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34th Support Group commander Col. Timothy McNulty, right, accepts a stack of film prints of the South Korean national anthem from Choe Young-kun, Gyeonggi Province budget and planning director.
34th Support Group commander Col. Timothy McNulty, right, accepts a stack of film prints of the South Korean national anthem from Choe Young-kun, Gyeonggi Province budget and planning director. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Base movie theaters throughout the peninsula will soon feature a double dose of national anthems before shows.

On Tuesday, representatives of Gyeonggi Province presented U.S. military officials with 30 copies of the South Korean national anthem on 35 mm film. American officials say they will add those reels to copies of “The Star-Spangled Banner” played before every film on base.

“By exposing them to the South Korean national anthem, I hope U.S. military people and their family members will have a chance to understand South Korea better and get to have an affection toward South Korea,” said Choe Young-kun, a Gyeonggi Province official who took part in the presentation.

According to Col. Timothy McNulty, Area II commander, a request for the anthem was sent out last August after Yongsan Garrison’s Multi-Purpose Training Facility was completed. That building, which has three theaters with state-of-the-art sound systems, is used for training during the day and as a multiplex showing feature films at night.

The facility was constructed using funds from the South Korean government under base infrastructure agreements; that spurred part of the request, McNulty said.

“It’s important not only because of the construction dollars but also because it’s important to show both” sides of the U.S.-South Korea partnership, he said.

The 30 copies will be distributed to base theaters throughout South Korea, McNulty said.

According to Gyeonggi officials, the Korea Broadcasting System granted special copyright authority for U.S. Forces Korea to use the films. The 67-second clip features traditional pastoral scenes of South Korea and a subtitled translation of the lyrics to “Aegug-ga,” as the anthem is known. The American anthem clips currently shown typically are accompanied by scenes of U.S. military branches in action.

Officials from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which runs most on-base theaters in South Korea, said they were not sure whether the U.S. national anthem is played before movies as part of a tradition or part of base rules. But they were almost certain no other U.S. base theater in the world plays a foreign anthem before films.

Gyeonggi officials said they were pleased — shocked, even — when they first heard of the request.

“After the tragic traffic accident that killed two middle school students, the relationship between South Korea and the United States became pretty sour,” Choe said after the presentation, referring to a 2002 incident in which two young South Korean girls were run over by a U.S. armored vehicle. “So I was happy that this might catalyze a better atmosphere.”

Tuesday’s presentation also ended with a surprise bonus: Gyeonggi Province officials offered to provide funding to replace the films as they wear out. Typically, officials said, the films can be used for about six months before deteriorating.

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