SUBJ: US Forces Korea Public Relations Officer Speaks on USFK-ROK People Relations
SOURCE: Seoul Wolgan Choson in Korean 01 Apr 03 pp 461-476
[Article by Wolgan Choson reporter O Tong-yong: "Testimony by US Forces Korea Public Relations Officer Kim Yong-kyu From His 25-Year Career"; bolded subheads as published]
[FBIS Translated Text]
US Forces Committed Many "Foolish Acts" of Doing Good Deeds But Being Blamed for Them"
Without losing his cool-headedness while being caught between the fires of anti-US and anti-ROK sentiment, he stated that "US Forces believe us to be a companion, but we are entrenched in 1960's and 1970's notions and think that they are looking down on us."
A Man Who Has Three Official Titles
Kim Yong-kyu (age 56) lives with three "official" titles, pubic relations officer for US Forces Korea [USFK] Headquarters, United Nations Command [UNC], and US Forces Combined Headquarters. Mr. Kim has his office in the public relations office located in the Eighth US Army main post in Yongsan, Seoul. His office phone and cellular
phone are inundated with inquiries from both domestic and foreign news organizations all day long. While other people's cellular phone batteries are said to last several days after being charged,his need to be recharged by the time his office closes at 1700.
How does he view the ROK-US alliance relationship, which is skating on the thinnest ice in the 50 years of ROK-US alliance history, from his position as the point of contact on ROK-US relations? I first called his office to meet him. His reply through the telephone receiver was resounding, simple, and clear like a spokesman's statement.
[Public relations officer Kim] "I am going to P'anmunjom with foreign news correspondents tomorrow and if you want to see me,
come to the entrance of T'ongil Bridge at 0900. It is the bridge
that [late] Chairman Chong Chu-yong crossed with a herd of cows!"
On 29 January just before the Lunar New Year holiday, this reporter
drove his car along the Chayu Road. The snow on the road had frozen
overnight in the bitter cold with temperatures falling 14 degrees
below zero, creating hazardous driving conditions. Neighboring
mountains seen from the road to P'anmunjom were covered with snow
and frozen solid. Amid bitterly cold winds with a wind-chill factor
below minus 20 degrees Celsius, reporters from major world news
agencies such AP and AFP came to visit P'anmunjom with the
cooperation of UNC. Accompanying foreign news correspondents is one
of the important duties of USFK public relations officer Mr. Kim.
On the way to Camp Bonifas, P'anmunjom Joint Security Area Guard
Battalion, Mr. Kim said that "before the 1980's, my partners
consisted of reporters covering the political beat who visited
P'anmunjom, but since the 1990's, reporters covering the social
arena have come to be my partners due to crimes by US soldiers, the
Maehyang-ri shooting range incident and the Nokun-ri incident."
When we entered the VIP briefing room at Camp Bonifas, photos
depicting the short history of USFK were hanging on the
eight-p'yong wall. Even blue-eyed foreign correspondents, who
claimed that their foreign news desk practically forced them to
visit P'anmunjom when North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has heightened tensions on the
Korean peninsula, gazed with interest at the [photo] of the 18
August ax atrocity incident.
While a 15-minute introduction was being made on the unit's current
status and duties using a projector, Mr. Kim sat on a couch in the
darkened room and listened silently. Thinking that he must have
virtually memorized the spiel given by the non-commissioned officer
in charge of briefing, I questioned him about it and he
nonchalantly replied, "Well, you could say I am more than familiar
When we left Camp Bonifas and approached the Southern Limit Line,
Mr. Kim's movements became quick. As soon as the US Forces
non-commissioned officer who served as a guide finished his
explanation, he made supplementary explanations in fluent English.
It was an explanation on the golf course situated right next to the
[Mr. Kim] "What we see on the right side is the world's most
dangerous one-hole golf course, "Combat." It is the world's most
dangerous golf course with mine fields covering all three sides."
The van carrying the reporters passed anti-tank barrier, followed
by the Southern Limit Line [SLL], and entered the demilitarized zone [DMZ]. When we were about one km past the SLL, Mr. Kim pointed
to the guard posts lined up along both sides of the street and said
they were "important topography."
[Mr. Kim] "This is the very 'tripwire' that provides US Forces with
justification for automatic intervention when war breaks out in
South Korea. Should North Korea pass through this area, US soldiers
guarding Collier Post (left side of the road) and Ouellette Post
(right side of the road) would be injured, thereby providing
justification for intervention to protect its own soldiers. But,
the jurisdiction for these two posts was transferred to the first
South Korean Army Division and the UNC on 1 October 1991. This
'incident' signified that the South Korean Army would be completely
responsible for the security of the DMZ."
First Served Principle
Reporters who arrived at "the House of Freedom" went through the
lobby and stood in front of the P'anmunjom conference room. It
looked exactly like the scene depicted in the movie poster for
"Joint Security Area." North Korean soldiers, who patrol the area
in pairs, marched by on straight legs.
[Mr. Kim] "Do not go too far forward or take pictures right here!"
