• Yongsan land after US Forces are relocated
    Korean people are generally known hotheaded. That is not always negative temper but had rather contributed in a way rapid recovery and growth of the Korean economy from the aftermath of the Korean War.
    When Korean government announced that the United States and Korea agreed in 2003 to relocate the U.S. Army Yongsan Garrison to Camp Humphreys by the end of the year 2017, and the Yongsan land will be developed to a large park, larger than London’s Hyde Park, many Seoul citizens not only overjoyed with the good news but also impetuously wanted U.S. Forces to move out as quick as possible. The 14-year -waiting was too much for them.
    The Yongsan Garrison will be emptied by the end of this year leaving Dragon Hill Lodge and some other U.N and U.S. headquarters behind, the units of which require to maintain a close contact with the Ministry of Defense of Korea, which is located at southeast corner of the Yongsan garrison.
    In 2007, the government has enacted a Special Law for Development of Yongsan Park and drawn a Basic Master Plan for the Development of the 2,430,000 m2 (600 acres) Yongsan Park and put out international perspective drawing contest in 2012. A bird’s-eye-view landscape named “The future-oriented healing park” (a literal translation) by a consortium architects of the Netherlands and Korea was chosen as the prize winner in 2012 among many dozens of fine design concepts proposed by the local architects and architect professors.
    Now as it’s clear that U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan will complete its relocation before the end of this year, then the question is; have the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) or the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation (MOLIT) completed its master plan or the phased construction drawings and documents ready to put out for competitive bidding? None of the above master plan, project program has been fully agreed by the concerned offices as of today, according to Chosun-Ilbo (March 13, 2018). The vernacular paper reports that discords on the master plan of Yongsan Park between the Ministries, Seoul City, Yongsan Gu Office and including Seoul City’s civic organizations have been drifting for more than two years as each office is demanding different idea.
    While the presidential office is too busy in dealing with North Korean issue so it appears that the development of new Yongsan Park would be dawdled further, Seoul citizens might organize a tour guide to just see the empty site before bulldozers come in. So that the citizens will know how the U.S. Forces had responded to the North’s aggression in June 1950, and how and why they have been stationed in the Yongsan Garrison and ready to respond for any further attack by the communist North since the U.S. 7th Infantry Division had established its headquarters at Yongsan land in September 1945.
    By Nam Sang-so (sangsonam@gmail.com), a retired architect who has served in the Building 1510, which still stands in the Main Post, and K-6 (now Camp Humphreys) in and out for 25 years.
  • Note from Mr Nam SangSo on March 8th 2018, former architect for Trans Asia Engineering working for 8th Army in Yongsan Garriosn, main post Building 1510.

    In the winter of 1959 while civilians were not allowed to visit Panmunjeom neutral area I had a rare chance to go
    see the Joint Security Area and Daeseong-dong village as a member of topographic survey and field investigation
    engineering team of Trans-Asia Engineers. One of the missions was to find a permanent underground water
    sources for the facilities of the UNCMAC in the JSA. And we found a permanent clear water-table in the “primeval forest.”

    • Note from Ron Cullifer on march 9th 2018:
      I also did some work at Taesong-dong and Tongil-chon. The farmers there didn’t have to pay taxes. I seem to remember a little school for kids as well.

      I was not in uniform or in the military. I was working under a contractor for the DoD and wore a blue arm band to indicate I was a non-combatant. Circa 1987-89. I must have past via Freedom Bridge to all the major installations about 200 times working in that part of the DMZ. When directed to Panmumchom (JSA) I’d see the NK guards just a few feet away with their blank faces. At the forward US Army Guard Posts (OPs) Oulette & Collier bunkers we could all hear the rumble underground of the NKs blowing explosives frequently (tunnel building). I saw the huge NK flag behind Panmungak located in the NK city of Kaesong. (Simultaneously and separately I was in & out of the Yongsan Garrison attached to the 5855 RTU USAR. John Nowel was our First Sgt.)

  • http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/common/vpage-pt.asp?categorycode=162&newsidx=239225

    Operation Creeper on Mt. Hyangno

    By Nam Sang-so

    It was a sunny Sunday in June 1950 at Uljin, North Gyeongsang Province. I was helping transplanting rice seedlings in the muddy field, risking leeches sticking on my legs. “Soldiers are coming,” shouted someone. They wore brown fatigues and armed with short barreled machine guns. “How are you, comrades?” shouted in accented Korean. After successfully occupying the township, the North Korean soldiers forcibly recruited young men to help repair broken bridges. I was drafted twice.

    In August the next year, riding Isuzu Japanese trucks, South Korean soldiers came back from the south after the northerners had disappeared into mountains. Then they randomly conscripted civilians to help their military chores. And I was caught again.

    A group of 30 civilian men are compulsorily loaded on an Isuzu truck and headed north. Soon after we saw a tilted signboard marking the 38th parallel the truck reached at the foot of Mt. Hyangno, some 200 km north of Uljin. The 155mm artilleries blasting-of over the mountain ridges were splitting our eardrums. A Sgt. materialized and told us that we shall carry the trench mortar shells to the frontline ridge at 1,296 meters plateau.

    The battle was called “Operation Creeper” jointly conducted by the U.S. 10th Army Corps and the 1st Corps of South Korean Army. A young Korean soldier carrying a carbine rifle lead the civilian shell carriers shouldering five shells each started creeping up steep mountain in the dark.

    A barrage of enemy mortars exploded around us at dawn when we reached on the plateau. We quickly jumped into the trench and fell on to the South Korean soldiers who were already hunkered down in the ground. Some gunners above the trench flew into air missing their legs, others tumbled down breeding. The blood strained soldiers cried out in pain, “Mother, mother!” What a miserable life I’m having; only six years ago in Japan, didn’t I barely survive U.S. B-29 bombings just before the end of the World War II.

