Stripes spotlight: Osan major a master of Asian culture
Stars and Stripes June 23, 2003
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Maj. Brian J. Hobbs is from Kansas, but he’s long since ditched the Midwest and become a true aficionado of the Far East.
Hobbs, 36, speaks Korean, Chinese and Japanese and has become something of an Asian history guru, a talent that landed him a teaching position at the South Korean Air Force Academy near Cheongju City, south of Osan.
In his class, Hobbs assumes the position of a foreign instructor, albeit one who is teaching Asian history and issues to, well, Asians. He currently leads a northeast Asia international relations class and an intermediate English class.
Although he’s proficient in Korean, he uses English to expose the cadets to the language. But the concepts taught in class are difficult, so a South Korean co-instructor, Maj. Park Bong-kyu, teaches in tandem.
The classes result in “heady” conversations on very controversial issues, from the missile-defense system developed by the United States and Japan to North Korean policy, Hobbs said. He rides an objective line, allowing his students to probe his views while expressing their own.
They even discuss South Korea’s relations with the United States, certainly a delicate subject. But Hobbs said he’s never “received any disrespectful behavior.”
“I receive phenomenal hospitality here at the Korean Air Force academy,” Hobbs said.
His love for Asia started in high school, when he spent time between his junior and senior years as an exchange student in Osaka. He had friends, but communication was difficult, so he set out to learn Japanese, which he later studied in college, along with psychology and East Asian culture.
“I wanted to join some branch of the military and asked a lot of people before I made any kind of commitment,” Hobbs said.
The Air Force sent him to the Defense Language Institute for both Korean and Chinese. He served two tours in Japan and felt he had essentially maximized his Japanese and was ready for a new challenge: Korean.
Hobbs also has taught Japanese and Chinese at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and “realized really strongly I wanted to come to Korea to participate in the same kind of program,” he said
He lives at the Air Force academy with his wife and two children. Next term, he’ll tackle American foreign policy and an aerospace strategy class.
On his uniform, he wears a special metal pin identifying him as an academy instructor. Said Hobbs: “I feel more proud of that one than any other one.”