USFK commander gets honorary name for role in making South Korea 'peaceful'
By ASHLEY ROWLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 14, 2014
SEOUL, South Korea — The top U.S. military official in South Korea now has a shorter — and much easier to spell — last name.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, was given an honorary Korean name and fifth-degree tae kwon do black belt Friday night at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan by the ROK-U.S. Alliance Friendship Association.
His new name, Seo Han-taek, roughly means “someone who chooses South Korea and makes it peaceful,” or someone who strengthens the friendship between the two countries by defending South Korean territory, according to an Association official. The first letter of Seo — which, in Korean, is the surname —was chosen because Scaparrotti begins with an “s.”
The general said he was humbled and overwhelmed by the honor, pledging to live up to the meaning of his new name. He then cited a Korean proverb that says when tigers pass away, they leave leather behind, but when people pass away, they leave their name behind.
“Your name represents your impact on the world,” he said.
“To those of you who were gracious in presenting it to me, I’ll live up to that name,” he said.
Kim Jin Seob, general secretary for the Association, said the group has given USFK commanders Korean names for the past 10 years to strengthen the bond between the two countries and to hopefully make sure they leave the peninsula with good memories of their tours.
Lt. Gen. Chun In-bum, commander of South Korea’s Special Warfare Command, said jokingly that he was selected to give the toast at Friday’s event because he was one of the few Koreans who could pronounce and spell “Scaparrotti.”
“Thank you for accepting this gift from the Korean people, and for your calm and steady leadership,” he told the U.S. commander.
Stars and Stripes’ Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this story.