Icon of Photography: Yu spends 50 years documenting Soldiers
September 22, 2008
He calls himself "Rice-Paddy Daddy," but to many, he is the joyful South Korean who has photographed U.S. Soldiers for the past 50 years.
The 71-year-old photographer, Yu, Hu Son, has followed 2ID Soldiers throughout the Korean peninsula. He has gone to numerous training areas and even took pictures when U.S. presidents visited Area I to visit the troops.
His photographs have appeared in several U.S. Army publications, including Soldiers Magazine, the Indianhead and the Morning Calm. Soldiers at Camp Red Cloud can easily find his photos in the Commanding General's Mess, Command Bunker and Freeman Hall. Also, many ROK Army units request copies of his pictures.
"Mr. Yu's fifty years of dedicated service, precisely epitomizes and personifies the strong, enduring ROK-U.S. Alliance. I am honored to have served just a small amount of time along side of him," said Maj. Gen. John W. Morgan III, 2ID commanding general.
Yu began working for the U.S. Army in August 1958 as a recreation specialist at Camp Red Cloud in I Corps Headquarters. Just six years prior, when he was still a teenager, he learned to speak English from Soldiers in the 69th Transportation Company, who were stationed near his house during the Korean War.
"Everyone in the company was black, I mean everybody," said Yu. "I tried to talk to them with broken English. I was surprised to see foreigners in Korea, but they were friendly when I tried to interact with them. I even received some candies from them for my efforts."
A few years later, he learned American slang and started wearing American jeans and T-shirts with sunglasses.
After the Korean War, he got a job at I Corps in 1958 and learned English from American staff and Servicemembers. He then completed his military service as a KATUSA Soldier in Wonju for 29 months. He later came back to the Arts and Crafts Shop and started taking pictures as a photograph specialist for Soldiers.
He even taught ROK Soldiers from the 26th and 28th Divisions how to take pictures in 1967.
He worked at craft shops across Area I and won several South Korean photography competitions before he became the 2ID photographer in 1997, working in the 2ID Public Affairs Office at CRC.
"I was happy when I stayed with U.S. Soldiers," said Yu. "It has been 60 years that I have interacted with them. When I went to their training areas, it was a lot of fun."
"I love to take pictures of Soldiers doing training," Yu continued. "My best photographs are of infantry Soldiers and snipers with rifles. The expressions on their faces are hard to escape. After taking pictures, I usually get near and talk to them. I realized that U.S. Soldiers are very cool to talk to."
"Mr. Yu carries a huge wealth of knowledge and history about the 2ID," said Maj. Kimeisha McCullum, former 2ID Public Affairs Officer. "I am proud to say that he not only loves what he does on a daily basis (photography), but he loves who he does it for. I wish him 50 more years of doing what he does best - preserving history and taking wonderful pictures that tell the 2ID story which is the Army story."
Yu added that 50 years is not the end of his story.
"After 50 years of service to the U.S. Army, I am not done yet, and I am still strong enough to hold two big cameras with several lenses."