American Halloween culture, party bewitches Korean children
October 27, 2010
RED CLOUD GARRISON, South Korea -Reminiscent of Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H gathering the orphans for a holiday event, 17th Ordnance Company Soldiers from Camp Kwansari in the real-life city made popular in the television sitcom are also creating memories for Korean children.
Only it was 2010 and the 3-5 Korean age children from Dongurami Kindergarten in Yangju were here Oct. 26 to experience a new phenomenon - a Halloween party - which is a novel activity for Koreans.
The idea for a Halloween party was the brainchild of 1st Sgt. Sandie Adams, whose 3-year-daughter, Jada, attends the same preschool.
Yoon Kyung-hwa, Dongurami Kindergarten principal, said she first learned about Halloween while studying in New Jersey a few years ago and was eager for her students to experience it. She said Koreans don't understand about ghosts and goblins, yet she found it "very amazing, beautiful and exciting" and wants to spread the tradition in Korea.
To help bridge the culture barrier, the children were given a five-minute introduction to Halloween that was translated into Korean. While they sat peacefully, they were already fixated on the treats and were eager to play games with Soldiers dressed as cat woman, Frankenstein, Super Mario, the Invisible Man and more.
For an hourlong the 60 children, accompanied by eight teachers, roamed among stations with plastic egg carry, basketball toss, hula hoop, bowling and plastic ball throw games. Everybody was a winner. Most walked off with huge smiles and several pieces of candy stuffed in their mouths.
While Halloween is often considered scary by Koreans, including the children, they eagerly wore costumes created by their parents and school staff. Some came elaborately dressed as witches and others simply wore a cute mask with some face paint.
Not foreign to them and others is the thoughtfulness of American Soldiers who have organized events for Korean children since the Korean War.
Pak Hyung-chu, commander for Joeun Systems Security at Red Cloud Garrison, said he can relate to their experience because he still carries with him memories of American Soldiers treating him and other children from Uijeongbu to a Christmas party at Casey Garrison in 1956.
"The American Soldiers came to our town with big trucks and took us young children to Casey Garrison," he said. "There we saw a very large Quonset hut and when we entered we saw lots of candy on the table and some gifts behind the Christmas tree. It was such a big shock to us poor Korean children that I remember it even now."
Pak said he knows that 17th Ordnance Soldiers are creating the same kind of memory for the children.
"I think they are very fortunate," echoed Yoon. "They are small children, but they will put (the experience) in their heart and remember Halloween."
Before departing the base, the children gathered at Mitchell's Sports Grill where they dined on kimbap prepared by their teachers and cupcakes provided by the Soldiers.
"I hope everybody had a good time," said Capt. Harry Mars, 17th Ordnance Co. commander, before they left the camp. "We definitely enjoyed having you here with us today."
Some of the children are already thinking about next year.
"It was my first time and the ghosts look funny, but I hope to come again," said Seo Ji-eun, a 7-year-old, through a translator.