CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — South Korean base workers in Area I soon may sport badges displaying their names and length of service with U.S. Forces Korea.

Area I Support Activity commander Col. Forrest R. Newton made the proposal at a meeting with South Korean base workers last week, he said Friday.

“When I first got here I started meeting all my South Korean employees. They do not have name tags but some of them have 45 years service,” he said.

The name tags would help avoid the common practice of soldiers addressing South Korean base workers as “ajoshi” (uncle) or “ajuma” (aunt). Several South Korean employees had come forward with badge designs since the proposal was made, Newton said.

Kang Hyung-do, the USFK Korean Employee Union’s Uijeongbu chapter president, said he understands U.S. soldier’s use the words to be friendly with base employees, but that long-term workers — and younger employees — find the terms offensive.

“We think Col. Newton’s proposal is really great, affirmative and encouraging for us,” Kang said. “We hope this … can help to improve the human rights of our Korean employees.”

The badge proposal was one of several suggestions aimed at avoiding offense when U.S. soldiers talk to South Korean base workers. The union will come up with more ideas at its meeting next month, he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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