I will give a brief lecture about Mr. Whalen ‘Butch’ M. Wehry, Public Affairs Specialist and author of THE YOBO, A Novel of Korea on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at the USO on Camp Kim. For all those who have lived, worked or traveled to Korea, you can now reread the adventures of Timothy Tubert (The Yobo: A Novel of Korea) as a Kindle e-Book, ‘Corean Dawn’ ‘Corean Dusk’ and ‘Seoul.’ These three novels by Whelan W. ‘Butch’ Wehry have been rewritten in all their nail-biting suspense. His sequel, ‘Seoul’ which picks up Tubert’s later years as he passes the mantel to Pae, Na Na, a beautiful Korean lady who buries her ‘Hadaboji’ in the Land of the Morning Calm. I was privileged to read The Yobo in its manuscript form and again in the printed hardcover. But, Wehry has brought back this epic with more insight about the people who lived in the Korean peninsula so the public may get an inside glimpse as to the Hermit Kingdom’s reluctance to welcome the outside world and the difficult years during the Japanese occupation. He recounts the Korean War (1950-1953) in his sequel, ‘Seoul’ which covers the heart-rending drama of the separation of Korean families torn apart and the separation of families even unto today. I highly recommend reading all three of Wehry’s latest novels as they shed a light on a nation still unknown to the western world. All four books are available on Kindle at amazon.com
Remembering the legacy of U.S. Army Yongsan Garrison
(At Building 1510 in 1962)
Nam Sang-so, the speaker
USO, Camp Kim, June 13, 2017
a) Trans-Asia Engineers and Building 1510 in Main Post
b) Korean architects/engineers learned a lot
c) South and North bound wood-burning buses
d) B-29 and Atomic bombings in Japan
e) A Chinese cousin
f) Kamikaze suicide squadron
g) A mural of Blondie
i) PX and Made in USA
j) Giant step forward to international design/construction biddings
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.
When Senora Coco Cugat asked me to reveal what I have seen in the last 55 years in and out of Yongsan Garrison and Camp Humphreys and visiting many other U.S. Forces bases in Korea ranging from the Joint Security Area in the DMZ to Camp Hialeah in Busan, I said I’m too old and hearing impaired so that I can’t speak well. She said “You don’t speak with your ears,” and insisted that I should divulge everything I know. Before too late, knowing I’m 84.
So, I’m here but I must tell you that the ears and mouth are closely connected so that I’m not only having a hearing problem but also speaking problem. If you find my talk difficult to understand, the blame should go to the Senora.
a) Trans-Asia Engineers and Building 1510, Main Post
I’ve written a dozen articles in the YongsanLegacy.org so far. Among them the Building 1510, a one-story cement block building still exists on the hill of northern Main Post. It’s currently occupied by J4 transportation division. It was built in early 1962 by Trans-Asia Engineering Associates, Inc., known as TAE with its own money. TAE was a Nevada corporation specializing architectural/engineering design services. Many years later the Garrison wanted to use the building as the base had short of office spaces, TAE was forced to relocate outside the Garrison perimeter purchasing an old building in Hannam-dong.
It was actually a big mistake to build an office inside the Garrison. We should have it built outside the fence so that we could have made a lot of money on property inflation.
In my earlier article posted in the Yongsanlegacy, I’ve emphasized that in the 40 years of TAE’s existence in Korea, the engineering firm hired over 500 Korean architects and engineers including R&U (Repair and Utilities) contract at K-6, and became the headspring of the Korean evolutionary river of the architectural and engineering fields which later extended into Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other middle eastern countries. I’ve learned the latest design criteria, quality control for construction material and field works from the USADEFA (Corps of Engineer) and 8th Army engineers, and Base Engineers at Osan Airbase, and 802nd Engineer Battalion at K-6.
b) Korean architects/engineers have learned a lot
And as a student of architectural and engineer, I myself fully exercised the knowledge I had obtained, all free of charge or rather being well paid, and have lived my life very well. Those Korean friends being employed by the USFK have lived or are living well, some of them were given US citizenship by serving the same unit over 30 years.
I say without hesitate that most of us who have been working in the US military camps all over Korea were touched by the way the American soldiers and civilians had never used their time sparingly in teaching us. We all loved the way you the USFK personnel treated us just equal human being. We cannot tell how delighted we were in getting acquainted with you. The kindness and generosity you military and civilian personnel showed us will be remembered for a long time.