Mr. Kim pointed out the photo line and explained how the Military
Demarcation Line (MDL) changed at P'anmunjim.
[Mr. Kim] "MDL barbed-wire fences change to white cement columns at
P'anmunjom, and when the Military Armistice Commission [MAC] enters
the negotiation room, it changes to a cement threshold, which then
changes to a microphone line on the negotiation table."
There is no division of North and South Korea inside the negotiation room! There is only one entrance door each on the North and the South side.
What happens if [South Korean tourists] and North Korea tourists
[Mr. Kim] "Whoever opens the door first tours first, following the
FCFS principle in English. In the past, a neutral supervising
country's flag was affixed to the flagpole and hung on the wall,
but a North Korean soldier is said to have pulled down a US flag
from the flagpole and polished his boots with it. That is why the
flag is placed in a frame now."
When we entered a recreational area called the Sanctuary Club,
which means what the name says, soldiers were watching President
Bush's New Year state of the union address on TV. Mr. Kim arranged
an opportunity to ask JSA company commander Lieutenant Davis some
Anti-US protests including candlelight rallies have recently been
staged. Has this situation created any uncomfortable feelings
between US soldiers and South Korean soldiers stationed in the JSA?
Lt Davis was quite embarrassed to be asked the question.
[Lt Davis] "We cannot see the scenes of protests, nor do we pay
attention to such things. South Korean soldiers make up 60 percent
of this unit. Our US soldiers are making their best efforts to get
along with South Korean soldiers in the unit so as not to damage
Many South Koreans are concerned that anti-US sentiment may break
up 50 years of ROK-US alliance. As a person who came to this
foreign country at a young age to protect South Korea's security,
how do you feel about the South Korean people's anti-US [sentiment]?
[Lt Davis] "Since our soldiers serve in South Korea for a year, we
frankly do not think seriously about such issues."
He then took my hands and gave an uncomfortable smile, saying
please do not ask further questions. Public relations officer Kim
commented that "US soldiers are quite proud to serve in the JSA"
and that "there is even an Internet site created by a group of
people who served in the JSA."
Public relations officer Kim joined the KATUSA [Korean
Augmentation Troops to the United States] in 1976 at a rather late
age and served in the US Second Infantry Division. He was scouted
before being discharged from military service and began public
relations work as a US Second Infantry Division public relations
officer. In 1980, he transferred to the US Eighth Army headquarters
and has been in charge of public relations for 23 years. He could
observe the change of USFK's role as a USFK public relations
officer and observe North-South relations through P'anmunjum as a
UNC public relations officer. First Step in USFK in 1976, Leads to 25-Year Career as Public Relations Officer
What is the most necessary characteristic for a public relations
[Mr. Kim] "A USFK public relations officer should be well-versed in
US policy toward North Korea, a Combined Forces Campaign public
relations officer should be quite familiar with ROK-US relations,
and a UNC public relations officer should be well aware of the
world political situation. Consequently, my job requires that I
always have each country's movements in my head and I have to pore
over relevant books."
P'anmunjom, which used to be a "venue of confrontation," changed
into a "place for dialogue" with the realization of talks on
sports, economy, and the National Assembly in 1990 and 1991.
Subsequently, the North declared a unilateral abrogation of the
Armistice Agreement when the UNC appointed a South Korean general
as the MAC delegate. With the withdrawal of neutral countries in
their supervisory capacity, such as Czechoslovakia and China,
[North Korea] made [P'anmunjom] a "place of confrontation" by
establishing the so-called "DPRK People's Army P'anmunjom Mission."
However, of late, Hyundai Honorary Chairman Chong Chu-yong made
P'anmunjom a "place for exchanges" by passing through "P'anmunjom"
while driving a herd of cattle in 1998.
Public relations officer Kim briefly summarized the history of
P'anmunjom, and saying that "P'anmunjom was transformed into a
'place for events' where congregations and art festivals are held,
after North Korea held the Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification
event to the north of P'anmunjom."
Following the conclusion of the Armistice Agreement in 1953, the
MAC held about 1000 meetings including plenary sessions and
secretarial meetings. How often did you visit P'anmunjom?
[Mr. Kim] "Do I not come to P'anmunjom as a UNC public relations
officer? I visited countless times when MAC talks were being held.
Recently, talks have become rare and MAC talks have disappeared
after North Korea made the Armistice Agreement ineffectual for
whatever its reasons. General-level talks between the UNC and North
Korea are rarely held due to North Korea's refusal. Anyway, looking
at the 1990 records, as many as 30 talks were held in a year. Once
talks are held, it takes two to three hours, during which time I
talk with North Korean reporters. It means that I talk to them for
more than 60 hours a year."
Do you know more about North Korea from your frequent meetings with
[Mr. Kim] "Of course, I have a better understanding of North Korea
than the general public. However, my opinions tend to contain the
military's outlook a lot. For example, there was no reconciliatory
atmosphere along the 155 miles of the cease-fire line, following
the 15 June North-South summit talks. Then what is necessary at
this point is an accurate diagnosis of North-South relations.
