The series' first Asian-American winner, Yul was best known for his role as the chief strategist of the improbably successful Aitu Four alliance, which overcame a daunting numerical disadvantage to sweep the Final Four. Yul played a key role in this reversal when he used his Hidden Immunity Idol to gain Jonathan Penner's allegiance. His social equanimity and keen strategic mindset earned him the title of Sole Survivor in a close 5-4-0 vote.
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Yul Kwon was born in Queens, New York to parents who emigrated from South Korea. The family moved to the West Coast when he was six years old and he was raised in Concord, California. He attended high school at Northgate High in Walnut Creek, California, where he played varsity water polo and track and graduated valedictorian.
Kwon then attended Stanford University and obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in symbolic systems (theoretical computer science). While at Stanford, he received the James Lyons Award for Service, attended officer candidates school for the U.S. Marine Corps and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Kwon went on to receive his Juris Doctor Degree from Yale Law School, where he served on the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal.
Kwon has enjoyed a diverse career straddling both the private and public sectors in law, business and technology. He practiced a mix of litigation, appellate, transactional and regulatory work at several law firms. He also served as a judicial clerk to a federal judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Additionally, he worked as a legislative aide to Senator Joseph Lieberman in Washington, D.C., where he helped draft sections of the Homeland Security Bill and other technology-related legislation. Several years ago, Kwon decided to switch careers and become a management consultant at McKinsey. From there, he joined Google's business strategy group and most recently went back into consulting.
Kwon's favorite hobbies include politics, boxing, ultimate fighting and volunteering with kids. He describes himself as idealistic, compassionate and ambitious. He became passionate about creating awareness for more minority bone marrow donors in the U.S. after launching a major search to find a match for his best friend who was diagnosed with leukemia, but ultimately succumbed to the disease.
Kwon is a member of the Washington, D.C. and California State Bar Associations. He is also a member of the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity.
Kwon currently resides in San Mateo, California. His birth date is February 14, 1975.
Yul Kwon began the competition as part of the green Puka Puka (nicknamed "Puka") tribe, which was entirely comprised of Asian-Americans. When the tribes marooned off the Cook Islands, the four racially divided tribes scoured the ship for supplies. Frantic as everybody, Yul got distracted by all the commotion, causing the chicken he was holding to escape, only to end up in the hands from another contestant, Jonathan Penner.
Four to five days in, Kwon immediately began a friendly bond with tribemate Becky Lee, which would eventually blossom as a formidable alliance of two, while slightly became distant to another tribemate, Cao Boi Bui, whose "Asian jokes" silently aggravated the other tribe members, Jenny Guzon-Bae and Brad Virata. Any strategies within Puka Puka were put on hold, as the green tribe won two consecutive Reward/Immunity Challenges. On Day 5, Yul was sent to Exile Island, where he solved the clues to a broken compass, which was revealed as the Hidden Immunity Idol, giving him a high degree of power.
When the four tribes became two on Day 7, Yul, Becky, and Cao Boi were transferred to the new Aitutaki tribe, along with members from the other three original tribes. Yul bought time to expand his alliance, adding former Rarotonga members Jonathan Penner, who happened to be the only other person to be sent to Exile Island at the time, and Candice Woodcock. After losing the subsequent Immunity Challenge, an added twist that sent Candice to Exile Island ruined Yul's plans to take his new alliance in motion. To make up for Candice's absence, Yul improvised by convincing Cao Boi and Jessica Smith to eliminate Cecilia Mansilla. The new Aitutaki tribe later enjoyed a lengthy winning streak, winning four of the next five challenges.
After a double elimination twist that would forcibly send "Aitu" to Tribal Council, Yul was approached by Cao Boi, who presented a plan which he called "Plan Voodoo." The salon owner speculated two things: 1.) Jonathan had the Hidden Immunity Idol; and 2.) there is a budding "Whites' Alliance" once the Caucasian contestants are reunited at the merge. As a solution, Cao Boi proposed that the vote should end up a 3-3 tie between Candice and Jonathan to nullify any power obtained by playing the idol. While oblivious of the fact that Yul was the true owner of the idol, this, and his eccentric personality caused Cao Boi's "Plan Voodoo" to backfire, sending him home and keeping Yul's alliance intact. When Rarotonga finally broke Aitutaki's winning streak, Yul joined in sending Jessica home for being an alliance outsider.