    “Are you one of the shell carriers?” It was English. I was wearing a school cap. “Yes,” I said surprisingly. An American in a military fatigue without insignias gave me a small cloth bag and asked me to deliver it to any U.S. Army unit down at the foot of staging area. One of his legs was badly injured, he said he was a war correspondent. Fastening the bag tightly over my waist, I crawled out of the trench and ran down the steep mountain ignoring the shell explosions around. And found a tent marked U.S. Army. Hitchhiking military trucks heading for south, I arrived my home in Uljin the next day. Among our recruited group two didn’t come home.

    It was a sunny summer day this year, I visited, as allured by my rather fond memory, the old artillery staging area at the foot of heavily wooded Mt. Hyangno at the eastern end of the DMZ. A soldier carrying a rifle appeared and warned me that the area is off-limit to civilian. Looking at his childish face, I told my ammo carrying story during the war even far before his father was born. I felt I’m happily alive when the young boy made a fine military salute at me.

    The writer (sangsonam@gmail.com) is a Korean War honoree veteran

    • Note from Mr. Nam o 25th November 2017
      Attached is a clipping from this morning’s 조선일보.
      I wasn’t a member of the A frame carrier but was a randomly and forcefully recruited shell carrier as said in my essay “Operation Creeper on Mt. Hyangno.”
      It was something like this as the paper’s drawing shows; a hail of bullets and explosions of mortar shells.
      H Nov 25
      • http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/common/vpage-pt.asp?categorycode=162&newsidx=239225

        Operation Creeper on Mt. Hyangno

        By Nam Sang-so

        It was a sunny Sunday in June 1950 at Uljin, North Gyeongsang Province. I was helping transplanting rice seedlings in the muddy field, risking leeches sticking on my legs. “Soldiers are coming,” shouted someone. They wore brown fatigues and armed with short barreled machine guns. “How are you, comrades?” shouted in accented Korean. After successfully occupying the township, the North Korean soldiers forcibly recruited young men to help repair broken bridges. I was drafted twice.

        In August the next year, riding Isuzu Japanese trucks, South Korean soldiers came back from the south after the northerners had disappeared into mountains. Then they randomly conscripted civilians to help their military chores. And I was caught again.

        A group of 30 civilian men are compulsorily loaded on an Isuzu truck and headed north. Soon after we saw a tilted signboard marking the 38th parallel the truck reached at the foot of Mt. Hyangno, some 200 km north of Uljin. The 155mm artilleries blasting-of over the mountain ridges were splitting our eardrums. A Sgt. materialized and told us that we shall carry the trench mortar shells to the frontline ridge at 1,296 meters plateau.

        The battle was called “Operation Creeper” jointly conducted by the U.S. 10th Army Corps and the 1st Corps of South Korean Army. A young Korean soldier carrying a carbine rifle lead the civilian shell carriers shouldering five shells each started creeping up steep mountain in the dark.

        A barrage of enemy mortars exploded around us at dawn when we reached on the plateau. We quickly jumped into the trench and fell on to the South Korean soldiers who were already hunkered down in the ground. Some gunners above the trench flew into air missing their legs, others tumbled down breeding. The blood strained soldiers cried out in pain, “Mother, mother!” What a miserable life I’m having; only six years ago in Japan, didn’t I barely survive U.S. B-29 bombings just before the end of the World War II.

        “Are you one of the shell carriers?” It was English. I was wearing a school cap. “Yes,” I said surprisingly. An American in a military fatigue without insignias gave me a small cloth bag and asked me to deliver it to any U.S. Army unit down at the foot of staging area. One of his legs was badly injured, he said he was a war correspondent. Fastening the bag tightly over my waist, I crawled out of the trench and ran down the steep mountain ignoring the shell explosions around. And found a tent marked U.S. Army. Hitchhiking military trucks heading for south, I arrived my home in Uljin the next day. Among our recruited group two didn’t come home.

        It was a sunny summer day this year, I visited, as allured by my rather fond memory, the old artillery staging area at the foot of heavily wooded Mt. Hyangno at the eastern end of the DMZ. A soldier carrying a rifle appeared and warned me that the area is off-limit to civilian. Looking at his childish face, I told my ammo carrying story during the war even far before his father was born. I felt I’m happily alive when the young boy made a fine military salute at me.