People must not overlook the fact that 70 percent of 1.1 million
North Korean soldiers, which amounts to 770,000 soldiers, are
deployed along the cease-fire line. Where else in the world can one
find a more dangerous place?"
Nevertheless, he commented on the necessity of North-South
[Mr. Kim] "No one can deny the fact that North and South Korea
should continue their exchanges and dialogue. Dialogue began in the
1970's and has continued to this date... [ellipses as
published] Many changes have taken place with dialogue and
exchanges. Since the 1970's, incidents and accidents at the DMZ
have been greatly reduced."
"South Korean Press Delegation Chief"
Have you had in-depth conversations with North Korean reporters
when you met them in a non-official capacity?
[Mr. Kim] "We greet each other and talk about the weather and that
day's talks. Later, we talk about what is happening in the world.
For example, I have many memories of talking about the nuclear
issue in the 1990's. There is also a taboo."
What is it?
[Mr. Kim] "It is slandering a head of the state. It breaks up the
When you first participated in the talks, what was their
understanding of a public relations officer?
[Mr. Kim] "Although I put an armband representing the press, I
reveal my identity. Since the North's reporters had no knowledge of
the position of UNC public relations officer, they considered me a
'South Korean press chief' and called me Mr. Kim. After all, I led
reporters and delivered to both sides' reporters statements
received from both sides during the talks. Since I am neither a
government official nor a reporter from the press, [North Korean
reporters] talked more freely with me."
I take it that North Korean reporters did not talk freely with our
[Mr. Kim] "A reporter can become a subject of coverage and in
reality, there have been cases where such conversation exchanges
have caused problems. If conversations exchanged between reporters
today are aired through our broadcasting program on the same night,
North Korean reporters bring their protests to me, perhaps because
they think I am the press chief. They become angry and remonstrate,
'When did I say that? (mentioning the name of the reporter who
wrote the article) Do not allow such a wicked reporter into the
Do you also eat together?
[Mr. Kim] "It is not possible for MAC talks since they are held in
the conference room. All other talks are held alternately between
the North's 'T'ongilgak' and the South's 'House of Freedom' with
the side hosting the talks providing the meal. Once when the
meeting was held at T'ongilgak, the restaurant even provided
p'atchuk [red-beans and rice porridge] for the occasion of the
shortest day of the year. Our race is genial and generous about
food so each side provides generously."
When foreign reporters come to South Korea for their news coverage,
why do you personally "guide" them? There are many others working in the public relations office.
Mr. Kim suddenly showed a serious countenance and refuted the
[Mr. Kim] "It is not good to use the expression 'guide.' When
foreign correspondents visit South Korea, a military guide from the
[UNC] Security Battalion accompanies them, but a Public Relations
Department official must also accompany them to deliver accurate
'facts' about P'anmunjom. As a public relations officer, I have to
convey official UNC position to foreign news organizations when
there are questions."
European Reporters Have Better Grasp of North Korea Than
What is the most difficult question?
[Mr. Kim] "Sometimes I have been asked a question as a South Korean
and not as a UNC public relations officer. They ask, 'when will
reunification occur?' which is rather an absurd question from our
perspective. It is extremely embarrassing and difficult for me."
How do you respond?
[Mr. Kim] "Based on the premise of my personal opinion, I reply,
'it would be difficult in the near future'. In English, I say 'not
in the near future.'"
How many countries that participated in [the Korean] war currently
remain in South Korea?
[Mr. Kim] "The UNC consists of 21 countries including 16 countries
that participated in the war and five countries providing medical
assistance. Currently, 15 countries including the United States
have dispatched their representatives to the UNC. Their delegations
are at a US military base (UN compounds) in Tongbinggo-tong,
Yongsan, Seoul. Many of the delegates are also military officers in
their respective countries. When general-level talks are held,
delegates from South Korea, the United States, and the United
Kingdom participate in the talks as permanent members, with France,
Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand serving as alternate
He then stated that the reason why the UNC exists is because the
Korean peninsula is still in a "cease-fire" state. The Korean war
was carried out clearly under the name of UN Forces and the
Armistice Agreement was concluded under the name of UN Forces as
According to his explanation, with the establishment of the ROK-US
Combined Forces Command [CFC] in 1978, the "function" of UNC, which
had been operations command until 1978, changed to one far removed
from its previous responsibility. It assumed charge of DMZ
management and works related to the Armistice Agreement, while
ROK-US CFC took over operations command.
[Mr. Kim] "The UNC Rear Command is still situated in Japan. Of
course, they are not actual military forces and should be
considered staff officers. The UNC also has one symbolic 'UNC honor
guard' instead of military forces from 15 countries."
When do you feel that the role of a public relations officer is
[Mr. Kim] "When incidents that receive the international spotlight
occur, such as first lieutenant Cole's [as transliterated]
helicopter crash, the 18 August ax atrocity incident, and shooting
incidents at the DMZ, the phone lines are on fire from calls from
places like Washington and London. That is when I feel the weight
of my work."
He recounted a story of his visit to Paekryong Island with
foreign reporters a while ago. The topic of conversation at the
time was said to be "draft beer party."
