A fighter and a medic, South Korean-born Soldier chases two dreams
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea -- Spc. Jungsuk Moon is a fighter, but with a caring side.
With goals to one day make the Olympics as a taekwondo fighter and also become an Army physician, Moon has two parts to him that together make him whole.
"Everything needs a balance," he said. "For me, to get on the mat and kick my partner as much as I can, I think that's a good balance, for when I come into work all I do is care about the patient."
Moon, 21, currently works as a medical laboratory specialist, where he tests blood and other specimens from patients being treated at the Brian Allgood Army Community Hospital.
Roughly 70 percent of decisions made in the hospital, he said, come from lab results.
"It's a very significant role in the hospital that's often overlooked," he said.
Off duty, he heads to the gym to unleash powerful kicks and punches against sparring partners to prepare for various tournaments.
"It's the most exhilarating and nerve-wracking feeling in the world," he said of competing. "Even after 16 years I've been doing taekwondo, I still get nervous every time."
Born in Seoul, Moon's parents first had him take piano lessons. But a 5-year-old Moon had other plans when he saw his friend practice taekwondo, which is considered the national sport of South Korea.
"My parents were against the idea of me doing taekwondo because I could get hurt," he recalled. "I begged my parents for a week or two and they finally put me in it."
Years of training later earned him a spot on the All-Army team, and he placed third in the heavyweight category at the 2017 U.S.A. Taekwondo National Championships.
While he did not make the cut for this year's competition, he still has not given up on his Olympic dreams. He plans to fight in South Korean tournaments that can earn him world ranking points and then try out for the All-Army team again next year.
"My steps to getting there may have changed, but my end goal has not," said Moon, who is a fourth-degree black belt. "Whatever steps I have to take to get there, I got to take them."
Besides the chance to wear the U.S.A. uniform on the international stage, taekwondo holds a special place in Moon's heart.
When he moved to the United States as a child, he did not speak English or know American culture. He found refuge at a taekwondo school in Chino Hills, California.
"It gave me a sense of community while I was there," he said.
Moon joined the Army after high school. While he initially had little interest in the medical field, his current position in the hospital broadened his view.
In the future, he hopes to attend medical school through the Army and become a physician.
"Helping people in a time of need is a very significant thing for somebody to do," he said.
The opportunities afforded to him by the Army also included an assignment in his native home. His tour, which he extended to two years, has been his first time back since he lived there as a child.
"It was such a surreal experience," he said of when he returned. "Everything was so new and it was nothing like I remembered."
The sport he loved, though, remained the same.
BEAUTY OF TAEKWONDO
There is a deeper meaning to the sport many people may not realize. Tae-kwon-do is actually three words that translate to foot, fist and discipline, respectively. It is a sport, but also a martial art that shows ways to enhance one's spirit and life through training body and mind.
"That's the beauty of taekwondo," he said.
When practicing the sport, the routines are at a quick pace and can be very repetitive. Moon estimates he will do the same moves 100 to 200 times each practice.
In competitions, fighters wear protective gear, including a helmet and chest gear that have electronic sensors built into them. The sensors track the hits made by an opposing fighter.
The sport requires a lot of explosiveness for kicks and punches. Fighters typically face off in three rounds with each being a few minutes long, depending on the event.
"It's not as much of a marathon, but more of a sprint," Moon said.
After a recent sparring session, Master Sgt. David Ruiz, who works in the same unit as Moon -- the 65th Medical Brigade -- spoke of Moon's skills.
"He's got a really good natural stance," Ruiz said. "Somebody who has a very good natural stance -- sometimes it's very hard to decipher them in the ring."
Ruiz, a former All-Army team NCOIC, traveled from Camp Humphreys, located about an hour south of Yongsan, to spar with Moon. The master sergeant describes the military taekwondo community as close-knit and full of athletes who go out of their way to support each other.
"It's more like a family," he said.
For Moon and other younger athletes, Ruiz's advice is to keep pushing when the path gets bumpy and the competition gets tougher.
"It's not going to be easy," he said. "Nothing in life is ever given. We all have to fight for it and eventually if we fight enough, we get it."
In his corner, Moon's leadership continually supports his pursuits, whether that means fighting in a ring or helping save lives.
Sgt. Arthur Cross, his first-line supervisor, said he and others allow Moon to travel for taekwondo competitions and give him ample time to train in his job.
"I say, 'Hey, keep on doing what you're doing being a rock star,'" Cross said. "If you have the potential to be the best at something, then go do it. Who am I to stop you?"
The opportunity to chase two dreams is something Moon does not plan to waste.
"I'll be forever grateful for the Army because of what they did for me," he said of his leadership. "I don't want to let anybody down. There was a lot of faith put into me and I want to live up to that."