Eliminating soldiers' bad behavior in S. Korea aim of cultural awareness classes
SEOUL — U.S. and South Korean officials have agreed on the content for new cultural awareness programs for 2nd Infantry Division soldiers, hoping it will help eliminate the misbehavior that has been generating national headlines here.
Maj. Gen. Edward Cardon, the 2ID commander, and Gyeonggi Province Vice Gov. Choi Sung Dae — along with other military and government officials — reviewed the curriculum for classes that all incoming division soldiers attend at the Warrior Readiness Center and “were pleased with its content,” according to a 2ID spokesman.
Provincial officials said the areas that will be covered include incidents related to U.S. forces here that were caused by cultural differences, stories about impressive acts done by American servicemembers in South Korea and the impact of the alliance on the peninsula and across the region.
Lt. Col. Joe Scrocca, a 2ID spokesman, said “The expanded 2ID cultural awareness program presents new soldiers with an introduction to Korean culture to assist them in integrating seamlessly into the local culture.
“The purpose of the expanded training is to ensure new soldiers are aware early on of their personal responsibilities as part of the (South Korea)-U.S. alliance,” he said. “As part of the training, we discuss cases in which misunderstandings over cultural norms or acceptable behavior have escalated into incidents between soldiers and local Koreans. We want to use these incidents as lessons learned to ensure similar incidents do not happen again in the future.”
In addition, the division and government leaders discussed a “head-start program” planned for 2ID soldiers in Area I — the northernmost region of South Korea — which is scheduled to start in May. As many as 60 soldiers a week will attend the intensive three- to five-day cultural training sessions sponsored by Gyeonggi Province at a local college campus, Scrocca said.
“The details of how this program will be administered are still being coordinated,” he said. “The course is expected to offer lectures on Korean history, local life and language. Participants would also learn ‘do's and don'ts’ of Korean society and cultural survival skills, like navigating public transportation, ordering food and using money in Korea.”
A similar program is already run for soldiers in Area III, the region south of Seoul.
Bolstering cultural awareness training programs is just one of several steps Cardon has taken in response to recent incidents in which his soldiers have been accused of getting into altercations with local police and Korean nationals.
The recent altercations involving U.S. soldiers have been the subject of extensive news coverage in South Korea, with government officials and media outlets calling for crackdowns on the conduct of American servicemembers.
Last week, Cardon indefinitely barred his 10,000 troops from drinking alcohol or getting weekend passes as “leadership seminars” are held focusing on discipline and its relationship to division readiness. Every soldier is receiving “responsible-conduct training.”
The 2ID accounts for more than a third of the 28,500 U.S. servicemembers in South Korea, with most based between Seoul and the Demilitarized Zone.