The USFK employed over 40,000 Korean technicians and workers at its peak and it’s known that about 15,000 Koreans are being employed now. Somehow our new President Moon seems unaware of these large employments as he has never mentioned about it.
Toward the end of my talk this evening, I’ll summarize you how you have greatly helped Korea to become the fastest growing country in the world so that South Korea was able to obtain 10 times of the GNP than North Korea. The North was economically superior to South before the Korean War.
c) South bound and North bound wood burning buses
For now, I’d like to bring you back to the summer of 1926 at a farm village named River Dale in Uljin township, located along the East Coast. The village with two dozen thatched houses in the middle of rice field was surrounded by mountains and each family had a small patch of rice field just enough to feed one family – usually given to the first son. Yet somehow, they knew how to produce many off springs – far skillful than the youngsters these days.
The Nam family had four boys and one girl and my father was the third son. The Chang family had two girls and two boys, and my mother was the second girl. My father asked one of the Chang boys to escape from the poor village as they knew they were all extras and only way to survive was to find a job outside Korea. My father decided to go to Japan and Chang decided to go to Manchuria, now China.
Chang asked my father marry his sister so that Chang family can save another set of chopsticks. The poor 16-year-old girl had no choice but decided to tag along with the boy, as she too knew she was one of the extras.
So, they went to the town’s bus stop and Chang took north bound bus and the newly wed bought tickets for south bound bus to go to Busan port. Those were all wood burning buses.
The southbound bus went by a village named Heunghae where the parents of the future Korean president Lee Myeong Bak were also planning to go to Oska for the same reason. And the bus also went by Ulsan village where a young boy was also dreaming to make money in Japan. His name is Shin Kyuk-ho, now the Chairman of Lotte Group who made a lot of money.
d) B-29 and Atomic bombings in Japan
My parents had planned to visit an acquaintance at Hiroshima city but they missed the station to get off and got off at Osaka station instead, some 200 km from Hiroshima city.
After some 20 years of hard working, my parent’s house was bombed by American B-29 bombers during the Pacific War but we, now with four children, had survived hiding in underground shelter. Having had enough war time difficulties my parents decided to go back to Korea with the children who spoke only Japanese. We saw completely burned down ash of Hiroshima city from the window of train on our way. That was in 1946 one year after the Japan had surrendered.
e) A Chinese cousin
Fast forwarding to 1993, a woman of 40s was standing holding a large travel bag when I answered the door of my house in Seoul.
“My name is Chang. I’m your cousin. Your mother is my aunt,” declared poorly dressed woman in a North Korean accent.
“I wonder why my father didn’t take the same south bound bus with your parents,” she said at a dinner table, greatly lamenting that her family had to live so poorly in the Communist China.
Time passed again and in 2017, my China born cousin, speaking fluent Mandarin, running a prosperous trading business in Seoul and Qindao, China, says, “After all I’m glad it was the north bound bus.” And she added “You see, no one demonstrates in an anti-China rally in front of the Chinese Embassy, in Seoul.
f) Kamikaze suicide squadron
It was Memorial Day at Saddle River School, my grandson’s high school, in New Jersey in 2005. Students and teachers were gathered in the auditorium to hear the World War II story from two Navy veterans. One was a pilot who said that the Japan’s suicide fighter pilots called Kamikaze squadrons were scary but he shot them down before they could reach their battle ships. The other veteran was a gunner of a LST who also told the students that he shot down many those crazy Jap pilots. The students and teachers applauded.
I was sitting in the front row, and raised my hand. “Yes sir, any question?” said the old pilot. “Have you seen then Kamikaze pilot’s face?” I asked. “No, sir. We had no time to look at those crazy boys. They all went down into sea, ha, ha,” replied the navy veteran. Another applause from the audience. “For your record, then why don’t you look at me. I was one of the candidates for the suicide squadron in early summer of 1945 in Japan. I was too young to be deployed then,” I said. The auditorium was filled with ominous silence. Then a girl behind my seat screamed, “An enemy is here!” Agitation erupted in the large room.
It was the American Memorial Day. I stood up, raised my hand gesturing to shake hand, and said to the two American veterans on the platform, “Pleased to see you alive.” A few seconds later, the auditorium was filled with thunderous applause. The head-master stepped up and said “It was the best Veterans Day we’ve ever head.”
The students and teachers started call my grandson “Kamikaze’s grandson,” thereafter. The boy is now being employed by a consulting firm in New York City.
f) A mural of 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. The graffiti 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 chasing after retreating North Korean soldiers in the middle of Korean War in the year 1951.