[Mr. Kim] "Talks were being held on a warm month of May and our
side set up a draft beer stand at our side of P'anmunjom. It was a
bright sunny day and with beach umbrellas in place, the scenery
looked quite good. Reporters from Russia, China, and North Korea
really liked it. North Korean reporters did not wish to receive
anything from us even in the 1990's. They were worried about [the
consequences]. Russian and Chinese reporters did not have to care
about this. One person even asked for a 500 cc beer 'pitcher' as a
If you ask North Korean reporters about the situation in North
Korea, do they tell you anything that could be considered useful
[Mr. Kim] "When Kim Il-song died on 8 July 1994, there was much
controversy over when Kim Chong-il would take over. North-South
relations became deadlocked as of 1991 but the remains of dead US
soldiers were still returned even after Kim Il-song's death. At the
time, I met with North Korean reporters and asked them 'about when
Kim Chong-il would ascend to the presidency.' North Korean senior
reporters frankly replied, 'In our view, it would never happen
within the next three years.' Three or four reporters gave similar
North Korean reporters said that 'the question of ascending to the
presidency is not important since power has already been transferred and only formal procedures remain.' Since then, predictions made by our media organizations and intelligence organs all proved to be wrong. In the end, [Kim Chong-il] ascended to the presidency after three years."
A Man Who Was Born in the Southernmost Region and Works in the
On the afternoon of 3 February, I met with Kim Yong-kyu for the
second time in his office at the Public Relations Department of the
US Eighth Army headquarters Main Post, located in Yongsan, Seoul.
He was seeing me as a USFK public relations officer today. Of
course, with security screening on US Forces bases having been
strengthened since the 11 September terrorism attacks, I had to be
"escorted" by him.
Although an appropriate interview time was scheduled, "it happened
to be one of those days." Public relations officer Kim said that he
had received over 50 telephone calls from reporters both at home
and abroad that day.
The US Eighth Army's announcement that day saying that it planned
to have about 2,900 officers and enlisted men, who completed their
duty in South Korea, remain for six more months had tied up his
On the same day, public relations officer Kim announced through a
press release that he is "awaiting approval on his request to the
US Department of Army for an order of suspension on personnel
changes of officers and enlisted men." "Once the US Department of
the Army gives its approval, about 2,900 soldiers will not be
transferred in accordance with a normal transfer order," he said.
The plan was to redeploy them either to the US mainland or other
overseas US Forces units.
He further expanded on his comments.
[Mr. Kim] "Since US Forces have established a global strategy, it
sent a 'recommendation list' of only 2,900 soldiers to the US
Department of Army to supplement their military forces. USFK must
be at their top combat readiness, which was reported to the US
Department of the Army, and yet, the press has persistently
questioned whether such a move is an increase of military strength
in preparation for a crisis situation on the Korean peninsula."
To repeat the same story over and over like turning on a recorder
did not seem possible with a normal person's perseverance. He
explained this action clearly with a loud voice, even adding
background explanations when the listener did not possess
Foreign relations officer Kim introduces himself as a "person who
was born in the southernmost place [of Korea] and works in the
northernmost area." It is because he was born on Cheju Island and
works at P'anmunjom.
He grew up in an environment where it was easy to learn English.
His father was a professor of English Language and Literature at
Cheju University and he spent his student days in his father's
study reading original English texts. He studied history at Yonsei
University and spent his college days engrossed in studying English
and extensively reading through TIME magazines.
When he was going to school in Seoul, he stayed with his uncle
Kim In-ho (age 73), who is a former Chonju Paper Company president.
Kim In-ho, who also served as the head of the political department
at Choson Ilbo and editor in chief at Chungang Ilbo, stimulated
public relations officer Kim's curiosity and interest in writing,
which led to his active involvement in writing. He even contributed
an article on "Cheju Riot" while working on the editorial staff at
"Hyumaek," Cheju Island's local history magazine. Hanguk Ilbo
commentary editor Kim Su-chong also worked with him as a member of
the editorial staff.
Joined the Army in His 30's
Public relations officer Kim served in the KATUSA. After graduating
from college, he worked as a teacher at a private institution and
joined the Army at the age of 30 in 1970. He was drafted several
times during college but was sent home when he failed to pass his
physical examination due to his extreme near-sightedness, which is
why he joined the Army late.
He received recognition for his principal accomplishment in
administration while at Nonsan Training Camp and was posted to
KATUSA. He served in the US Second Infantry Division, which was
known to have the worst working environment, since no US Forces
units accepted him due to his older age. That was the crossroad in
[Mr. Kim] "When I arrived at the reserve unit, there was an exam to
recruit reporters for 'Indian Heads,' the Second Infantry
Division's English newspaper. I took first place by scoring almost
80 points in the English exam and the second place person scored
about 40 points. The newspaper also remained opposed to accepting
me because I was older than others but they had little choice and
reluctantly hired me, as one could not work there without ability.
While working as a reporter for Indian Heads, he made a resolution that "if I am conscious of my age, my military life will become boring and tough, so transcend age and be active in all matters." At the time, the US Second Infantry Division camp was said to have been dispersed from Cheju Island to the DMZ.