        The writer (sangsonam@gmail.com) is a Korean War honoree veteran

    • Some Korean entertainers for U.S. Forces
      By Nam Sang-so (sangsonam@gmail.com)
      After the Korean War had ended with an armistice in July 1953, people went busy for reconstruction of the post-war devastation. And general public, mostly poor by losing their wealth by war, had no time to have a leisure time listening to or see the entertaining shows.
      A 25-year-old Mr. Shin was a trumpeter before he was employed as a concrete driller and dynamite blaster by Morrison-Knudson International of the United States at Hwacheon hydro dam reconstruction project in Gangwon Province in 1957. After dinner he went to river side near the employee barracks and practiced his music lesson. He blew sad classical tones mostly and airy jazz in other times echoing in the star-studded sky and dark mountains. It was a tranquil moment for Korean workers as well as for American technicians. As I was the supervisor of the drilling/dynamite department, Shin taught me the basics of how to produce buzzing sound into the mouthpiece and pushing down on three piston valves located on the top tube of his brass instrument.
      When the construction of the dam was completed in 1959, everyone had to leave the dam site losing their job. One Christmas evening I met Shin in a tea house in Myeong-dong, Seoul. He told me he was accepted as a trumpeter of a jazz band that would perform music and dance entertainment for the U.S. Military personnel in various camps at Yongsan Garrison, Camp Casey, Camp Red Cloud, K-6, Osan Air Base, etc.
      There were thousands of men and women vocalists, musicians and dancers who had no place to display their talents had been overflowing in the down town tea houses looking for work. In the meantime, the United Service Organizations (USO) at Camp Kim with the slogan of “Home Away from Home,” then had noticed that those out of job Korean entertainers were quite skilled and knew how quickly they can imitate American folk songs and jazz music, and asked Korean entertainment enterprises such as Hwayang and 20th Universal to select and supply them to entertain U.S. Force personnel stationed in Korea.
      The Korean commercial enterprises jumped up for the fine business opportunity and set up an evaluation committee and conducted auditions for the musicians, singers, and dancers. They have graded the candidates’ skill; A for good, B for acceptable and C for disqualified. Those who got the A grade had been assigned at the theaters in Yongsan Garrison or USOM Club in Seoul and the Bs were assigned to the frontline military camps. The auditions were severe as to check on English pronunciation, expression of emotion, showmanship and costumes.
      Trumpeter Shin told me that the American music he had played most often on the stages for the USO shows included such songs as; Just in time, Cheek to cheek, I want to go home, My funny Valentine, Star dust, Cotton fields, I love you, and so on.
      And the Korean singers who had given the American soldiers joy and jubilations and in other times wetting their cheeks in home sick when they sang “I want to go home.” Those show-folks were including; Kim Sisters, Patti Kim, Hyun Mi, Yun Bok-hee, Lee Bong-jo (saxophonist), Choi Hee-jun, Han Myong-suk, Kim chu-ja, and so on. Many of them later had become famous entertainer in the Korean entertainment world.
      Fast forwarding to April 1966, I’d casually encountered the trumpeter Shin at Majestic Hotel on the Tudo Street by the shore of the Saigon River in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). He was driving a black Mercedes Benz and gained weight around his waist and looked rich. Shin invited me to lunch at a bistro. Two small black lizards were creeping on the white ceiling above our table and I wondered what would happen if one of them drops into my bowel of hors d’oeuvre.
      Now the rich trumpeter Shin, after he had learned how to entertain U.S. Military personnel, had organized in Seoul a small dancing troupe and toured U.S. Military camps in Qui Nhon, Nah Trang Bases, Tan Son Nhut, An Khe Air Bases, etc. in the peak of the Vietnam War. His troupe was consisted mostly of young Korean girl dancers and some men musicians including himself as the major trumpeter. Everything went well until when scantily dressed girl dancers were dancing on the stage built at Qui Nhon, a soldier in the audience started shooting his handgun randomly toward the stage not aiming anyone particular. Some audience soldiers quickly jumped over the shooter and pressed him down in the uproar of the temporarily set up theater. A bullet slightly scratched a thigh of dancing girl who collapsed on the floor, and she was immediately taken to a field hospital. Two days later she walked out of the hospital without clutch but with a large patch of band-aid on her wound covered by her skirt. Mr. Shin then got very busy signing a lot of papers and injured dancer was compensated with an unusually large sum of indemnity. Mr. Shin himself too was paid a large sum in the U.S. dollar for the disturbance of his entertaining business. Shin didn’t disclose the amounts but he looked very happy. He sent all the girls and musicians back to Seoul as the compensation monies the girl and he had received were enough to go home.
      The trumpeter then added before he stepped out of the diner into the burning tropical sunlight of the hustle and bustles of Saigon street filled by motorcycles and rickshaw-pullers; “It was an amazing scene for the U.S. soldiers braved to protect my girls risking their lives in the turmoil of gun shots. By the way, I was told later that that soldier had some kind of a mental disorder.”
      Post Script.
      A few months after Shin’s troupe had left Vietnam, Bob Hope’s USO show troupe landed on the Long Binh U.S. Military base. In order to welcome them an army lieutenant climbed up the field stage and presented a grift, a pair of field helmets tied side by side, to a beautiful American actress (either Raquel Welch or Ann Margaret, but not Marilyn Monroe) who was famous with her large bosoms, saying “We thought this is the best gift we could give you here in Vietnam!” She thanked and wore the tandem tied two helmets over her chest, evoking a hubbub of battle cry from thousands of the battle tired U.S. soldiers.

    • Two villages in DMZ
      By Nam Sang-so

      They were next door neighbors. The villagers were all friendly Koreans who wore similar clothes. They enjoyed farming festivals together and spoke with a tinge of northern accented dialect. The boys knew the pretty girls and the girls had heard of dutiful boys in the neighborhood village.
      Casting long shadows, after the day’s work, the farmers with A-frames on their back silently returned with their cows to their homes in Daeseong-dong and Kijong-dong where wood burning smoke lingered under the evening glow. They loved the serene farm fields and were happy, until one day in June 1950.
      Men and women were transplanting rice saplings in the muddy paddy when they saw heavily armed soldiers wearing brown fatigues running toward south on their levees.
      A few months later the villagers noticed other armed soldiers who wore greenish uniforms, with fish net covered helmets decorated with bushes as they rushed this time toward the north passing through the villages. They were all Koreans but each aimed their rifles at different directions and the two troops repeated their charging and retreating. The farmers realized they were fighting each other.
      When the growing rice saplings covered the wet field dark green in the summer of 1953, the villagers were told by tall American soldiers that their homes were in the middle of the demilitarized zone with an invisible armistice line running on their levee between the two villages.
      The United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) asked people in Daeseong-dong to move into South Korea and Kijong people to relocate in the north of the demilitarized zone. The two villagers didn’t budge insisting that the villages are their graveyards. Inevitably, the UNCMAC hastily created a special law and allowed the two villagers to live in their own hometowns, one in the north and the other in the south of the demarcation line within the neutralized zone.
      Then the two friendly villages were turned into, against their will, front line propaganda towns and received new honorary names each; Freedom Village in the south, Peace Village in the north.
      South and North Korean governments put up in competition large propaganda billboards lined up face to face. The bragging war escalated into a flag raising contest. When the South’s had reached at 99 meters height with 18-meter-flag on a steel tower, the North rebuilt theirs to as high as 165 meters with a 30-meter- flag.
      It is so heavy that a dozen soldiers were needed to hoist it and gale to make it flutter. South Korea replaces the worn-out flag once every two-month spending 1,400,000 won (equivalent to U.S.$1,300) each. The North Korea too couldn’t afford to display a faded flag and replaced theirs but not often enough due to short of money.
      All together 201 people live in the Freedom Village. Those who wish to move out of the village can do so but newcomers are not allowed to move in, except a bride from the south who marries a village boy, but the village girl couldn’t bring her bridegroom in from the south, and she must leave the Freedom Village. The residents are exempt from South Korea’s military and tax duties.
      Curfews are imposed at 11 p.m. on either side. The Freedom villagers, despite somewhat uneasy UNCMAC restrictions, they don’t want to leave the village. As it happened, most of them, legally speaking, don’t own their rice paddies, which are, or used to be, owned by the people of Kijong-dong now the neutral village in the North Korean side.
      The Freedom villagers are rich farmers because they get mountains of gifts from their sister towns and cities outside the DMZ in the south and they enjoy a neutral status and the boys were happy that they don’t have to serve South Korea’s obligatory military service.
      Yet, they get an uneasy feeling every time they hear the word “Unification” because it sounds like the footsteps of proprietors coming from the north.
      The writer is a Japanese-English-Korean translator. His email address is sangsonam@gmail.com
      (Note: This article was once published by The Korea Times on July 11, 2013)

