now-fiancée, Jiyoung Park (BA 2006 Woodsworth, MA 2007). “I wanted a surprise.”
Bae made careful preparations for the big moment, collaborating with organizers to ensure that Park’s name would be the final one to be drawn in a raffle. “The last prize is a big one,” the emcee announced, before calling Park, the “winner,” to the front of the room. She was told to close her eyes as Bae made his way to the microphone.
Bae and Park first came into contact with each other in 2002 through an online forum of Yonsei University in Seoul, where Bae was studying. Park, a Yonsei alum, was living in Canada. Soon they were talking every day via instant messenger.
They didn’t actually meet until two years later, when Park got a summer internship in South Korea. At that point, they realized their bond was “real,” says Bae.
Eight months ago, Bae moved to Toronto. He paid for the ring partly through honoraria from psych experiments and got Park’s friend to suss out her ring size. Then it was just a matter of finding the right moment to propose.
The setting was far from traditional. Surrounded by spotlit ping-pong tables at the Spin Galactic club and pools of orange ping-pong balls on the floor, Bae got down on one knee and presented the ring. “Will you marry me?” In her excitement, Park reached for the ring, and Bae put it on her finger. Then she remembered to say yes.