WELCOME TO KOREA 101
By Cadet Kyle Hale
Part of the mission for the Korea CULP Teams is to do the Head-Start program. The program is put on by Kyungmin University which is located very near Camp Red Cloud. The Head-Start program is a very informative and short experience and is designed to familiarize U.S. personnel with Korea life, language and culture. The program lasts for three days and you are involved with it from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. everyday.
Upon arriving at the Kyungmin University on day one of Head-Start, we were given some books, a name tag, and had a “Welcome to Korea” flower pinned to our shirts. We were seated at tables while introductions were done. The introductions were followed by a short performance from a choir that sang a few songs to us. One of the songs the choir sang was “America the Beautiful.” Following the choir, were three speakers; Dr. Hong Woo-Joon, who is the founder of the Kyungmin University, Lt. Col. Dewees, and Rev. Kim Hyung-Joon. Once the three speakers were finished, Lt. Col. Blakley presented a plaque to Dr. Hong thanking him and the college for putting on the program and working with the Cadets. With the introductions finished, we moved to another room.
The first lecture of the day was given by retired Lt. Gen.l Min of the Republic of Korean (ROK) Army. He spoke very little English and delivered his whole speech in Hangul (Korean). He did use an interpreter to have his words spoken in English. Lt. Gen. Min discussed the perception on the KOR-U.S. security relations and talked about his own personal experience of working with U.S. soldiers, life under Japanese rule, and the sudden rise of South Korea after the Korean War. After his presentation, we went to lunch.
For lunch, we had a class in making tradition Korean foods. We made a dish called, “Bibimbap.” For this class, we broke down into pairs and went to a station set up by one of the Kyungmin students. I worked with Cadet Kevin Moon on cooking the marinated beef or “bulgogi.”
After our lunch, we returned to our classroom for a lecture by Dr. Choi, Sung-Ho about the alliance between the U.S. and Korean, and the history of Christianity in South Korea. During his speech, Dr. Choi briefly gave a history of Korea and moved on to discuss the formation of the ROK and U.S. Alliance.
After Dr. Choi’s lecture, we had an introduction class to writing, reading, and speaking Korean. This class was taught by Dr. Kim, Ji-Young. She began by introducing the vowel sounds, both basic and complicated, then moved on to the consonants. We got some practice with combining the sounds and writing words. Dr. Kim even had some of the students write their names on the board in Korean. Once of the people who tried writing their name was Cadet Eric Budginas, who attempted to write his last name.
On day two of Head-Start, we loaded onto the bus at 9:10 a.m. and went to The Korean War Memorial Museum. We had gone to the memorial earlier in our CULP mission and were given time to explore. During our first trip to the memorial, I never went inside the museum portion of it. With Head-Start, we were offered a guided tour of three of the rooms but some of us explored at our own pace. Overall, I found it very impressive to see just how much information the building held on a war that lasted only three years, yet shaped the countries of North and South Korea and is not covered very in-depth by most schools in the U.S.
After the tour of the War Memorial, we went to go eat lunch and then traveled to the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History. This tour was guided and covered Korean history from around he time Korea began opening its borders to Western cultures to the present day. The very last part of the museum included some speculation on the near future. Yes, Psy and “Gangnam Style” along with other big K-Pop artists were included in the museum. After the tour, we were done with Head-Start for the day.
The third and final day of Head-Start began with a second Korean language class taught again by Dr. Kim. We started the class with a review of the alphabet, combining consonants and vowels and began working with final consonants. Afterwards, we had some reading practice along with practice of numbers and other key expressions. For our next class, we moved to the first floor and into a room that smelled like sweat.
The class focused on tradition Korean Mask Dance called Talchum. The dance uses lots of shoulder movements, repetition, and has the general pattern of a circle. The teacher taught the whole class the motions then had us practice as a group and after, asked for volunteers to do the dance in costume. Cadets Blunt, B. Moon, and Styles volunteered and put on the costumes then danced for us. After the performance, we all danced together one last time. Following the dance class, we ate lunch then went back to the 10th floor classroom for a lecture by retired Col. Allan A. Banks III on life in Korea.
He encouraged us all to try all the food at least once and to take opportunities to travel at any chance we get. He himself, has tried all the food such as octopus, sea cucumber, sea squirt, and silk worms amongst other things. Col.Banks also asked us about what we like and dislike about Korea as a country and spent some time discussing language barriers. He ended by opening up the class to questions.
The last lecture of Head-Start was given by Mr. Jung-Won Lee. Mr. Lee’s lecture focused on prevention of crime and other safety guidelines to follow in Korea. He talked about the Korea Nation Police Agency (KNPA). One major difference structurally about the Korean Police, is that the KNPA is the only police in the whole country. This means every cop has jurisdiction no matter where in South Korea they are! He covered the emergency call number for Korea and after his lecture, it was time for the closing ceremony.
At the closing ceremony, there was a slideshow of our prior two days playing. Once we all were settled, they began calling up our names to receive their completion certificate from Head-Start. Master Sgt. Seo, our team leader, received a special, additional certificate for being the leader of our group! Finally, there was a speech and we were done! 🙂