      Photos source http://www.lifeinkorea.com/culture/dmz/dmz.cfm?Subject=jsa2

      • Interesting photo from internet from both Flags in each of the villages. What used to be 2 friendly villages became the front line of the 2 Koreas……… Mr. Nam Thank you for this beautifully written piece of History of the Korean Peninsula
    • In memory of a beautiful Korean bride by Mr. Nam.

      Miss Chang was a handsome student in our Uljin high school years in North Gyeongsang province. She had a pair of clear and black eyes with relatively thin lips for a Korean girl and wore school uniform always tight and her hemline revealed her knees when she walked fast. The school rule was never to show the girl’s knees. The breaths of the boys went high when she smiled at them.
      My breath couldn’t go high because she was a distant cousin, on my mother’s side, which is called in Korean 6 inches. The distance between the cousins are 4 inches and the relation with uncle and nephew or niece is therefore 3 inches, which makes the brothers/sisters 2 inches but Koreans don’t’ say it 2 inches. Miss Chang’s father and I are 7 inches.
      The girl thought I’m harmless as we are within our family members and she talked to me warmly like a sister and I liked it. One should never get attracted to a 6 inch in those days some 65 years ago. The same clan of Mr. Kim and Miss Kim were not allowed to marry then.
      Yet, Japanese often fall in love among cousins, 4 inches, and they were allowed to marry. When the Pacific War ended in 1945, so many Japanese wives at home found themselves widowed as their husbands in the military service didn’t come home. Not too often but occasionally, the parents-in-law of the war dead husband suggested the widowed daughter-in-law to remarry her brother-in-law, a younger brother of the deceased. So that the widow doesn’t have to return to her native home as a failed bride. The younger brother was pleased as he had been secretly attracted to his sister-in-law, and she was delighted to have a young bridegroom. Koreans didn’t take that custom.
      When in early 1970s the Bank of America had a Seoul branch office in a slim building in Myong-dong, across the street of the then main office of the Korea Exchange Bank I was asked by the bank to check the problems of fire escape route and its plumbing system in the rented building. While discussing with the General Manager in a bathroom I looked down into a toilet bowl when my fountain pen, a Mont Blanc, fell into the water of the bowl from my chest pocket. It was a $300 pen and I quickly put my hand into the toilet water (it was clean) and picked it up, and washed it in a flowing water from a faucet. Everyone laughed and enjoyed scene.
      When I stepped out of the bank building, making sure that my fountain pen was dry in my pocket now, a woman called me behind, “Mr. Nam.” A beautiful young lady about my age was broadly smiling at me. She wore a dark blue business suits and white shirt. I thought I knew her but couldn’t recall where and when. “You don’t remember me, I’m your 6 inches from Uljin, silly brother!” She said. We went into a nearby coffee house and she told me she is being employed at the bank. And she said she is married to an American, a DAC now works at the U.S. Army Garrison at Yongsan. “What is a DAC?” I asked. “It’s a Department of Army Civilian.” “Congratulations, I hope you are happy,” I said. “I’m very happy with one boy and one girl,” she said making a big smile. “I heard you picked a fountain pen from toilet bowl,” she said. “I had to because it would clog the toilet and it was my favorite pen. Don’t worry, it’s dry now,” I told her. She made another laugh. She was beautiful, but I didn’t say so, she calls me a brother.
      Koreans had been proudly valued their homogeneity and glorious of maintaining the same blood for thousands of years. Not anymore, the country is rapidly becoming a multi-cultural nation. The total international marriage tallied the period between 1990 ~ 2013 had reached to 500,000 cases including the cross-border marriages among Korean men and women and foreign men and women. (Re: “International marriage of Koreans” by Kim Du Seop, issued in April 2015; ISBN 978-89-303-1677-4). Prof. Andrei Lankov reported on the September 4, 2017 issue of The Korea Times that an accumulative number of U.S. servicemen married Korean women approached 90,000 citing some sources.
      Again, according to the Kim’s report above, the citizens of the United States (including the military servicemen) who married Korean women are; 1,084 cases in the year 2000 and keeping average 1,400 per year, it revealed that 1,755 Korean women married Americans in the year 2015 alone. The divorce rates by American men and Korean women showed an average 1,300 cases per year and the divorce among them was recorded at 1,196 cases in the year 2013. That is quite high rate of divorce among the American husbands and Korean wives.
      The latest news I’ve got about Mrs. Chang, my 6 inches who must be 84 years old now, was that she along with her old husband are busy chasing after several grandchildren in Hawaii. Someday she would feel a longing for her home in Uljin, Korea and may be able to meet her accidentally just like we’d had at the Bank of America office in Myong-dong, Seoul, in early 1970s.
      By Nam Sang-so, a retired architect. His email address is sangsonam@gmail.com

    • Mr. Lee, a young structural engineer, was a member of our Trans-Asia Engineers in 1970s. He is (was) the third son of Chairman Lee Joon, Sampoong Construction Company, one of the majore Korean conglomerates.