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. The students were also surprised to find a large amount of their military rations left behind in the auditorium of Uljin middle school with an English note “THANK YOU.” The students were amazed to read the first English letters written by English speaking soldiers. Then the students were more surprised to notice that their only English teacher had disappeared with the American soldiers. He was recruited as a translator. Only a month earlier they saw poorly armed North Korean soldiers marching toward south. Now seeing the woman’s fresco and the thank-you note with canned foods left behind by the American soldiers, they felt that the South Korean soldiers with the U.S. soldiers would win this funny war.
The students, after the war, when started to read English magazines realized that the fresco woman was named Blondie. In the middle of gun fight, the U.S. soldiers had time to scribble on the wall a woman’s image, the town people were amazed. Later the town had two hairdressers and a photo shop named Blondie, some copying the fresco image onto their signboards.
When the U.S. Army 24th Corps, 6th and 7th Divisions were deployed in South Korea to disarm Japanese army in September 1945, they have immediately established AM radio stations in Seoul, Daegu, and Busan and later more at Osan, Gunsan and Munsan. The radio stations are then called WVTP, later AFKN. The call sign for Seoul station was Vagabond, Homesteader for Busan, Kilory for Daegu, Mercury for Gunsan, Comet for Osan, Indianhead for Munsan station. AFKN was later called AFN KOREA under the AFRTS for Armed Forces Radio Television Service. In 1954 the U.S. Forces started to broadcast television and later in 1970 satellite broadcasting service.
For the Korean high school and college students and those who wished to learn English in Seoul after the Korean War era bought transistor radio and listened to Vagabond radio for free English learning. Many looked into dictionary and liked the word Vagabond, as many considered themselves vagabond who didn’t have proper job and traveled from place to place in search of job, still learning English. The American pop songs and noisy jazz music comforted them whose minds had been devastated in surviving through Korean War.
Korean song writers were quick to respond to the new trend and scored such popular songs like “Mambo ballad,” “Shoe shine-boy,” “Arizona cow boy,” and so on. (I can still hum those amusing songs.) The recording companies couldn’t stay behind the new mode and quickly changed their names to “Universal,” “King-star,” “Domino,” and “Oasis.” Koreans were so quick to accept without question new American cultures introduced by the U.S. soldiers.
Korean musicians, singers, and dancers too moved to learn how to sing and dance to the new boogie-woogies melody and played at the theaters in Yongsan Garrison and at many other U.S. Military camps around the country. Many of them later became famous in the Korean entertainment world.
The movie importers too got busy to meet with the new vogue and they imported a lot of American movies, many of them Westerns such as OK Corral, Big Country, Red River, Stage Coach, Shane, or The Bridges at Toko-Ri (William Holden and Grace Kelly), etc. Everyone knew who John Wayne was. Many English students, myself included, sat in their seats in the movie house to view twice the same movie with one ticket. The imported American movies not only provided pleasant time and English learnings but also stimulated the Korean movie industry resulting debuts of silver screen actors and actresses
h) PX and Made in the USA
There is a serving tray, 12” diameter, made of a special plastic, covered by a non-slip cork surface, in my kitchen shelf. That stylish Miss Ahn, who had amazed the engineers and draftsmen wearing a sack dress to Trans-Asia Engineer office at Building 1510 in early 1960, gave it to me as a gift (Re: my earlier article “Sack Dress in the Building 1510, Yongsan Garrison). I remember she had bought it, among other her cosmetics, at PX or Commissary in the Main Post. I knew she had a civilian, DAC, boyfriend. The tray, marked as U.S. Pat. KYS-ITE on the back, has been in our kitchen for 57 years. My wife of 55 years calls the US made tray is the best thing I’ve had since my bachelor years as it lasts without showing any wear and tears. She loves it as it has non-slip surface so that coffee cups won’t slide when she carries it around.
Almost everyone liked everything of the Made in USA properly or unproperly came out from PX or Commissary. The U.S. Post Exchange or Base Exchange are financed by non-appropriate funds, probably so that the control over the PX items leaking into outside the military premises had been rather loosely implemented. That made many people around Yitaewon, Hannam-dong and Bogwang-dong and Samkaji gave the first chance to taste American foods mostly canned or bottled ones. There were several large sections in Namdaemun and Dongdaemun markets specializing only PX products. They carried almost everything of the daily commodities rich peoples in Seoul wanted. The demand and supply were well balanced then.
