By Sgt. 1st Class Kevin P. BellFebruary 17, 2015
SEOUL, South Korea (Dec. 5, 2014) - Eighth Army Soldiers, civilians and senior leaders worked with the Republic of Korea-United States Good Neighbor Sports Association (RUAFA) and local South Korean civilian leaders to hand out approximately 2,000 charcoal briquettes known as "yeontan" Feb. 13 to residents in Dongdaemun-Gu, Seoul.
Their efforts were part of Operation "Warm Comfort", an Eighth Army initiative aimed at helping senior citizens and low-income residents offset the high cost of heating their home during the long and unforgiving Korean winter.
Introduced to the peninsula by occupying Japanese forces in the 1920s, yeontan rose in popularity following the Korean War and by 1988 78 percent of Korean households made use of the charcoal-based heating system. Use declined as families began to convert to oil and gas boilers, but around 2 percent of Korean households continue to use yeontan to heat their home.
On average it takes two to four yeontan each day to heat a small to mid-sized home, making it relatively expensive for families on a fixed budget. As a way to help mitigate that cost, Eighth Army and RUAFA partnered together to help those less fortunate.
"It's very meaningful to help the poor," said Huh, Myung-Soo, RUAFA Senior Advisor and Vice Chairman of GS Engineering and Construction.
As Operation "Warm Comfort" kicked off, Eighth Army Deputy Commanding General for Sustainment Maj. Gen. David Puster spoke to the volunteers about the importance of being active in the community and thanked them for their efforts.
"We're out here hand-to-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder with local leaders," said Puster. "(This is) a great opportunity to get out into the community and help out where we can."
Eighth Army Headquarters Support Company Commander Capt. Owen Rose agreed and believed the combined efforts helped strengthen the partnership between U.S. Soldiers and our Korean hosts.
"It's a great day to be out here helping and I know what we are doing is benefiting someone less fortunate, (but) it also helps us be a part of the community and build a stronger bond with our Korean friends," said Rose.
Following the event, Dongdaemun Mayor Yu, Duk-Yrul held a luncheon as an expression of his gratitude and thanked everyone for participating.
"Our residents will definitely feel the heart of the Eighth Army (members) who took part in this event," said Yu.