      Junior Lee always wore expensive imported personal ornaments, Rolex watch, Italian shoes, Mont Blanc ballpoint pen, etc. and as usual a lazy boy. A structural engineer cannot be lazy and cut corners in his structural analyses. The way he acted as a rich boy, we the architects/engineers realized he might create a big blunder in his load calculations. And we let him leave the American design firm and he had returned to his father’s construction company becoming one of the directors’ position.

      A structural overloading and punching shear had caused the entire building of a department store collapse on June 29, 1995 killing 502, injuring 937 innocent people.

      I noted later my friend Junior Lee’s name was also listed in the accused.

      The father of the boy named Kim who stayed in our Old Tappan house attending Saddle River Day School was just about to enter the entrance door to the Sampoong apartment store when the building started collapse and he was survived.

      H, July

    • Two villages in DMZ
      By Nam Sang-so @sangsonam
      They were next door neighbors. The villagers were all friendly Koreans who wore similar clothes. They enjoyed farming festivals together and spoke with a tinge of northern accented dialect. The boys knew the pretty girls and the girls had heard of dutiful boys in the neighborhood village.
      Casting long shadows, after the day’s work, the farmers with A-frames on their back silently returned with their cows to their homes in Daeseong-dong and Kijong-dong where wood burning smoke lingered under the evening glow. They loved the serene farm fields and were happy, until one day in June 1950.
      Men and women were transplanting rice saplings in the muddy paddy when they saw heavily armed soldiers wearing brown fatigues running toward south on their levees.
      A few months later the villagers noticed other armed soldiers who wore greenish uniforms, with fish net covered helmets decorated with bushes as they rushed this time toward the north passing through the villages. They were all Koreans but each aimed their rifles at different directions and the two troops repeated their charging and retreating. The farmers realized they were fighting each other.
      When the growing rice saplings covered the wet field dark green in the summer of 1953, the villagers were told by tall American soldiers that their homes were in the middle of the demilitarized zone with an invisible armistice line running on their levee between the two villages.
      The United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) asked people in Daeseong-dong to move into South Korea and Kijong people to relocate in the north of the demilitarized zone. The two villagers didn’t budge insisting that the villages are their graveyards. Inevitably, the UNCMAC hastily created a special law and allowed the two villagers to live in their own hometowns, one in the north and the other in the south of the demarcation line within the neutralized zone.
      Then the two friendly villages were turned into, against their will, front line propaganda towns and received new honorary names each; Freedom Village in the south, Peace Village in the north.
      South and North Korean governments put up in competition large propaganda billboards lined up face to face. The bragging war escalated into a flag raising contest. When the South’s had reached at 99 meters height with 18-meter-flag on a steel tower, the North rebuilt theirs to as high as 165 meters with a 30-meter- flag.
      It is so heavy that a dozen soldiers were needed to hoist it and gale to make it flutter. South Korea replaces the worn-out flag once every two-month spending 1,400,000 won (equivalent to U.S.$1,300) each. The North Korea too couldn’t afford to display a faded flag and replaced theirs but not often enough due to short of money.
      All together 201 people live in the Freedom Village. Those who wish to move out of the village can do so but newcomers are not allowed to move in, except a bride from the south who marries a village boy, but the village girl couldn’t bring her bridegroom in from the south, and she must leave the Freedom Village. The residents are exempt from South Korea’s military and tax duties.
      Curfews are imposed at 11 p.m. on either side. The Freedom villagers, despite somewhat uneasy UNCMAC restrictions, they don’t want to leave the village. As it happened, most of them, legally speaking, don’t own their rice paddies, which are, or used to be, owned by the people of Kijong-dong now the neutral village in the North Korean side.
      The Freedom villagers are rich farmers because they get mountains of gifts from their sister towns and cities outside the DMZ in the south and they enjoy a neutral status and the boys were happy that they don’t have to serve South Korea’s obligatory military service.
      Yet, they get an uneasy feeling every time they hear the word “Unification” because it sounds like the footsteps of proprietors coming from the north.
      The writer is a Japanese-English-Korean translator. His email address is sangsonam@gmail.com
      (Note: This article was once published by The Korea Times on July 11, 2013)

