USAG YONGSAN -- U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan hosted basic Korean language classes for U.S. Army servicemembers, civilians and families with the support of Area II Republic of Korea Army Support Group. There are two different classes offered at Army Community Services (every Tue. and Thur., 12 p.m. -- 1 p.m.) and United Service Organizations (every Wed., 6:30 p.m. -- 8 p.m.).
Both instructors and students devote their free time in teaching and learning Korean. Each one has a special reason to be part of the class, but everyone enthusiastically participates in the class. Some come back more than once.
"This class aims at learning very basic Korean expressions in only one month so that students can fluently communicate with Koreans," said Kim, Jung-sook, instructor of the ACS class. "Sometimes people make a mistake in front of Koreans, and it often offends them. I teach students in the hopes that they avoid such mistakes. Sometimes students sign in for more than two times so as not to forget what they learned from the class."
One special thing about the class is that Korean Augmentations to United States Army (KATUSAs) in Area II volunteer as instructors. A total of ten KATUSAs willingly shared their time and knowledge with students for two hours a week.
"I have not had enough opportunities to talk with U.S. Soldiers in my office," said Cpl. Bang, Hyun-sik, Senior KATUSA of U.S. Forces Korea. "I was thinking about what I could contribute for the community as a KATUSA. Volunteering at Korean class was like killing both birds with one stone, helping people in English with my Korean knowledge."
The recent class at USO, July 19, learned the number system in Korean. As the instructor wrote down numbers on the board, students read them loud. After students got a grasp of it, KATUSA instructor, Cpl. Kyun, Ki-young, dental assistant from 618th dental company, 65th Medical Brigade, pointed at price tags on a supermarket advertisements and asked students to say the numbers.
The July 20 class at ACS had a larger, more diverse group. The instructor, Kim, Jung-sook, explained Korean expressions about public transportation. Afterwards, students were divided into groups, and practiced key expressions several times with volunteers including KATUSAs.
In both classes, students expressed how happy they were with the class.
"I really enjoyed the class. My teacher was very enthusiastic and very tolerable at my mistakes," said Malaika Master, USO Class student. "She made everything so easy to understand. Also, KATUSAs definitely helped me a lot. I was able to ask them a lot of questions."
"Korean is very different from my language [English] in many aspects," said Sgt. 1st Class Green Wendell from 121 Combat Support Hospital, ACS Class student. "KATUSAs helped me out to fill in the gap between two languages since they have a good understanding on both Korean and English."
The class was a unique experience to both students and instructors. Sometimes they shared their bond outside of the classroom. KATUSA instructor, Pfc. Park, Young-jae, administration specialist from USFK and ACS class student, Theresa Lauder shared their story.
A student named Hana Park, who was born in Korea and later adopted by American couple, attended the class at the ACS. The instructor Kim, helped her in writing letters to her real mother, finally leading to family reunion. Kim travelled with Park to Daegu for the first family meeting. Park's 'new' sister also visited Seoul to spend more time together, and had dinner celebration. Pfc. Park was cordially invited to dinner to assist in conversations between family members. Lauder recollected thanks to his language support, she and Hana Park's family were able to enjoy the dinner celebration more.
In both classes, KATUSAs played an instrumental role in teaching.
"At first time, I was doubtful whether KATUSAs could help me. However, they proved to be able team members," said Cho, Hyun-sook, instructor of the USO class. "After I briefly explain class materials to students, KATUSAs teach each students one-to-one in more detail and it improved students' understanding a lot. Thanks to their effort, my job got easier."
"I was only able to cover very basic materials when I was alone," said Kim, Sung-sook, instructor of the ACS class. "After KATUSA volunteers joined in the class, we could make a couple of groups, and they taught more things depending on the student's language level. Had it not been for them, the class could have not developed as it is now."
KATUSAs experienced some sorts of difficulty at the beginning of the class, but overall they got to express their satisfaction to the program.
"I've had some difficulties at first. As a native Korean, I take most of the material covered in this class for granted. It was hard for me to explain things to students," said Pfc. Park.
"The class helped me a lot more than I helped it," said Cpl. Kyun. "I've never been to other countries for a long time, and I haven't had many opportunities to talk with U.S. Soldiers here. Thanks to the class, I could experience something very different, talking with foreigners and sharing my knowledge."
The class at the USO will temporarily stop until September, and will resume in October. But the class at the ACS will continue.
Area II ROKA Support Group plans to recruit newly arriving KATUSAs for supplementary instructors. It expects this opportunity will greatly benefit them.
"KATUSA instructors have devoted their time and talent to the class. They are exemplary KATUSAs who found the value of military service in the Army," said Lt. Col. Kim, Young-hoon, Area II ROKA Support Group Commander. "I hope both Koreans and Americans get to understand each other through this class, furthermore strengthening ROK-U.S. alliance."