SEOUL — Hyesun Kang was shy and wanted to learn how to be more outgoing.

Daniel Chong wanted to learn to be a leader.

Tricia Ro, a newcomer to South Korea and to military life, heard about the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps during freshman orientation and was just plain curious.

Different goals, same outcome: All three were among the 32 Seoul American High School students awarded college scholarships this year through the school’s JROTC program.

The cadets were offered about $4 million in college scholarships this year, not suprising for Seoul American, which consistently ranks near the top worldwide for JROTC scholarship money given.

“(The program) kind of recruits itself,” said retired Lt. Col. Don Hedgpath, who runs the Seoul American program.

He said 149 students — about 22 percent of SAHS population — participate in JROTC, including students at the top and bottom of their class.

Ro plans to go to the University of California, Los Angeles on a full Army scholarship that includes tuition, books and a monthly stipend. She turned down offers from U.C. Irvine and U.C. Berkeley, and said it’s hard to imagine where she’d be going to school if she didn’t have JROTC on her application.

“I’m sure it would have been a lot tougher had I not gone the ROTC route,” she said.

Though JROTC students face the prospect that some day they may deploy to a war zone, some SAHS students said they aren’t worried about being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

“I’m kind of mad that females can’t do infantry, because I do want to go. I don’t think that gender should matter,” said Mindy John, who accepted an Army scholarship to Oregon State University.

Hedgpath said parents of JROTC scholarship winners are probably more worried that their children may be deployed to Iraq than the students themselves.

“For most parents, it wouldn’t be natural for them not to be concerned,” he said.

Chong, who plans to study computer engineering or business management at Virginia Tech, said students often join JROTC thinking the program will be easy, then find out it’s not.

“Once they join they find out it’s a totally different thing. You have to work and know how to drill,” said Chong, whose father retired from the military two years ago. “But they kind of tend to like it later on. We give them a chance to do what they don’t usually do.”

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