"Indian Heads" published both Korean and English versions. He began
work as a reporter under a much younger editor-in chief for the
Korean version of the newspaper.
Public relations officer Kim said that he could not forget an
American named Garry Broomfield (age 60), whom he worked with at
the time. Garry Broomfield, who majored in music at college, is
said to have been greatly interested in social issues.
[Mr. Kim] "He was a really kind-hearted person. He brought a box of
second-hand clothes from his hometown and donated them to an
orphanage after washing them, and he even fixed their piano."
It was Garry Broomfield's influence that made public relations
officer Kim become a Catholic. Garry Broomfield covered both Saint
Najaro Village, a leper's colony located in Uiwang City, Kyonggi
Province, and biracial children in Tongduch'on, Kyonggi Province.
It was a time when support was needed as lepers began to crowd into
the village as of 1974. In particular, the article on biracial
children created a sensation in the country and South Korean news
organizations such as the Korea Herald even undertook additional
[Mr. Kim] "Letters poured in saying that they did not know how
miserable the conditions were. The article provided an opportunity
and USFK formed an 'association of biracial people.' The Republic
of Korea National Red Cross established a vocational school for
biracial people in Suwon and I taught English to 40 to 50 biracial
children at 'Shalom House' on weekends or at night. They
experienced life's many joys and sorrows with the cold reception
afforded them by society and schools."
Three months before being discharged from the Army, Mr. Kim
received an offer from a US Forces scout.
[Mr. Kim] "He showed me a monthly salary sheet and asked if I would
like to work [for them]. They offered me a level 11 position when
levels higher than 7 are considered executive-level positions. It
was an exceptional offer, which far surpassed the beginning salary
for college-graduates. Since I had no particular job before joining
the Army and I had already begun learning English, I settled for
the offer thinking that I may as well study English for two or
three more years as I had already begun learning it.
During his days as an "Indian Heads" reporter, the P'anmunjom ax
atrocity incident took place. On 18 August 1976, 15 soldiers
including then-US Guard Captain Bonifas were pruning branches on
poplar trees in front of the South's Third Check Point around the
"Bridge of No Return" to clear visibility. Right then, 15 North
Korean soldiers approached and demanded that they stop their work.
Guard Captain Bonifas and others ignored the demand and were
continuing their work when they met with mishap from 40 North
Korean soldiers, with reinforcements arriving to join the original
number. North Korean soldiers attacked escaping US soldiers with
axes, a working tool, leaving two US officers dead and eights
The situation was quite urgent at the time.
[Mr. Kim] "As I donned by bulletproof vest and rushed to the
site by helicopter, I felt like I was going to my death. When the
incident occurred, the US Second Infantry Division construction
battalion was assigned and 'Operation Paul Bunyan' was executed. If
the North had fired a single shot, it would have turned into a
touch-and-go situation with a war about to break out."
"South Korea, the Least Desired Destination"
On 6 February when a groundbreaking ceremony was being held for a
flyover connecting USFK's [Yongsan's] north base (Main Post) and
the South's base (South Post), I again met with public relations
officer Kim in Yongsan.
An official from the Yongsan-ku District Office commented that "if
a flyover connecting the two bases is constructed, the surrounding
traffic flow will be improved and the use of roads would be
permitted." However, civic organizations responded by saying that
it was difficult to understand why new facilities are being
constructed when it was decided to move the Yongsan base in the
long-term, and concrete transfer plans are being studied. About 20
people staged protest rallies in front of Main Post.
[Mr. Kim] "The South Korean people do not understand Americans that
much. They attach importance to the quality of life. That is why
USFK has been attempting to provide equal welfare benefits to US
soldiers working in all areas of South Korea. In extreme words,
their way of thinking is such that even if the Yongsan base was
transferred tomorrow, they would build a building to resolve any
inconvenient problems that may arise in today's lives."
Public relations officer Kim spoke in a tone that showed that it
was difficult to understand their protests. [We] drove in his car
toward new Sanbon City in Kunp'o City, Kyonggi Province, where his
residence is located. [I] brought up the subject of US military
bases in the car.
Can USFK bring their families if they are married?
[Mr. Kim] "Due to the shortage of USFK lodgings, only 10 percent of
married US soldiers (57 percent, 19,370, of 37,000 US soldiers) can
bring their families. For this reason, the current USFK policy is
that soldiers stationed north of Seoul (applicable for the US
Second Infantry Division) cannot be accompanied by their families.
If one would still like to bring them, then the person needs to
find a residence at his own expense without 'command sponsorship.'"
Why are those working south of Seoul permitted to bring their
[Mr. Kim] "I do not know the exact reason. In Germany and Japan, 74
and 72 percent of soldiers are allowed to be accompanied by their
families, respectively. If they stay in South Korea with their
families, would this not provide psychological security that would
lead to enhanced fighting strength? Since reality does not allow
this, some US field officers apply for a transfer when they are
posted to South Korea. In a US Defense Department survey on
'country least desired for overseas service,' which was carried out
a while ago, South Korea was ranked last among 80 countries as the
least desirable country to be stationed in."
