KATUSA, personal history of alliance

by Intern Seo, Bo-myung
USAG Daegu Public Affairs

DAEGU — This is a story about Seo, Jeong-Ki, my grandfather and one of the old Korean Augmentation To the United States Army. I am working in United States Army Garrison Daegu as an intern in the Public Affairs Office. My grandfather was a big influence for me to choose this internship program because he was a KATUSA in 1957 and he was proud of it. He always told to my younger brother that he should apply for KATUSA program, since my brother was young. Naturally, I have been curious about what KATUSA is and what United States Forces Korea is.

My grandfather was born in May 17, 1932 in Tongyoung, South Korea. He was talented in soccer, and was selected as a KyeongSang province soccer player. After graduated Tongyoung high school, he entered the KyungNam university in 1950 during the Korean War.

He joined the army and served for three years from 1957 to 1960. According to Gyung-Suk, Leem, his wife, he was transferred from the training camp to the KATUSA. At that time, KATUSAs was selected during the military training. Today, to become a KATUSA, eligible Korean draftees who’ve demonstrated a level of English-language proficiency by achieving minimum passing scores on standardized tests of English (TOEFL and TEPS), may apply to the KATUSA program.

Referring to his memo to his mother written behind his picture, “Mom, I work biweekly in the Cookery department in Camp Casey located in Dongduchon, Korea which is the closest region to North Korea in South Korea and it is good opportunity to learn foreign culture and language. Working also is not so hard. Everything was good. Do not worry about me.”

Like his memo, he had been satisfied his KATUSA experience and often had said the story to his grandchild including me and recommended to apply for the KATUSA program to his grandsons.

After he finished his military service, my grandfather worked as the chief of a Dong office from 1961 to 1993. Afterward, he was elected to the second and third member City Council twice in Tongyoung. He passed away the age of 72 in 2003.

He was always wise and gentle to his family and co-workers. His sons, daughters and his grandchildren have thought of him as big tree and have respected him. If he were alive, he would be happy to learn I am an intern at USAG and would be proud of me.

KATUSAs are one of branches of the Republic of Korea Army but they are augmented to the Eighth United Sates Army. It is a unique program allowing South Korean Soldiers to serve in the ranks of the United States Army.

The KATUSA program began in October 15, 1950 during the Korean War. At that time, South Korean struggled against North Korean. They had been pushed to retreat till the Nakdong River defense line which is near Busan. On October 15, 1950, Syngman Lee, the first President in South Korea, and Gen. MacArthur made the informal agreement which established the KATUSA program. President, Lee thought that it would a winning strategy because U.S. Army has the superior weapons and the South Korean soldiers are familiar with Korea geographically and culturally.

KATUSAs aided in the Nakdong River defense. After a month, 18,000 KATUSAs contributed to the defensive and to take the offensive against the enemy during Operation Chromite directed by Gen. MacArther, which is also known as the Incheon Landing. In late November, KATUSAs with the United States Marine Corps 1st Marine Division fought against the Chinese troops who entered to prevent a North Korean defeat and outnumbered the Alliance 10 to 1. Thanks to their fierce defense, they delayed the Chinese troops and allowed the Korean and U.S. Military safely move southward. This battle occurred in JangJinHo Lake is known as the most deadly battle in the history of the war.

More than 43,000 KATUSAs fought in the Korean War and more than 9,000 KATUSAs were killed. After the war, the KATUSA program has been continued. It has been 66 years since it was established under the command of the U.S. Army, and more than 250,000 South Koreans have served their country.

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