On Day 20, the castaways were given the chance to mutiny. Candice and Jonathan took the opportunity, leaving only himself, Becky, Sundra Oakley, and Ozzy Lusth, who was the next intended target. Despite the numbers disadvantage, the Aitu Four rallied together and won the remaining challenges and would punish Candice at every opportunity by sending her to Exile Island for her betrayal. The Aitu Four would enter the merge with five Raros and needing someone to flip, Yul turn towards Jonathan to flip back to Aitu. After showing him the Hidden Immunity Idol, Jonathan agreed and would like to vote off Nate Gonzalez instead, trusting him the least. Yul agreed and Jonathan flipped to the Aitu side, resulting in Nate being blindsided.
After the remaining Raros, including Jonathan, were voted out, Yul was in the final four, with his alliance. On Day 38, A Tree Mail stated to perform the Rites of Passage and proceed to the Final Immunity Challenge. Confused by this, Jeff revealed that this season will feature a Final Three for the first time at Final Tribal Council instead of the usual Final Two. Although unable to win immunity, his Immunity Idol kept him safe. He offered the idol to Becky, but she rejected it stating it is only fair to enter a tiebreaker between Becky and Sundra after all they've been through.
In the end, Yul was declared the Sole Survivor for his brilliant strategy and excellent social game over Ozzy's dominance in challenges in a 5-4-0 jury vote.
At the Live Reunion Show, Yul lost to Ozzy for most popular contestant of the season, with the latter winning a car.
|Yul's Voting History|
| Voted Against|
|1||Puka Puka Tribe Immune|
|2||Puka Puka Tribe Immune|
|4||Aitutaki Tribe Immune|
|5||Aitutaki Tribe Immune|
|9||Aitutaki Tribe Immune|
|10||Aitutaki Tribe Immune|
|11||Nate|| Adam, Candice,|
| Jury Votes|
| Adam, Brad, Candice,|
|Sole Survivor, Day 39|
- In 2012, Yul hosted America Revealed, a show on PBS that explains how America gets its energy. Yul also began to appear in Korean dramas in acting roles in that year.
- Kwon made several notable lists in 2006/2007, including People Magazine's Sexiest Men Alive, People Magazine's Hottest Bachelors, and Extra TV's Most Eligible Bachelors. He was profiled in VIBE Magazine's "Juice" issue as part of the New Power Generation, consisting of people who will shape the future. An online poll by Entertainment Weekly also found Kwon to be the favorite Survivor winner among its readers.
- In 2009, Yul married Sophie Tan, a Taiwanese-American. Their first daughter, Genevie, was born in September 2010.
- In February 2013, their second daughter, Kaylin, was born.
- In summer of 2009, Yul, along with the other first eighteen Survivor winners, appeared on a TVGuide special "Survivor Millionaires: Where Are They Now?"
- Yul currently works as head of Facebook's privacy program.
- Yul was the only person in Survivor: Cook Islands to be exiled and not be a member of the original Rarotonga tribe.
- He was also the only person to be exiled once as the others sent to Exile Island were exiled at least three times each.
- Yul is the first castaway to find the Hidden Immunity Idol and win the game.
- Yul is the first and only Survivor contestant to reach Day 39 without ever being in danger of being voted out. Yul's original tribe won the two Immunity Challenges it competed in, after which Yul found the Hidden Immunity Idol, which he held until Day 38. This feat is unlikely to be repeated due to the format change of the idol's usage the following season.
- Yul is the first contestant to secure a seat at the Final Tribal Council before Day 38 - because of the aforementioned circumstances, following Adam's elimination at Tribal Council on Day 37, Yul was guaranteed to be in the finals as long as he did not relinquish his Hidden Immunity Idol. He would be followed by Michele Fitzgerald.
- Yul is the first Asian-American to reach the Final Tribal Council. He was immediately followed by Becky Lee, who won a tiebreaker on Day 38.
- Yul was the first man to reach the Final Tribal Council without winning an individual Immunity Challenge, and subsequently the first man to win in such circumstances.
- Yul is the first Sole Survivor to have the same number of votes against as the amount of jury votes for.
- Yul is the first Sole Survivor to win against two finalists, as he was in the first Final Three in the show's history.
- Yul is the first Asian-American Sole Survivor. He was followed by Natalie Anderson.
|Sole Survivor Titleholder|
| Succeeded by|
|Survivor: Cook Islands Castaways|