SEOUL — When Army Specialist Andrew Mayer arrived in Seoul seven years ago, he was a little bewildered by some of the traffic patterns he saw, especially the mopeds careening on sidewalks.

After a few years of living here — first as a teacher and then as a medic with the 168th Medical Battalion at Yongsan Garrison — he came up with a new perspective. “I realized the Korean people are doing it to help improve the economy,” Mayer said.

Mayer, who works with Bravo Company in the ambulance section at Yongsan’s health clinic, reasons that some practices frowned upon in the States — like darting mopeds on sidewalks or even pollution — are sacrifices South Koreans were willing to make to build up their country quickly in the latter part of the 20th century.

Seoul officials must like the argument, because Wednesday Mayer will receive recognition for his entry in the 8th annual Seoul Metropolitan Government Essay Contest. Mayer won third place and $100 for his 1,500-word essay. He’s to receive the honor at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Seoul’s City Hall.

Another U.S. soldier, Army Chief Warrant Officer Teddy Datuin, won second place in the competition’s poetry category. Datuin, a 27-year-veteran, is on his third tour in South Korea. He previously served in the early ’80s and ’90s. This time he’ll stay even longer.

Under the Army’s Assignment Incentive Pay program, which pays soldiers a monthly bonus for extending their South Korea tours, Datuin elected to stay another two years.

Like Mayer, Datuin is interested in Korean culture and language. For several months, he’s participated in a Saturday tour program in which Americans from local bases meet with South Korean students and visit cultural and historical sites.

His poem, not surprisingly, was called “Saturday in Korea: A Day to Remember.” Datuin claims nothing more than amateur poet status, saying he writes “just when I’m inspired. When I want to write down my feelings about something.”

Mayer, 32, of Marshalltown, Iowa, wrote about his impressions of Seoul in “Seoul: Asia’s Leading Megalopolis,” a place he says has Asia’s most rapidly improving economy.

“I’m increasingly happy that I chose Seoul,” he wrote in the essay, which will be posted on the city’s Web site early next year. “Seoul is aware, and Seoul is where it’s at.”

Joseph Giordono contributed to this report.

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