CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea — One reason people join the Army is to experience the world. At times, that could mean war zones, but at others it could mean beautiful destinations like Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea.
During a service member’s off time, they’re not only allowed to, but encouraged to get out of the barracks and learn about the people and culture.
In the Republic of Korea, there are many free tours for service members to learn about and experience the Korean culture, which dates back to between the 7th and 12th centuries, B.C.
Soldiers, Airmen and Marines from Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys experienced the historical culture of Korea on a tour sponsored by the Korean Ministry of National Defense Oct. 22-24.
“This reinforces the relationship between our combined forces,” Kyun Lee, the Ministry of National Defense’s Spiritual Force and Cultural Affairs director, said. “It can be hard for service members to come to Korea because it is a new country and very different. So while they are here, if service members know about Korean history, it will help their understanding of their service and be happier to serve here.”
The organization offers tours to several locations.
During this three-day tour, service members made Kimchi, sweet rice cake and makgeolli, a traditional rice alcohol.
They traveled to scenic locations such as the Gyeong Bok Palace and the Gwang-Myung Cave, and enjoyed traditional foods for every meal, both home-cooked and restaurant style.
“I loved seeing the village,” Sgt. Christina Dye, a paralegal with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said. “We got to see Korea as it was in the past. The authentic culture versus the commercial culture that is normally around the bases, and I didn’t mind sleeping on the floor.”
The WayAm Village is a late Joseon period village that is still traditionally maintained. Here, service members slept in a traditional manner, on the floor. They wore traditional clothes and experienced how a village would have run.
“We have been conducting these tours since 1970,” Lee said. “As of this year, we have provided tours to 18,000 service members.”
On average the MND hosts about 215 service members every year.
“I would highly encourage service members to go on one of these,” said Dye. “I feel that it would help them to respect the culture more.”