• 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.

  • This photo taken by Coco Cugat was taken in the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) Snack Bar on Camp Coiner. This facility is still in use as of this posting, but its closure is pending the removal of US military units and personnel from this camp in the near future.
    • Shin Jung-Hyeon who performed in Yongsan Base in 1959 for the first time , Korea’s godfather of rock honored by Fender
      Story by Jason Strother, PRI’s “The World” December 22, 2009
      https://www.pri.org/stories/2009-12-22/korea-s-godfather-rock-honored-fender
    • Veteran John Nowell @janowell and Jackie Park sharing memories from the old days inside the Yongsan Base
      This photo taken in march 2017 in a cafeteria of main post. Yongsan-Seoul
      • This photo taken by Coco Cugat was taken in the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) Snack Bar on Camp Coiner. This facility is still in use as of this posting, but its closure is pending the removal of US military units and personnel from this camp in the near future.

    • Jackie Park together with Shin Jung-Hyeon made it! They first performed in Yongsan on 1959.
      Spring Variety Show. This attached photo shows the vocal and guitarist Jackie Park, currently a music promoter for Korean pop, showing on his mobile a photo from both of them during one of their first performances from 1959
      • In 1966, I went to the then USOM Club on Yongsan South Post to have dinner and to see a show. The ‘Sons of the Pioneers’ were performing there and I was able to meet and talk to Mr. Pat Brady. He played the bass violin, but more importantly he was a movie star and a regular on the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans TV show. It was a thrill meeting and talking to him. In the TV show he drove a jeep that he called ‘Nelly Bell.’ The ‘Sons of the Pioneers’ also played backup for Roy Rogers when he sang in the movies.

      • There are few Americans who have witnessed the changes that have taken place in the Republic of Korea over the past 50 years. I am one of those who have spent over 48 years in Korea during the past 52 years. I was a young man in January 1965 when I first set foot on Korean soil. I came to Korea as a US Army Soldier (draftee) assigned to HQ, 7th Infantry Division stationed in Camp Casey. But, my life took a very different path when I was reassigned to duty at Yongsan Garrison in August 1965.
        I met a Department of the Army Civilian working in an office near mine and realized that I could remain in Korea, if I applied for a DAC position after my separation from the US Army. So, I took a civil service exam with the Seoul Civilian Personnel Office and was accepted for work as a GS3, Clerk-Typist.
        One thing led to the next and in October 1968, I was hired as a Civil Affairs Specialist with the HQs, 8th US Army, Assistant Chief of Staff (ACofS), G5, International Relations Office. This position offered me a vast change in my duties from being a clerk-typist and I became involved in numerous programs and projects to enhance and maintain the standing and prestige of the US military in Korea.
        In June 1972, our IRO was consolidated with the Community Relations Division of the Public Affairs Office, HQ, UNC/USFK/EUSA. In this capacity I became a Community Relations Specialist. Additional programs were tasked to me and one of these programs was the ‘Hello Korea’ Program which I began handling in 1973.
        I selected this program to upload on Yongsan Legacy to show the effort by PRAK and United States Forces Korea to introduce the Korean Culture and Customs to our American Forces stationed in Korea for better awareness and understanding. The motto for the program was ‘Better World for Better Understanding.’
        I coordinated performance dates with the majority of US military installations throughout South Korea. The Korean Agency, which provided this program, was the Public Relations Association of Korea (PRAK). In addition to scheduling the location of performances, I also escorted the performers to these locations using our US Army Buses.
        Although this program had been in operation in the late 60s, in 1973 PRAK revised the program. Originally it was comprised of a panel of American and Korean experts on Korea. Each panel member would give a brief introduction and field questions from US military personnel attending the presentation to gain a better understanding about their host nation.
        The revised program provided more entertainment for the audience through a short Taekwon-do demonstration followed by Traditional Korean dances, musical instrument explanation and performances; and songs sung the Moo Gung Hwa Chorus (seventeen young girls) from the Kwangtan-myon Orphanage.
        The President of PRAK at that time was Admiral (ret) Sohn, won Il. His Special Assistant for this program was Mr. Kim, Hyung Sik who worked with me in scheduling the logistics for getting the performers to the installations.
        The show consisted of: a 15 minute Taekwon-do team, demonstrating their unique style of martial arts; followed by a Korean Folk Dance team, led by Ms. Yi, Sook Hyang; a noted Korean traditional musician, Mr. Kim, Jung Suk; and the singing and talented members of the Moo Gung Hwa Chorus.
        Many Americans had misconceptions about Korea. One of the possible reasons for this misunderstanding could be a very successful Hollywood Movie called ‘MASH’ (Mobile Army surgical Hospital). This drama recounted the Korean War of ‘50 to ‘53. The movie was released in 1970 and was followed by an eleven year TV series of the same name from 1972 to 1983. Reruns of the hit comedy continued for several years thereafter. The Korean War provided the backdrop for the comedy of doctors and nurses who performed surgery on wounded Americans Soldiers. Of course there were a variety of stories about life for the US Soldiers serving in Korea during this harsh time. But, a by-product of this sit-com painted a negative image of Korea and Koreans for the American public at large.
        It is no wonder that Americans didn’t have a very good impression of Korea when a Soldier was sent on orders to serve a one-year tour of duty here. And, this was equally applied to the married military personnel who served a two-year tour in Korea!
        To better understand Korea, its people, culture, customs, history and language, I took classes with the University of Maryland on post. My knowledge grew and I was able to serve as the master of ceremonies for the show and in fact changed from my civilian attire into Korean Hanbok during the Taekwondo presentation so I could surprise the audience when I came out to introduce the Korean dancers and singers.
        At one point during the musical performance I would ask for volunteers to come on stage to try their luck in playing a tune on one of the Korean instruments such as the Piri or Tanso during Mr. Kim’s performance. Some Soldiers managed to get a high-pitched sound out of the piri, and the audience got a laugh watching the effort. But the Soldiers would really get excited when Mr. Kim played ‘Danny Boy’ on the piri.
        This show brought laughter throughout the theater and a new awareness by the US Soldiers about their host nation and people.
        When I first arrived in Korea, I wouldn’t have given two nickels for the Republic of Korea’s chances of playing with the big nations as it is doing today.”
        During my stay in Korea I was encouraged to participate directly in numerous organizations which all have the mission of enhancing and improving host nation and visiting foreigners with each other. Such organizations include: People-to-People, International (1966); Korean American Association (1970); Royal Asiatic Society (1971); and the Sae Seoul ‘English Speaking’ Lions Club (1974). This is just a short list. I have many, many other associations that I will cover in future uploads to this Yongsan Legacy website.
        I have learned much from my long stay in Korea. I basically matured as a young man in Korea. And, I was always and continue to be curious about the History and culture of this very old civilization.
        As a descendant of the Cherokee Indian Nation, I believe that Korean blood may flow through my veins.
        I now teach English to preschoolers at the Sunsa World Diakonia Foundation Preschool in Seongnam.
    • USIS in Yongsan was in charge of these auditions.

    • This is a registration card that was given to the musicians.
      Does anyone know about Fabulous-7 Show?
      Does anyone know the officer who signed on it?

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