Two Merits for Constructing US Forces Apartments
This is why USFK is said to have established plans to construct
apartments in Yongsan and Osan, which would enable about 25 percent
of soldiers to bring their families by 2005 and 50 percent by 2010,
to improve the quality of their lives.
[Mr. Kim] "There are two advantages in constructing US Forces
apartments. One is that providing stable living conditions to US
soldiers would contribute to improving their fighting strength and
the other is that South Korean construction companies will be in
charge of construction worth about $ 300 million. What else would
have compelled US Forces to show the interior of an apartment to
the media when they consider privacy an important issue? It is
because apartments were built 40 years ago and are quite
Have there been any improvements in US Forces' shooting range?
[Mr. Kim] "Maehyang-ri shooting range in Hwasong and Story [as
transliterated] shooting range in P'aju, Kyonggi Province have been
considerably improved. At least, there is no machine-gun firing.
South Korean soldiers also use both places. What happens if there
are no training camps for the military, which must always be
prepared 100 percent for combat? Given the security situation like
the one on the Korean peninsula, should it not be our people who
ask them to 'further utilize training camps to assume complete
By the time we talked for on hour on various topics, we had arrived
in public relations officer Kim's apartment. The dinner prepared by
his wife Yi Su-chin (age 49), who is from the same hometown as
public relations officer Kim, consisted mostly of "seafood" dishes
such as Ch'angryan [pickled fish] and broiled fish. The only none
seafood dish was Kimch'i pot stew made with "black pork," a special
product of Cheju Island.
After dinner, we went into his study, where I saw many books on
ROK-US relations. Several plaques of appreciation and merit awarded
by USFK were noticeable. He brought out some bottles of wine and
lit a cigarette.
US Soldiers Who Unfailingly Return Home Even after Death
When did the return of remains of US soldiers who died during the
Korean war begin?
[Mr. Kim] "As I remember it, it began in the early 1990's. I twice
visited the US Army Central Identification Laboratory (CILHI) in
Hawaii with newspaper reporters. I felt their strong conviction
that remains of even a single soldier who died overseas must be
found. To identify the remains that are in pieces, even dental
records were thoroughly searched. One's mindset cannot but be
different when one is aware that the country will take care of its
citizen even after his death in battle."
How many US soldiers have died or are missing in the Korean War?
Public relations officer Kim commented that "37,000 US soldiers
died in battle and 92,000 were wounded, while those missing or
prisoners of war amount to about 8,000. Some of these have been
By what route was negotiations carried out with North Korea for the
return of bodily remains?
[Mr. Kim] "In around 1990, the US side sent materials on soldiers
killed in battle, maps, and relevant testimonies to North Korea and
requested excavation. However, North Korea handed over scores of
excavated remains to US politician Montgomery [as transliterated]
and not to UN Forces or US Forces."
What was the reason?
[Mr. Kim] "It may be difficult for the general public to
understand, but the UNC and the United States use the expression
'UN forces' remains' while a North Korean delegate uses the
expression 'US soldiers' remains' through a news conference. In
other words, it contains the nuance of 'we are dealing directly
with US Forces.'"
Have excavations continued even now when tensions are heightening
between the United States and North Korea?
[Mr. Kim] "The United States and North Korea formed a 'joint
excavation survey team' in the 1990's. With the establishment of an
excavation team, the United States and North Korea agree on the
number and areas of excavation for next year through consultations
held every December. The delivery of remains has been held in
P'anmunjom until recently, but the event is no longer held there
since sthe suspension of Armistice talks. A US excavation team
flies directly to North Korea from Yokota Air Base [in Japan] and
carries out excavation, after which the remains found are
transported by plane to Yokota Air Base."
Is it true that North Korea is paid money for each remains
[Mr. Kim] "It is far from the truth. North Korea is paid for the
combined expenses of costs incurred there by the excavation team,
North Korean vehicle rental fees, and labor costs of local North
Which areas are mainly being excavated?
[Mr. Kim] "Excavations have been carried out near Changjin
Reservoir in North Hamgyong Province where many soldiers from the
US Marine Corps sacrificed their lives. Previously, they were
carried out in areas north of P'yongyang where the US Second
Infantry Division engaged in fierce battle. The South Korean Army
has also been doing excavation work within the country since 2000.
Although it feels rather late, I think it is truly a fortunate
Both sides incurred enormous casualties in the Changjin
Reservoir battle (Chosin Reservoir Battle, 'Chosin' is Japanese
inscription for Changjin). According to a US Forces' report, 25,000
Chinese Air Force and 3,000 US soldiers died in this battle alone.
Reportedly, in April 1983, some brave US war veterans established a
"survior's association named 'Chosin Few,' meaning that only few
survived this Changjin Reservior Battle.
[US Forces] Realize Most South Koreans Do Not Think So
Since the end of November 2002, tollowing the incident in which
two middle school girls were killed by US Forces' track vehicles,
anti-US sentiment in South Korea has been increasing.
