On My Own Steam

I was stationed in Korea from May of 87 to May of 88. I was only 18/19 at the time and it was incredible to me. I loved the culture and the language and even filed for an extension. My extension was denied, and I only saw the beginning of the sweeping change that swept the country.

The Olympics were about to be held in Seoul and a color guard of capitalism preceded them. Budweiser, Burger King, and a large number of other western world cliches became available. I was torn between being happy to see something from home and upset over what seemed like their trespass.

Although I wasn't going to be allowed to remain in ROK, I vowed that someday I would return on my own steam and not as a GI. Two decades later I did return. I was the manager of my department for the US and Asia and had to travel to Seoul to setup a new office there. It was fantastic news and I was excited.

I was shocked upon arriving. The growth in twenty years was amazing. Seoul was a sparkling example of what a big city should be (I'm from Detroit and it's another type of example). I had some free time while I was there and took the weekend to find my old post. The concierge at the hotel wrote some helpful phrases down for me since my Korean is very limited and helped me work out the bus route to Munsan.

The bus ride was interesting as I found that people were a bit put off by me. I had an open seat beside me for the whole trip as folks would stand and wobble rather than sit beside the lone Caucasian. I wasn't offended. It's a homogeneous society and people are uncomfortable around the strange.

I found a cab driver in Munsan who drove me to my old post, RC4 (the furthest deployed recreational center in the free world :-D). All the US troops had pulled out and gone south so it was occupied by ROK troops. I took a lot of pictures of the post and added them to my old album.

The nostalgia trip was a little wistful, but one of those special moments in my life where I was able to keep a promise to my younger self. I'll always love the two South Koreas I have in my memory.
awar44 awar44
41-45, M
2 Responses Jul 20, 2010

an interesting story awar. I can understand that feeling you must have had, watching the Western culture take over from what had been there before. I'm happy for you that you managed to fulfill your promise to yourself to return, it must have been wonderful to have been able to do that, as well as somewhat sad and nostalgic.

An interesting story, I like that you could appreciate aspects of both versions of South Korea that you saw :)