By Pvt. Choi Keun-wooMay 29, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea Aca,!" Sixty-five Korean high school students "graduated" from the U.S. Forces Korea Good Neighbor English Camp Saturday.
For five days, the high school sophomores lived with an American host family to become more familiar with American culture. They "shadowed" Seoul American High School students during regularly scheduled classes, attended a pizza party at the Youth Sports Center, watched a movie at the post theater, and enjoyed a traditional Korean dinner.
They also toured U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, the Joint Security Area, USAG-Humphreys and Osan Air Base. A picnic and "graduation" ceremony culminated the week Saturday at Yongsan.
Jun Byung-hyuk, whose 17-year-old daughter, Jun Sol-ah, goes to Banpo High School in Seoul, had served as a KATUSA at Camp Stanley from 1986 to 1988. "I wanted to give my daughter a chance to experience the American culture," he said.
Living on an American base is not an opportunity that everybody gets, Jun said. "Having spent some time in this new setting, I feel as though my view of the world has expanded somehow."
The English Camp is an annual U.S. Forces Korea Good Neighbor Program event. USFK officials worked with the boards of education in Seoul, Daegu and Pyongtaek to put the word about the program, said Stephen Tharp, chief of the Community Relations Division, USFK Public Affairs Office.
"Students were selected by local school boards under the direction of the Korean Ministry of Education based on their ability to speak English and their willingness to participate in a home stay program," he said.
Of the applicants, 33 students from Seoul, 12 from Pyeongtaek and 20 from Daegu were selected to participate.
"At first the students seemed to be slow in getting used to the new environment," said Cho Jae-ho, a teacher from Seoul's Hanyang Technical High School. "But as time went by, the students seemed to have a great time."
Indeed, many of the students agreed that the camp was a good opportunity for exposure to American culture.
"One week was not sufficient for me to learn a great deal of English, though I think my listening improved," said Kim So-yi, 17, from Gaepo High School, also in Seoul. "But living with an American family let me know more about American culture. I really want a chance to visit the U.S in the near future."
For Sgt. Maj. Mark Eister's family, having a Korean student was a treat.
"I think she had a great time. Towards the end, she really opened up to us," said Eister, who's the 8th Army Band sergeant major. "She confirmed just how sweet and kind Koreans are. Overall, it was just a great time of exchange."