Ilhan New was born in Pyongyang, North Korea in 1895. He and his family of nine brothers and sisters emigrated to the United States when Ilhan was nine. A good student, Ilhan eventually attended the University of Michigan where he graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Commerce. He teamed with a friend, Detroit grocer Wally Smith, to package and sell mung beans. The pair founded La Choy in 1922, with soy sauce, kumquats, water chestnuts, brown sauce, bamboo shoots, and chow mein noodles soon following their initial bean product.
In 1930, Ilhan returned to his native Korea, leaving Smith to run the thriving company. La Choy expanded under Smith’s command, and he successfully ran the company until his untimely death from a lightning strike in 1937.
Meanwhile, Ilhan founded the Yuhan Corporation in Korea. The fledgling pharmaceutical company was traded on the Korean stock exchange, the first time for a company in that industry. Ilhan pioneered a profit-sharing program among employees, unheard of at the time.
When he passed away in 1971 at the age of 76, Ilhan donated his accumulated wealth to the Korean Society and Education Aid Trust Fund, a public foundation. Yuhan Corporation remains one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in South Korea.