    • In memory of a beautiful Korean bride
      Miss Chang was a handsome student in our Uljin high school years in North Gyeongsang province. She had a pair of clear and black eyes with relatively thin lips for a Korean girl and wore school uniform always tight and her hemline revealed her knees when she walked fast. The school rule was never to show the girl’s knees. The breaths of the boys went high when she smiled at them.
      My breath couldn’t go high because she was a distant cousin, on my mother’s side, which is called in Korean 6 inches. The distance between the cousins are 4 inches and the relation with uncle and nephew or niece is therefore 3 inches, which makes the brothers/sisters 2 inches but Koreans don’t’ say it 2 inches. Miss Chang’s father and I are 7 inches.
      The girl thought I’m harmless as we are within our family members and she talked to me warmly like a sister and I liked it. One should never get attracted to a 6 inch in those days some 65 years ago. The same clan of Mr. Kim and Miss Kim were not allowed to marry then.
      Yet, Japanese often fall in love among cousins, 4 inches, and they were allowed to marry. When the Pacific War ended in 1945, so many Japanese wives at home found themselves widowed as their husbands in the military service didn’t come home. Not too often but occasionally, the parents-in-law of the war dead husband suggested the widowed daughter-in-law to remarry her brother-in-law, a younger brother of the deceased. So that the widow doesn’t have to return to her native home as a failed bride. The younger brother was pleased as he had been secretly attracted to his sister-in-law, and she was delighted to have a young bridegroom. Koreans didn’t take that custom.
      When in ear4ly 1970s the Bank of America had a Seoul branch office in a slim building in Myong-dong, across the street of the then main office of the Korea Exchange Bank I was asked by the bank to check the problems of fire escape route and its plumbing system in the rented building. While discussing with the General Manager in a bathroom I looked down into a toilet bowl when my fountain pen, a Mont Blanc, fell into the water of the bowl from my chest pocket. It was a $300 pen and I quickly put my hand into the toilet water (it was clean) and picked it up, and washed it in a flowing water from a faucet. Everyone laughed and enjoyed scene.
      When I stepped out of the bank building, making sure that my fountain pen was dry in my pocket now, a woman called me behind, “Mr. Nam.” A beautiful young lady about my age was broadly smiling at me. She wore a dark blue business suits and white shirt. I thought I knew her but couldn’t recall where and when. “You don’t remember me, I’m your 6 inches from Uljin, silly brother!” She said. We went into a nearby coffee house and she told me she is being employed at the bank. And she said she is married to an American, a DAC now works at the U.S. Army Garrison at Yongsan. “What is a DAC?” I asked. “It’s a Department of Army Civilian.” “Congratulations, I hope you are happy,” I said. “I’m very happy with one boy and one girl,” she said making a big smile. “I heard you picked a fountain pen from toilet bowl,” she said. “I had to because it would clog the toilet and it was my favorite pen. Don’t worry, it’s dry now,” I told her. She made another laugh. She was beautiful, but I didn’t say so, she calls me a brother.
      Koreans had been proudly valued their homogeneity and glorious of maintaining the same blood for thousands of years. Not anymore, the country is rapidly becoming a multi-cultural nation. The total international marriage tallied the period between 1990 ~ 2013 had reached to 500,000 cases including the cross-border marriages among Korean men and women and foreign men and women. (Re: “International marriage of Koreans” by Kim Du Seop, issued in April 2015; ISBN 978-89-303-1677-4). Prof. Andrei Lankov reported on the September 4, 2017 issue of The Korea Times that an accumulative number of U.S. servicemen married Korean women approached 90,000 citing some sources.
      Again, according to the Kim’s report above, the citizens of the United States (including the military servicemen) who married Korean women are; 1,084 cases in the year 2000 and keeping average 1,400 per year, it revealed that 1,755 Koran women married Americans in the year 2015 alone. The divorce rates by American men and Korean women showed an average 1,300 cases per year and the divorce among them was recorded at 1,196 cases in the year 2013. That is quite high rate of divorce among the American husbands and Korean wives.
      The latest news I’ve got about Mrs. Chang, my 6 inches who must be 84 years old now, was that she along with her old husband are busy chasing after several grandchildren in Hawaii. Someday she would feel a longing for her home in Uljin, Korea and may be able to meet her accidentally just like we’d had at the Bank of America office in Myong-dong, Seoul, in early 1970s.
      By Nam Sang-so, a retired architect. His email address is sangsonam@gmail.com

    • Note from @janowell
      Mr. Nam: I recall the incident very well. I was out of the country on the day of the murders but arrived in time to witness the preparations from the Headquarters, UNC/USFK/EUSA, Public Affairs Office, Community Relations Division where I worked as a Community Relations Specialist. Those were tense days, hours and minutes for the command group and those brave US and ROK military personnel who were directly involved in the ‘Paul Bunyon’ Task Force. Kim, Il Sung actually made a verbal apology to our side, but he didn’t provide it in a written document. General Richard G. Stilwell was extended on his regular tour of duty as CINCUNC for this action. When he retired from active duty he championed the construction of the Korea War Monument that now stands in the Mall in Washington, D.C. He visited our office to talk to Mr. George D. Kim, Chief, Community Relations Division, regarding Gen Stilwell’s effort to construct the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. He told us that Samsung and Hyundai both gave $1,000,000 each toward the construction of that monument. Sadly, Gen Stilwell died prior to the groundbreaking and completion of the monument. His original designed included a statue of a Korean Service Corps (A-Frame Army civilian) in the formation. But, due to lack of funding the number of statues were reduced including the KSC member. Later, Chairman Chi, Kap Chong, Chairman, UNKWAA, was able to have the KSC participation added to the Wall where the names of the deceased are listed.

      Thanks for sharing this story and the attached photos and write up.