[Mr. Kim] "US soldiers generally say that 'South Koreans are mostly
kind and diligent.' It is clear that they still have positive
feelings about South Korea. This is not a 'public relations
officer's rhetoric.' US soldiers stay in South Korea for about a
year not on a voluntary basis but because they are on orders, and
they have an interest in the distinctive culture of the East.
"Yet, there are some soldiers who fall short of our expectations
due to their diverse origins and age groups. Just as crime exists
in our society, it is a natural phenomenon for crime to exist among
Public relations officer Kim gave a long sigh while smoking his
[Mr. Kim] "At the end of last year , there was an incident
where Lieutenant Colonel A (age 42) from the US Eighth Army Public
Relations Office was beaten by three young men in their 20's who
were walking along the underground pass in front of the Central
Finance Accounting Center in Yongsan, Seoul. During the course of
the incident, Lieutenant Colonel A received light scratches and
bruises, but he could have felt that his life was threatened. When
I talked to him, he said that 'I know that most South Koreans do
not harbor such intent.' I would like to say that this is how US
A while ago, there was an incident of spitting and verbally abusing
US soldiers at a train station. If such incidents accumulate, would
they not feel hostility toward South Koreans?
[Mr. Kim] "The big premise is that most US soldiers have a
favorable impression of South Korea and their feelings can be
determined by thinking about how they would feel not as US soldiers
but as fellow human beings. To go further, one can realize even
without asking how their parents and families living far away
overseas would feel."
"US Forces Did Foolish Deeds of Doing Good Things But Being Blamed
Public relations officer Kim commented that he could actually feel
how ROK-US relations have been changing.
[Mr. Kim] "Our economy has developed and ROK-US relations have also
entered into a partnership relationship both in name and reality.
Then, our perspective should also start from a partnership. It is
anachronistic to only see US Forces from the 1960's and 1970's and
think that they censure and look down upon us when they have
changed and view us as a partner."
How has US Forces' view of South Korea changed recently?
[Mr. Kim] "US Forces have consistently considered South Korea a
friend since the 1950's. The 1960's saw US Forces actively
supporting orphanages, providing food and constructing buildings...
[ellipses as published] Americans' publicize the fact that they
frequently visit orphanages not because they wish to boast, but to
show that they live in one community with South Koreans. Americans
have been educated from childhood to believe that helping people in
need is not a simple 'gesture' but a social service."
He cited the incidents of a US solider with a rare 'AB negative'
blood type recently saving a life by donating his blood at Kunsan
Air Base and of a [US] pilot with night flying experience saving
the lives of a pregnant woman and her unborn child by voluntarily
flying them to a hospital in Inch'on when the woman's life was
endangered one night on Paekryong Island where there is no
[Mr. Kim] "When US soldiers visited the woman in the hospital, I
accompanied them. That look of delight! Would it not be the same
for all human beings? How proud that US solider must have felt to
save a life! This is human."
I once saw a piece of writing on the Internet asking "why should
the United States ask us to be grateful for what they did for our
fathers in the past?"
[Mr. Kim] "As a public relations officer, it is dangerous to
express my personal opinion too much, but there is a question I
would like to ask those who make such claims. When have US soldiers
demanded 'why are you not grateful?' Of course, such an assertion
was an expression of one individual's personal opinion. Those who
have had a chance to make contact with US soldiers will realize
that they are not the people who speak in such a way. US soldiers
ended up doing a foolish thing of doing good deeds and being blamed
Regarding USFK crimes, are not both sides in a state of sharp
confrontation over the issue of South Korea's exercising the right
to hold criminal trials?
[Mr. Kim] "Basically, US Forces have jurisdiction over incidents
that take place while on duty, with jurisdiction passing to South
Korea for incidents that take place during off duty hours. As it
has already been reported in the newspapers, there was even an
incident of a US major army surgeon being stabbed to death by a
South Korean in It'aewon. There is no society that tolerates
wrongdoings such as crimes and things that happen in the course of
human experience. US soldiers who commit a crime are also punished
no matter where the jurisdiction for criminal trials may fall.
"An organization that tolerates criminals cannot sustain itself. It
is not important which country exercises criminal jurisdiction and
I hope that [the South Korean people] understand the issue from
such a broad perspective. South Koreans think that US Forces
overlook their criminals like the case of 'men are blind in their
own cause' since South Korea does not exercise criminal
jurisdiction, but this is not true. I even sent in statistical data
on what punishments US soldiers received, but no news organization
carried the story..." [ellipses as published]
"Punishment" Differently Perceived by the ROK and the United
Public relations officer Kim said the concept of punishment is
different between the ROK and the United States.
[Mr. Kim] "South Koreans believe punishment means 'imprisonment.'
Americans consider 'fines' and 'degradation' as a heavy punishment.
If a career soldier who has been promoted to master sergeant is
demoted to a private, then it is directly connected to his
survival. If one's monthly salary of $2,000 is reduced to $500,
then it is a matter of survival."
