SEOUL, South Korea— Since beginning her career 36 years ago with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Yi, Myung-suk, has grown fond of the people she’s served and the lifetime of fond memories garnered.
A petite framed woman who greets everyone with a huge smile, Yi has worked as a cook at the Far East District compound’s AAFES snack bar for more than 32 years. She initially worked at Camp Coiner for four years prior to coming to the district compound.
Two months ago she received a call that the snack bar would close its doors as part of the district’s plans to relocate from Yongsan Garrison to Camp Humphreys, part of the Korea Relocation Program. The district is scheduled to move to its new location later next year. Yi has decided that once the facility closes to not seek future employment and retire.
Originally from the Chungcheong Province, located about two hours south of Seoul, she was given the idea to apply as a cook with AAFES after a friend’s suggestion.
“My friend’s father recommended this job to me,” said Yi. “After being hired, I decided to start working here and never looked back.”
Impressively, Yi has never taken a day of vacation since being employed with AAFES. She said that she has always come into work, not allowing illness to stop her from doing what she loves.
During her 36 years she has spent as a cook it’s not surprising to learn she has many memories flooding her mind, however, she recalls one as her fondest.
“There was a past commander who adopted a Korean orphan,” said Yi. “The commander took care of the child like it was his own, and I felt like that was real love. I was so moved.”
After 36 years of work she’ll now have loads of free time. So what’s next for Yi?
“I will exercise more,” said Yi. “Also I have plans to travel and visit Alaska and Croatia.”
During her interview for this story, Yi couldn’t contain her tears, and at moments had to stop talking. Her colleague explained that the thought of no longer working here is often too much for her to handle.
“I love everyone here,” said Yi. I feel like family being a part of the Far East District. I am so sad this facility is closing, but I have good memories all the time.”
Yi Myung Suk, a cook at the Far East District compound’s AAFES snack bar, stands in front of the serving line Aug. 2017. Yi has worked for AAFES for the past 36 years and now that the district's snack bar is closing, she has decided to retire. (Photo by Antwaun Parrish)
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