Hiking trip changes minds of students, Soldiers
June 9, 2008
Kim, Ro Mii thought U.S. Soldiers were inhumane, boorish and a plague on Korean citizens - until she met one.
Thanks to the annual One-Mind Hiking Trip, Kim spent May 1 hiking Sa-Pae Mountain and learning how she had mistakenly judged Soldiers like the proverbial cover of a book.
Kim, who is her class president at Shin Heung College, took part in the event with classmates, students from Dae-Jin College and 22 Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division.
The trip was a chance for the students to practice their English, but also an opportunity for them to meet some of the Soldiers they've heard so much about.
"It was a little difficult seeing them for the first time. I didn't have a good impression of U.S. Soldiers. I guess after spending time with U.S. Soldiers today it was just my prejudice," Kim said. "They asked me a lot of questions about my family. They were a lot nicer than the conception portrayed by the media."
Likewise, by spending a day with the students, Soldiers could see their hosts for more than just the people outside the gate, said Spc. Ryan Legere, administrator for Col. Teeples, the Assistant Division Commander (Support).
"Our only impression of Koreans is when we see them in clubs or off post," Legere said. "This gives us an opportunity to share what the Army is and see what Koreans are like."
Over the course of the day's events, the students and Soldiers forged a bond, said Kim, Day Kyung, section chief of the civilian-military cooperation team of Geyonggi Provincial Office II, which sponsored the event.
"Consensus is very important. That is one of the reasons we want cultural exchanges with one another, to find common ground," he said.
"In the beginning you saw they were shy and then they became friends. The same way the relationship between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea began," Kim added.
Following the hike, the new friends finished the day with a traditional Korean meal at So Nu Ri Restaurant.
Legere called the trip a good time and said, "it's the best program I've participated in, in the Army so far. This is the most fun I've ever had with complete strangers. I think every Soldier should be able to participate in this if they want to."
More than just fun and games, Legere said the event was important for community relations.
"I hope they got a better understanding of us. When we're not in uniform, we're ordinary people like them. We can all get along and have fun together," Legere said. "I want to thank our Korean hosts for having us in their country and looking past the few bad Soldiers to see all the good Soldiers."
Kim said she now had seen the other side of Soldiers.
"It definitely changed my perspective. I definitely see U.S. Soldiers as human beings,
who are helping Korea," Kim said. "I would like to have more opportunities like this and build on this exchange between the Republic of Korea and the United States."