MND and USFK temple-stay initiative a winner in Daegu
USAG DAEGU -- It’s not always that one gets to actually experience up close the true life of a monk, but thanks to a three-day Korean Cultural Program sponsored by Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND), at least four Soldiers assigned to HHC USAG Daegu, Camp Henry were able to do just that.
Strongly supported by the Commander’s Good Neighbor Program and United States Forces Korea, the Soldiers were treated to a tour to Gyeongju, and a Haeinsa Temple-stay. Gyeongju, the capital of Shilla Dynasty for 992 years, is well-known for its vast historical and cultural heritage sites. Haeinsa, the head temple of the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism, is famous for being the home of the Tripitaka Koreana (Buddhist scriptures carved onto 81,350 wooden printing blocks).
During the recent MND and USFK tour, the Soldiers, many of whom are in Korea for the first time, took part in the unique program. They visited several popular tourist spots such as Gyeongju Yangdong Folk Village (listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site with Andong Hahoe Folk Village in 2010), Darungwon (the site where ancient tombs of Shilla Royal family are assembled), National Museum of Gyeongju, Bulkuksa Temple, and Haeinsa Temple, as well as listening to the musical performance “Chan-Giparang-Ga,” which is the story of Hwarang, an elite group of male youth during the Shilla period.
HHC Soldiers praised the efforts made by MND, as well as the USAG Daegu leadership who extended them the offer to participate in the overnight event. While their comments ran the gamut, it was the appreciation for the importance of such events in working to sustain and strengthen the U.S. and Korea Alliance that helped elevate their situational awareness and understanding of cultural differences.
For PFC Jacob Downing, HHC, USAG Daegu, the temple-stay experience is something he will long remember. “The trip to visit Gyeongju and Haeinsa Temple was fun and relaxing. I found it entertaining to travel to these more cultural locations in Korea, and get to see a side that I do not see often while here in Daegu. The best part for me was visiting the temple and getting to walk around and tour the location. By far, waking up at three in the morning was the hardest part of the trip. Another interesting aspect of the MND Gyeongju and Haeinsa temple-stay activity was the musical we went to see before going to the temple. It was interesting and fun to see something from Korea’s past,” he said.
Sharing a similar perspective, PFC Christopher Daily, also assigned to HHC, USAG Daegu, added, “The trip was awesome. I had a blast with everyone that went along. The best part of the temple-stay tour for me was seeing all the buildings and getting to talk with the monks. They spoke very clearly. It was very interesting to see how they live day-to-day.” Part of the Haeinsa Temple-stay included observing and participating in the 108 bows each monk makes once inside the temple every morning.
Thanks to the sound relationship between MND and USFK, for these HHC USAG Daegu Soldiers, the temple-stay was an unforgettable experience. Donning a monk’s attire, and meditating with only the sound of a waterfall in the distance isn’t something a Soldier gets to experience every day. Both PFC Daily and PFC Downing agreed that the temple-stay tour was time well spent. Said PFC Downing,“Everything was so enjoyable. I am sad that more people haven’t had a chance to go on these amazing trips.” PFC Daily added, “It was a very good trip and well planned. I have a new respect for Korean culture.”