Warriors scout out Korean culture
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea - The Gyeonggi Provincial Government Office took more than 30 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers on an overnight tour of the most populous province in South Korea May 27-28. The Soldiers were treated to numerous sights and events in Seoul and Suwon that highlighted the long history of Korea as well as its global reach as a modern economic powerhouse.
The tour started with a look back in history at The National Folk Museum of Korea located on the grounds of Gyeongbok Palace in northern Seoul. The museum is organized around scenes and objects from everyday life in the past and shows how the average Korean would have lived. The palace, built during the Joseon Dynasty in 1394, immersed the Soldiers in architecture that is older than the discovery of their continent.
"The sense of history here is so great. It is hard to wrap your mind around the fact that these buildings have been here for nearly 600 years," said Pvt. Kyle Lamarine, of 4th Chemical Company.
Next on the itinerary was an afternoon performance of "Nanta," known in English as "Cookin." It is a popular musical that debuted in 1997 in Korea and has since travelled the world, having been performed in 37 countries and 231 cities. The musical tells a simple story of four chefs trying to create a wedding banquet within a strict timeline. The musical emphasizes the use of traditional Korean samul nori, percussion music, which is performed with improvised instruments, such as cutting boards, water canisters and kitchen knives.
"I thought the performance was really cool. It combined traditional aspects of Korean culture like percussion, dancing and food with a modern story. I'd really like to see this again," said Pvt. Crystal Javalera, B Company, Division Special Troops Battalion.
The next morning the Soldiers visited the Myung-In Kimchee Factory in Suwon, the provincial capital of Gyeonggi province. After the tour of the on-site kimchee museum and the production floor, Soldiers were given aprons and bandanas and tried their hands at making kimchee themselves.
"I still don't care for kimchee all that much, but the tour of the factory really made me think about how hard the Korean people have worked to create this industry. I guess that only a generation ago most of the kimchee people ate was homemade but to see this world-class facility up close was eye-opening," said Pvt. Kevin Hoff, 4th Squadron, 7th Calvary Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
Hwaseong Fortress was the next stop on the tour. Built in the late eighteenth century, the innovative design of the fortress was used as a model for future fortified construction in Korea. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
On the fortress grounds, the Soldiers had an opportunity to try traditional Korean archery.
"It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The targets didn't seem that far away, but I think all my shots ended up in the ground," said Pvt. Richard Dinges of 4-7th Cav.
"I have the privilege of organizing this tour about four times a year and I really enjoy it. I love to see the Soldiers' reactions to new sights and experiences. They always seem so excited that it makes each tour feel like my first one," said Kim Soo-Jin, director of the Gyeonggi Province outreach program.
The tour let Warriors engage in a wide range of activities and cultural experiences and ultimately broadened their understanding of their host nation.
"I found this to be very educational. I had read about these sites but this tour actually got me off the base and experience them for myself," said Hoff.