There is controversy over the claim that the prosecutor in the case
of late Sin Hyo-sun and Sim Mi-son, who were crushed to death by a
US armored vehicle on 13 June last year, did not make efforts to
establish [the defendants'] guilt.
[Mr. Kim] "I was present at the trial, but you must first consider
the selection of the jury. In a military trial, regulations
stipulate that the jury must consist of soldiers. The selection of
jury members is not carried out randomly. They must be people who
possess the ability to make judgments. Even though jury members are
selected on the belief that they would remain impartial, it is
still not enough, which is why the prosecutor and the defending
lawyer hold a jury hearing.
"Once it is judged that a potential jury member will not show
unjust partiality for one side by asking various questions, the
person is accepted. If the slightest suspicion exists, the person
is excluded from the jury. In this military trial as well, three
out of 10 people were eliminated in the first hearing. What is
clear is that there is no lawyer or prosecutor who wants to lose a
trial. Why would they wish to bear such a yoke when their
reputation is on the line?"
Is this not an incident where South Koreans have been sacrificed by
[Mr. Kim] "Since the victims are South Koreans, Americans cannot do
anything that runs counter to the military traditions and several
hundred years of legal traditions. If I may say so based on the
premise of not misunderstanding my remarks, despite the tragic
deaths of the two middle school girls, I personally think that not
guilty verdicts, contrary to guilty-verdicts demanded by South
Korean sentiment, were issued to show the US courts' independence."
Regarding the accusations of USFK's unsatisfactory handling of the
middle school girls' incident, he commented that "he has been
uncomfortable even until recently as a public relations officer."
He added, "You should be aware that USFK has also been deliberating
hard on what actions need be taken regarding this tragic incident."
"When the incident first took place, the US Second Infantry
Division engineering brigade's Camp Howz commander and Russel L.
Honore, the US Second Infantry Division commander visited the
victims' families and presented them with a solatium along with an
"However, one of the inaccurate news reports concerned an argument
over the solatium raised by some civic organizations and news
organizations. They claimed, 'How could [USFK] try to shush the
incident with 100 dollars after killing two middle school girls.'
The commander's first visit was to offer comfort and condolences.
To put it our way, they went to offer a contribution.
"Similarly, when a U-2 plane under the US Fifth Reconnaissance
Battalion crashed in Hyangnam-myon, Hwasong City, Kyonggi Province
on 26 January and damaged a car maintenance shop, [US Forces]
visited the shop and delivered a solatium. Even though it is
totally different from reparations [paesang], the press gave a
different report than the truth, and [the gesture] was shown in a
far different light than its true intent. The US side explained the
reparation procedures to the bereaved families and promptly
provided compensations of 195 million won to each bereaved family
of the middle of girls after being notified by the ROK Justice
"South Koreans Are Too Emotional"
On 18 June of last year when ROK-Portugal [soccer] match was being
held, the US Second Infantry Division military engineer brigade's
Camp Howz held a candlelight ceremony in memory of [two middle
school girls] with about 500 soldiers participating, including US
Second Infantry Division Commander Russel L. Honore, a ROK Army
general, and the military engineer brigade commander.
Before "Pomdaewi" [Pan-National Countermeasure Committee for the
Late Middle School Girls Killed by US Military Armored Vehicle]
came to stage candlelight "protests," USFK soldiers had already
cherished the memory [of the two middle school girls] with candle
lights. Although photos of the candlelight memorial ceremony were
distributed to all news organizations along with an article, no
news organization is said to have printed this photo.
[Mr. Kim] "There were some soldiers who were in tears as [the
ceremony] began with a military priest's prayer followed by a
memorial reading. When the ceremony ended and the soldiers began to
place their candles one by one in front of the girls' portraits, [I
saw] as a human being and not as a USFK public relations officer
that their faces were heavy and grave. It was suggested then and
there that a collection be taken up and the movement spread
throughout USFK. In the end, $22,000 (26.4 million Korean won) was
delivered to the bereaved families."
I told him that I once saw a picture entitled "We go together!"
which symbolized the ROK-US alliance, in General Paek Son-yon's
office, a great commander in the Korean war.
[Mr. Kim] "Former USFK commander Thomas Schwartz, who left his
post in May 2002, always added that remark at the end of his
speeches. When General Schwartz was writing a preface in the
promotional booklet the USFK put together, he said that 'General
Paek first used this remark.' I remember that USFK generals, who
toured the battlefields in Tabu-tong, Taegu with General Paek in
October last year, marveled at General Paek's remarkable memory. It
was also good to see US generals listening with interest while
painstakingly taking notes."
Do our people have any wrong perceptions of USFK?
[Mr. Kim] "South Koreans are too emotional. Seen from the
perspective of a race's pride and sovereignty, what race would like
to lose its pride and be deprived of its sovereignty? What we are
doing wrong when interpreting USFK issues is the fact that we only
advocate our race's pride and sovereignty. This does not mean that
we should throw away our race's pride. True nature will be
distorted if interpretation is only focused on pride."
[Description of Source: Seoul Wolgan Choson in Korea -- Monthly
political and economic newsmagazine published by Choson Ilbo and
similar in editorial orientation]