      Warm Regards,

      John

      • A day to remember; August 18, 1976 by Mr. Nam, @sangsonam
        (This article is dedicated to the late United States Army Officers Arthur Bonifas and Mark Barrett who were killed by North Korean soldiers in the Axe Murder Incident)
        In the Joint Security Area, near the Bridge of No Return, a 30 meters tall poplar tree blocked the line of sight between a United Nations Command (UNC) checkpoint (CP No. 3) and an observation post (OP No.5).
        Command Post No. 3, situated next to the Bridge of No Return, was the northernmost UNC checkpoint and only visible from OP No. 5 during the winter months. During the summer months, only the top CP No. 3 was visible from one other UNC checkpoint (CP No. 2). Running across the middle of the bridge was the Military Demarcation Line between North Korean and South Korean territories.
        The North Korean Army (KPA) had made numerous attempts to grab UNC personnel from CP No. 3 and drag them across the bridge into North Korean territory. The Joint Security Area’s close proximity to North Korean territory and North Korean checkpoints on all access routes, along with the repeated attempts to kidnap UNC personnel working there, led to CP No. 3 being referred to as the “loneliest outpost in the world.”
        On August 18, 1976, a group of five Korean Service Corps (KSC) personnel escorted by a UNC security team consisting of Captain Arthur Bonifas, his South Korean (ROK) Army counterpart, Captain Kim, the platoon leader of the current platoon in the area (First lieutenant Mark Barrett), and 11 enlisted personnel, both American and South Korean, went into the JSA to trim the tree, as previously scheduled with the KPA delegation.
        The two captains did not wear side arms, as members of the Joint Security Area were limited to only five armed officers and 30 armed enlisted personnel at a time. However, there were mattocks in the back of the 2.5 tons truck. The KSC workers had the axes they brought to prune the tree branches.
        After trimming began, about 15 North Korean soldiers appeared, commanded by Senior Lt. Pak Chul, whom the UNC soldiers had previously nicknamed “Lt. Bulldog” due to a history of confrontations. Pak and his subordinates appeared to observe the trimming without concern for approximately 15 minutes, until he abruptly told the UNC to cease the activity, stating that the tree could not be trimmed “because Kim Il Sung personally planted it and nourished it and it’s growing under his supervision.” Captain Bonifas ordered the detail to continue.
        After being ignored by Bonifas, Pak sent a runner across the Bridge of No Return. Within minutes, a North Korean guard truck crossed the bridge and approximately 20 more North Korean guards disembarked carrying crowbars and clubs. Park again demanded that the tree-trimming stop. When Bonifas again turned his back on him, Pak shouted, “Kill the bastards!” Using axes dropped by the tree-trimmers, the KPA forces attacked the two U.S. soldiers, Bonifas and Barrett, and wounded. Bonifas was knocked to the ground by Pak and then bludgeoned to death by at least five North Koreans. The wounded Barrett died in transport to a hospital in Seoul.
        Operation Paul Bunyan:
        In response to the “axe murder incident.” The UNC determined that instead of trimming the branches, they would cut down the tree with the aid of overwhelming force. The parameters of the operation were decided in the White House, where President Gerald Ford had held crisis talks. Ford and his advisers were concerned about making a show of strength to chasten North Korea, but without causing further escalation. The operation, named after mythical lumberjack Paul Bunyan, was conceived as a U.S. – South Korean show of force. It was planned over two days by General Richard G. Stilwell and his staff at the UNC headquarters in Seoul.
        Operation Paul Bunyan was carried out on August 21 at 07:00, three days after the killings. A convoy of 23 American and South Korean vehicles drove into the JSA without any warning to the North Koreans. In the vehicles were two eight-man teams of military engineers equipped with chain-saws to cut down the tree.
        A 64-man South Korean Special Forces company accompanied them, armed with clubs and trained in Taekwondo, supposedly without firearms. However, once they parked their trucks near the Bridge of No Return, they started throwing out the sandbags that lined the truck bottoms, and handing out M16 rifles and M79 grenade launchers that had been concealed below. Several of the special forces men also had M18 Claymore mines strapped to their chests with the firing mechanism in their hands, and were shouting at the North Koreans to cross the bridge.
        A U.S. infantry company in 20 utility helicopters and seven Cobra attack helicopters circled behind them. Besides these helicopters, B-52 Stratofortresses came from Guam escorted by U.S. F-4 Phantom IIs from Kunsan Air Base and South Korean F-5 and F-86 fighters were visible flying across the sky at high altitude. And the aircraft carrier USS Midway task force had also been moved to a station just offshore. Near the edges of the DMZ, many more heavily armed U.S. and South Korean infantry, artillery, so on, were waiting to back up the special operations team. The bases near the DMZ were prepared for demolition in case of a military response. During the operation, nuclear-capable strategic bombers circled over the JSA.
        The engineers in convoy being guarded by the task forces quickly cut the tree standing on the roof of the truck. North Korea quickly responded with about 150-200 troops, armed with machine guns and assault rifles. They arrived in buses but did not leave them at first, watching the events unfold. At Yokota Air Base in Japan, the base was on alert. The flight-line runway was “nose to tail” with dozen C-130s ready to provide back-up. The South Korean troops vandalized two North Korean guard posts. The tree stump, around 6 meters, was deliberately left standing.
        Five minutes into the operation, the UNC notified their North Korean counterparts at the JSA that a UN work party had entered the JSA “in order to peacefully finish the work left unfinished” on August 18. (Source: “Axe murder incident” of Wikipedia.)
        P.S. Sometime in August 1977, my cousin, Col. Sang-il Nam of ROK Army and the Chief Secretary to the Minister of Defense, Korea, visited me and gave me a wood chip, 50 mm diameter and 30 mm thick, and told me that it’s from that famous Poplar Tree in JSA. The letters “OPERATION PAUL BUNYAN” were inscribed in it.
        By Nam Sang-so, a Korean War veteran, Aug. 4, 2017. (sangsonam@gmail.com)
        The colored photo is from the display of the Korean War Museum in Yongsan, Seoul taken in August 2017
        • Note from @janowell
          Mr. Nam: I recall the incident very well. I was out of the country on the day of the murders but arrived in time to witness the preparations from the Headquarters, UNC/USFK/EUSA, Public Affairs Office, Community Relations Division where I worked as a Community Relations Specialist. Those were tense days, hours and minutes for the command group and those brave US and ROK military personnel who were directly involved in the ‘Paul Bunyon’ Task Force. Kim, Il Sung actually made a verbal apology to our side, but he didn’t provide it in a written document. General Richard G. Stilwell was extended on his regular tour of duty as CINCUNC for this action. When he retired from active duty he championed the construction of the Korea War Monument that now stands in the Mall in Washington, D.C. He visited our office to talk to Mr. George D. Kim, Chief, Community Relations Division, regarding Gen Stilwell’s effort to construct the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. He told us that Samsung and Hyundai both gave $1,000,000 each toward the construction of that monument. Sadly, Gen Stilwell died prior to the groundbreaking and completion of the monument. His original designed included a statue of a Korean Service Corps (A-Frame Army civilian) in the formation. But, due to lack of funding the number of statues were reduced including the KSC member. Later, Chairman Chi, Kap Chong, Chairman, UNKWAA, was able to have the KSC participation added to the Wall where the names of the deceased are listed.

