South Korean students get a taste of U.S. life at Camp Walker
January 25, 2006
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — When Lee Jung-ho got a tour of an American soldier’s barracks in South Korea last week, he also got new insight into the U.S. and its military.
“I think it is the first experience for us to meet and hang out with the soldiers and talk,” said Lee, one of 20 South Korean university students who toured Camp Walker in Daegu last Friday for a look at life behind the walls of a U.S. military installation.
The students were American studies majors and the tour was part of a three-day academic conference they put together with help from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. It was titled the “2006 U.S. Studies Camp: U.S. Studies for the 21st Century.”
It ran Jan. 19-21, with most of the activity held at Keimyung University in Daegu. Five students from Pyeongtaek University, nine from Daejin University near Uijeongbu, and six from Keimyung took part in the conference.
Lee, 28, a Daejin senior, served in the South Korean army from 1999 to 2001. He said the camp visit showed him that American soldiers and their KATUSA counterparts — South Korean soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army — live in a less restrictive environment than South Korean soldiers do.
“Camp Walker is very splendid,” Lee said. “And I’m very shocked because it’s very different from the Korean army’s life.”
Several of the students approached the U.S. Embassy’s public affairs section last October and asked “for a small grant from the embassy” and other help in setting up the conference, said John Choi, assistant regional program officer at the embassy.
“One of the major goals of the U.S. embassy is to provide factual, objective information about the U.S., in all its complexity,” Choi said. “And one way to achieve that goal is to promote U.S. studies in Korea.”
Lee said the students organized the discussions and other sessions around three key questions: What is the proper definition of American studies? What are the reasons for pursuing American studies? What opportunities exist for South Koreans who have majored in American studies to find jobs and otherwise apply their knowledge in South Korea?
The two-hour Camp Walker visit began around 4 p.m. with a look at two barracks rooms, one assigned to a U.S. soldier, the other to a KATUSA.
“They really liked how the American soldiers decorated their room, the freedom they have to put anything tasteful up on their walls,” said Kevin Jackson, spokesman for the Army’s Area IV Support Activity in Daegu.
The students also visited the Child and Youth Services Center and the Community Activities Center and had a meal at an Army dining hall.
Last week’s program was “important,” Choi said, “because not only are these really self-made leaders within the U.S. studies community. They’re going to be tomorrow’s leaders, perhaps as U.S. studies scholars one day. And it deepened our relationship with them.”