South Korean kids spend a day getting to know U.S. soldiers
Stars and Stripes December 4, 2004
CAMP KIM, South Korea — About two dozen 10-year-olds looked impressed, and a bit relieved, Wednesday to find the U.S. soldier before them could speak Korean.
The schoolchildren had come to the United Service Organizations to practice their English and have lunch with American soldiers. They shouted out answers as Sgt. Richard Howard pointed to various parts of his uniform: Boots! Pants! Shirt!
And, of course, they had no problem finding the English word to explain how they felt a few minutes before 1 p.m.: “Hungry!”
But before the 21 children got to order lunch — from English menus with American treats such as cheeseburgers, hot dogs and French fries — they listened to Howard talk about the various jobs soldiers have in Seoul.
The children “don’t have any interaction with the military,” said Moon Chan Bae, their teacher at Seoul’s Moon Jeong Elementary School. “It’s a good opportunity to use English. And I want to give them a special memory.”
Wednesday’s visit, part of U.S. Forces Korea’s Good Neighbor Program, was the third by South Korean students since summer, said Rita Ehrman, the USO’s program manager. “The word really spread,” she said. “These are kids from a second school.”
Next week, the USO is to host several South Korean teachers as they visit Yongsan Garrison’s Seoul American Elementary School. And the USO got a call Wednesday from another Seoul school hoping to send its children for a visit.
“We’re working to do something with a Korean high school, too,” said Heeyun Lee of the USO’s community relations office.
The soldiers who came to the USO on Wednesday were volunteers who responded to a mass e-mail, Ehrman said.
Staff Sgt. Alexsandra Fajardo, who works in the mental health department at 121st General Hospital, sat with three South Korean girls in the USO’s canteen and tried to make conversation over lunch.
The girls’ eyes lit up when they heard a question they understood. They conferred with each other in a huddle. Then they turned to Fajardo with their answer.
“Ten,” they said, holding up all fingers, to show their ages.