The schools are part of a system established by the military shortly after World War II to ensure an American education for the children of troops deployed overseas. Then-named Seoul American High School opened in 1959 when classes were held in Quonset huts.
Once at Samgakji we would be underneath the elevated traffic circle. There were seemingly hundreds of street vendors selling everything from soups and grilled meats, to plastic shoes and clothing, to bicycle parts…..It was dark and chaotic under the traffic circle, and quite exciting for a teenager…
They never replaced it, and Yongsan Garrison’s community theater program died a slow death……But I’ll never forget what that old theater gave me. It’s the deepest certainty I’ve ever had in my life: theaters are magical, and I was made for the stage.
“For two hours, the men could forget they were soldiers at war. After the show, they returned to the fighting in the hills. Some in that audience never made it back.”
USO, to provide morale and recreation services to U.S. uniformed military personnel
If dedicating USAG Yongsan’s 70-year existence without taking into account the childhood memories, search for loved ones, or a cultural tour of Seoul, our future generations will grasp little or nothing if the military base was simply replaced by a grassy field with only bronze plaques reading passages from textbooks verbatim.
I have beautiful memories of Yongsan. I really do! My time there was magical; something I’ll always treasure and never forget. It may have been a military base, but I can assure you that my friends and I knew that something unique was going on there. It was a time when everyone got along, loved Korea and looked on people as friends. I wish the rest of the world could have had the same experience.