바로가기 메뉴
메인메뉴 바로가기
본문 바로가기
NewsRoom Exclusive

Testimony by US Forces Korea PR Officer Kim Yong-kyu From His 25-Year Career

오동룡  월간조선 기자

  • 트위터
  • 페이스북
  • 기사목록
  • 프린트하기
  • 글자 크게
  • 글자 작게
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 TEXT: [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 with it." 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 unit. [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 enter simultaneously? [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 questions. 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 ROK-US relations." 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 officer? [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 them? [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 exchanges. [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 conversation." 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 reporters. [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 room." 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 reporter's question. [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 American Reporters 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 delegates." 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 well. 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 important? [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 souvenir." If you ask North Korean reporters about the situation in North Korea, do they tell you anything that could be considered useful information? [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 answers. 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 Northernmost Area 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 telephone. 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 professional knowledge. 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 his destiny. [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 coverage. [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 soldier injured. 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 families? [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 dilapidated." 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 combat readiness?'" 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 sent home." 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 excavated? [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 Koreans hired." 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 outcome." 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 US soldiers." Public relations officer Kim gave a long sigh while smoking his cigarette. [Mr. Kim] "At the end of last year [2002], 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 soldiers think." 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 for Them" 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 hospital. [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 for them." 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 States 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 US soldiers? [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 apology. "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 Ministry." "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]

입력 : 2003.04.22

Copyright ⓒ 조선뉴스프레스 - 월간조선. 무단전재 및 재배포 금지
NewsRoom 인기기사
Magazine 인기기사
사진

오동룡 ‘밀리터리 인사이드’

gomsi@chosun.com 기자클럽 「Soldier’s Story」는 국내 최초로 軍人들의 이야기를 전문으로 다루는 軍隊版 「피플」지면입니다. 「Soldier’s Story」에서는 한국戰과 월남戰을 치룬 老兵들의 인터뷰를 통해 이들이 후손들에게 전하는 전쟁의 메시지를 전달하려고 합니다. 또한 전후방에서 묵묵하게 맡은 바 임무를 수행하고 있는 軍人들의 哀歡과 話題 등도 발굴해 기사로 담아낼 예정입니다. 기자클럽 「Soldier’s Story」에 제보할 내용이 있으시면 이메일(gomsichosun.com)로 연락주십시오.
댓글달기 0건
댓글달기는 로그인 하신 후 남기실 수 있습니다.
  • 등록된 댓글이 없습니다.
내가 본 뉴스 맨 위로

내가 본 뉴스 닫기

-