Under the hard hat: FED engineer, Mr. Ku Pon-chun

Ku Pon-chun (far left), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Far East District (FED) civil engineer, poses with other volunteers deployed during Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recovery efforts for Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi, February 2006. (Courtesy photo by Ku Pon-chun)
Ku Pon-chun (far left), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Far East District (FED) civil engineer, poses with other volunteers deployed during Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recovery efforts for Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi, February 2006. (Courtesy photo by Ku Pon-chun)

Under the hard hat: FED engineer, Mr. Ku Pon-chun

by Chong Yun Kim
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District

In an engineer’s career, becoming a licensed engineer is a turning point and important milestone that validates their expertise. For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, accreditation assures stakeholders that the professionals who work their projects are qualified to do so.

There is no requirement for local national civil engineers to attain Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) certification, however in his hunger to grow professionally and provide the greatest level of expertise, Ku Pon-chun, USACE Far East District civil engineer, earned his U.S. PE license in 2003. He is one of a handful of civil engineers at FED with both U.S and Korean PE licenses.

Between October 2004 and October 2021, Ku served as a volunteer proctor for the U.S. Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and PE exams in the Republic of Korea.

Ku administered his last round of paper-based PE exams last year, culminating in 17 years of proctor support for engineers seeking U.S. certification in the far east. He has helped facilitate and enable the acquisition of engineering credentials for countless American and Korean engineers.

Beginning in the 1990s, PE exams were conducted every April and October at the former FED compound located in Dongdaemun, until the exams in Korea were turned over to the Korean Professional Engineers Association in April 2009. Following that transfer, Ku and several FED employees with U.S. PE credentials continued to volunteer as proctors at the request of the KPEA.

“I am not the one to be applauded. Thirteen of the current DAC (Department of Army Civilians) and KN (Korean-national) employees of the District have proctored the exams until the paper-based exams ended last October. If I count the number of employees who are no longer working at FED but have volunteered in the past, the total number would be much higher. They are the ones who deserve applause,” said Ku.

“This is a good symbol of the strong ROK-U.S. alliance,” he said.

Ku noted that more Korean engineers are taking the PE test and attaining certification as it is becoming more widely known that the U.S. PE test is available in Korea. As such, we’re seeing more engineers who have both U.S. and Korean licenses join FED.

“When I think about Mr. Ku, I think of someone who is the embodiment of a true engineering professional,” said David Thomas, FED Design Branch chief.

Not only is Ku a professional civil engineer but he also has several highly sought and recognized credentials. Ku is also a professional structural engineer (SE), a certified construction specifier (CCS), a project management professional (PMP), and LEED AP BD+C. The final credential being a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional in Building Design and Construction.

“Some may not know this about Mr. Ku, you see with all these credentials it is clear that his engineering skills are lethal, just like his skills as a black belt in Judo,” said Thomas.

“Everything Mr. Ku seems to work on is handled with care, is technically precise, and draws on the great depth and diversity of his experience. But more than this, both myself and the other Technical Review Section team members turn to Mr. Ku for help, for guidance on policies and procedures. His opinions weigh heavily within the makeup of our group," continued Thomas.

FED is proud to have a workforce comprised of talented individuals who are dedicated to producing the highest caliber of work—and for embodying the true spirit of the ROK-U.S. alliance in the teamwork and knowledge that is shared to accomplish the mission and create greater mutual understanding.

“I will continue to support the Korean Professional Engineers Association with my colleagues. This will demonstrate the strong and tireless commitment of the District engineers to contribute to the Korean community and to the advancement of the engineering field.”

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