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TAEGU, South Korea — When Staff Sgt. James Thomas was on a U.S. liaison team working with the South Korean Army a few years ago, the South Koreans would show movies on Friday nights to boost troops’ morale.

But they’d also invite the Americans, who took to calling it “Foreign Friday” because most of the films were from outside South Korea — from France, Italy and elsewhere, with subtitles.

But from the Korean films in the mix, the Americans soon found they were picking up insights into Korean culture and history.

It also gave them lots to talk about the next day with their South Korean counterparts, especially the KATUSA soldiers, South Korean troops assigned to the U.S. Army.

“What better way to understand someone’s culture than to watch their movies,” said Thomas, now sergeant-in-charge of the 19th Theater Support Command’s G-3 training section at Camp Henry, Taegu.

“We would go over there with our KAT-USAs and the U.S. and watch this movie, and the next day, we’d be like, ‘Hey, why did they do that? Did you see that? Oh man, that was hilarious.’ And it just opened up a lot of people’s eyes about Korean culture.”

That’s why the entire 19th TSC is being invited to go to the movies.

To help soldiers and others in the U.S. military community gain insights into Korean culture, the command is starting the “Dinner and a Movie” program. Once a month, beginning Jan. 17, a Korean movie with English subtitles will be shown in an Evergreen Club dining room at Camp Walker.

It’s part of a larger, ongoing effort by the unit to foster good relations with the South Korean public, said Maj. Andrew Mutter, 19th TSC spokesman. It’s open to all U.S. military community members and their guests. The movies, set to start at 7 p.m., will be free; dinner isn’t required, Mutter said.

“We want to give the military community an opportunity to come out, enjoy a meal at the Evergreen.” Mutter said. “Watching a Korean movie will give us a different perspective of how Koreans feel the emotions that are portrayed in the movie, and the education on different aspects of Korean culture.”

Maj. Scott Husing is assistant intelligence officer with the 19th TSC. He sees “Dinner and a Movie” as “a vehicle to foster greater understanding of the culture in which we live — we being military folks … whenever you have an opportunity to foster greater understanding of a culture, that gives you a little more opportunity to understand where they’re coming from, and it breeds tolerance.”

Husing plans to take his wife. “It’s just a comfortable night out,” Mutter said. “Enjoy a dinner, and view a movie that you might not view, that’s probably not available in the Camp Walker video store.”

More showings

SEOUL — The South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in conjunction with Seoul Selection, will show Korean films with English subtitles in Seoul, officials announced.

The program began Saturday at Kumho Recital Hall, Sagan-dong, Jongno-gu. There are 171 seats available. “Joint Security Area” will be shown at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday. Tickets are 5,000 won (about $4).

To get there: Take subway line No. 3 and exit at Anguk Station. Take Exit No. 1.

Call 734-9565 (comm) for more information.

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