The PX items sold in the Korean markets awakened the eyes and the sense of taste and pleased local people’s palates in Seoul and other towns around the U.S. Military Camps. Many Korean employees at Yongsan Garrison as well as at Osan and K-6 Pyongtaek (now Camp Humphreys) had been amazed to see so many women’s daily needs plus expensive cosmetics are being displayed at the entrance floor of the Post Exchanges lingering pleasant fragrance coming from perfumes transported from the United States to Incheon or Busan ports on a troopship USS General J.C. Breckinridge. And that cute Miss Ahn dressed with, wore and carried everything Made in the U.S.A., was receiving envious eyes from the Korean young boys and girls of architects, engineers and draftsmen in the Building 1510. She was so stylish and Americanized that when she walked around the office producing a swinging rhythm hitting her high heels on the wooden and terrazzo floors, architects/engineers in the office dreamed that one day they would visit the United States and learn about the American culture. And some of the employees of Trans-Asia Engineers later attended colleges in the United States and fulfilled their dreams they had cherished in the Building 1510.
Most sales by PX are free of state and local sales taxes as the sales take place on U.S. military reservations. It is non-appropriated fund (NAF) activities, meaning it is designed to not only be self-sufficient, but generate a profit. (Ref: Wiki) These financial structures of PX which should be profitable by selling as much as possible made somewhat loosely control over the PX items leaking into Korean markets, which eventually awakened Korean consumers to see the better commodities in their daily necessities and at the same time lead to create fertile societies in Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Gunsan, Osan, Euijeongbu, Dongducheon, and other townships around the U.S. Military camps.
i) Giant step forward international design/construction biddings
The majority of the TAE employees were later recruited by Korean construction companies and placed at responsible positions, and the architectural and engineering technologies they had acquired with TAE and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had become invaluable assets for getting overseas construction projects. They knew how to interpret bidding documents that included the terms of contract, special and technical specifications. They knew how to estimate project costs and had a keen knowledge of how to carry out projects employing Critical Path Methods (CPM), which is an algorithm for scheduling a set of project activities and is an important tool for effective project management. The Corps of Engineers had classes to each the application of the CPM to Korean architect/engineers.
Bid winning news from the Middle East, Southeast Asian countries decorate newspapers often nowadays. The brave Korean architects and engineers with the construction firms active in the overseas can usually trace their roots back to TAE – they know that they have learned from their fathers, uncles and architects from the Building 1510 in the North Post of Yongsan Garrison, who had taught the latest engineering techniques to many Koreans including the former chairmen of Hyundai Construction Co., Ltd. and or Doosan Engineering and Construction Co., Ltd., and numerous others when South Korea was in the midst of rapid development.
Korean engineering and construction companies were not afraid of Chinese, Taiwanese or Japanese competitors, who had no experience to learn to read the international bidding documents and to tender the lowest acceptable bids. Many international biddings were prepared and managed by Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco which used the same U.S. standards as the Corps of Engineers. For several years, I evaluated the construction bids for Korean construction companies, utilizing the architectural/engineering expertise gained in designing numerous U.S. military facilities in Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bangladesh and Negara Brunei Darussalam. I once won an international design competition held for the Jubail Industrial Zone, Saudi Arabia, competing with the architects from France, Germany, Egypt and England.
The Building 1510, built with cement hollow block bearing walls, now silently sits on the hill of the North Post, Yongsan Garrison, overlooking the widened Hangang Avenue and high-rise apartments in Samkakji with the reminiscent of trams noisily running often releasing electrical sparks high at the trolley. The building was no doubt the headspring of the Korean evolutionary river of the architectural/engineering field.
The U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan is being scheduled to be relocated into Camp Humphreys. The new landscape architects for the new Yongsan Park, I hope, will notice that the Building 1510 exists with the great legacies of the pioneer American and Korean architects and engineers during the reconstruction era after the Korean War.
Before I step out of this platform I would like to say the most important words; In the 3 years of Korean War the United States Forces Korea sacrificed 36,574 dead, 103,284 wounded, 7,926 missing in action, and 4,714 POWs.
Since I’m a civilian my presentation today was concentrated on the engineering and construction sectors and fine cultural impact given by the USFK, rather skipping the war stories. However, I would like to say thank you US and UN Forces in Korea. When the June 6th, Memorial Day in Korea, comes around, we won’t forget to make a prayer for those who are resting in peace.