Ken Paik graduated from Yonsei University in Korea where his father was the president of the university for many years and stayed on as President Emeritus after retirement. Ken immigrated to America in 1963 from his native Seoul, South Korea where he enlisted in the Marines despite a privileged upbringing. He was a photographer at The Kansas City Star and Times after finishing graduate school at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia.
Paik once worked as the graphics director for newspapers in Jacksonville, Florida, and then later became the director of photography for The Evening Sun in Baltimore, Maryland. He was promoted to assistant managing editor for news at The Evening Sun and worked in that role until he left the newspaper in 1992 to be a columnist and consultant for the New York City edition of Korea Times. He won a World Press Photo award for his coverage of the first major famine in Ethiopia.
In 1982, NPPA honored him with the J. Winton Lemen Fellowship Award for outstanding service in the interests of press photography and for outstanding technical achievement in photography. As a photo editor, Ken saw to it that his staff learned from his example how to tell a story with photos and how to find the pictures within pictures.