          Thanks for sharing this story and the attached photos and write up.

          Warm Regards,

          John

      • Remembering the legacy of U.S. Army Yongsan Garrison (At Building 1510 in 1962) by Nam Sang-so,
        The main theme:
        The majority of Koreans have derived great pleasures from being acquainted with the USFK personnel not only at Yongsan Garrison but also other U.S. military camps in Korea. We say most sincerely grateful for the USFK personnel’s hard effort to teach us the latest design and construction standards, as well as upgrading the morals, English too, among us, all of which had greatly helped Korea to become the fastest growing country in the world.
        When we visit newly developed Yongsan Park starting next year, we would miss you, the wonderful soldiers and civilians, very much and we will remember mountains of engineering and cultural gifts you would have left behind in Yongsan Garrison.
      • Tora, Tora or Panda, Panda
        Listening to sweet Hawaiian music and observing the beautiful Oahu Island and gray battle ships floating at leisure on the calm waters of Pearl Harbor, Commander Fuchida in his cockpit was exuberated. These lazy Americans, as expected, were in their Sunday morning slumbers. He was leading the first wave of 183 dive bombers and fighters. Fuchida slid back the canopy and fired a green flare, the signal to attack. It was 7:40 a.m. Hawaiian Time on December 7, 1941.
        A total of 350 attack planes departed from six Japanese carriers and sunk four U.S. battle ships, damaged 3, and destroyed 311 airplanes on the tarmac and killed 2,334 American sailors and soldiers, plus 68 civilians. At 7:53 a.m., Fuchida sent the coded words “Tora, Tora, Tora,” or tiger in Japanese, which meant the surprise attack was successful, back to the flagship carrier. The Pacific War began.
        The Japanese Navy’s sneaky attack brought two revengeful atomic bombs back onto Japan. “Nobody is more disturbed over the use of atomic bombs than I am but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor… When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast,” said President Truman. And, devastated Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945.
        “The United States is a democratic country, we shouldn’t make a preemptive attack but wait until Japan attacks us,” said President Roosevelt. And the U.S. Navy floated run-up battle ships in the waters off the Philippines as decoy to lure the Japanese attack, according to Japanese history records. But the U.S. was caught short at Pearl Harbor, some 6,000 km away from the first battle ground anticipated.
        Had Japan self-confidence in winning a war with the United States? They including the Emperor himself knew Japan cannot beat America. Admiral Yamamoto, the planner of the Hawaiian attack and the Commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet had been stationed twice in Washington as naval attaché. He said, “I’ve seen oil fields in Texas and the automobile factories in Detroit. We shouldn’t exchange fire with Americans.”
        But the self-righteous bureaucrats lead by the arrogant imperial army generals had the winning words; “We can’t submit ourselves to Americans without fighting. We must go to war regardless of the outcome!” Then the Emperor approved and Japan stampeded into a losing war which sacrificed 3.1 million Japanese deaths among them 2.3 million soldiers, 300,000 civilians in the external territories including Korea, 500,000 killed by air raids and the atomic bombings.
        There were more; Admiral Onish, one of the top naval operations, predicted that if Japan sacrificed 20 million more soldiers and civilians fighting against the America’s mainland landing operation, the U.S. would give up the war. Japan then had a 100 million population. I was one of them about to be drafted.
        Now 76 years after the Pearl Harbor attack, the waves of the East China Sea are getting higher. And while the skies over Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu) are getting crowded with the fighter planes of Japan and China, Japan has revised interpretation of the Constitution’ war-renouncing Article 9 to let Japan exercise the right of collective self-defense. Now the country can wage a war; perhaps with China first rather than other neighbors.
        China has 10 times more military personnel and fire power than Japan. Just like there was in early 1941, Japan’s public sentiment is divided again into two; “No
        war!” says one, and “We can’t submit ourselves without fighting!” insists the other. “Whoever would send coded message first, it would be “Panda, Panda” this time instead “Tora, Tora.”
        By @sangsonam Nam Sang-so, a Korean War veteran. His email address is sangsonam@gmail.com
      • Yongsan Garrison as the source of new culture, 1st
        1) Blondie
        There was a large white washed wall among buildings lined up facing a river and bridge before entering into Uljin township, North Gyeongsang province. It was one of the market days and people crossing the bridge noticed a large funny looking colored fresco – a woman’s character with yellow curly hair, large black eyes with long eyebrows, a necklace hung around her neck. It was an image of young American woman which was rather beautifully drawn. She was smiling at the local people. The town people knew that a detachment of U.S. Army had stayed in the town for a few days before they marched toward the north in the middle of Korean War.
        The charming woman’s image has been remained in the memories of the town people for a long time, wondering how American soldiers who were in the middle of gun fighting could afford time to draw a woman’s image on a wall. They were also surprised to find a large amount of their military rations left behind in the auditorium of Uljin middle school as a gift. Then the students were more surprised to notice that their only English teacher had disappeared with the American soldiers. He left a note to principal that the U.S. Army recruited him as a translator. The students, after the war, when started to read English magazines and papers realized that the fresco woman was named Blondie. And the town had two hairdressers and a photo shop named Blondie, some copying the fresco image onto their signboards.
        (To be continued to 2: Vagabond)
        By Nam Sang-so, a Korean War veteran, from the building 1510, Main Post. @sangsonam

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