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carlwebb at asiafind.com
carlwebb at asiafind.com
Sun Jul 18 14:55:22 EDT 1999
Friction arises over Koreans serving in U.S. Army
Americans use them to finesse language, cultural differences, but both nationalities
By Pauline Jelinek / Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea -- The Cold War is over elsewhere, but the U.S. 8th Army still stands with South
Koreans at what it calls "freedom's frontier."
The army is a symbol of America's decades-old commitment to bolster allies against communist foes. But it's a
peculiar American army -- one of every seven soldiers in it is a Korean.
This is the only place on Earth where foreign soldiers serve in the U.S. military. The result is a U.S. force that is
part American, part South Korean.
"This is not a program that's going to work if there's not someone running herd over it all the time," said Claude
Hunter, manager of the little-known Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army program, known here as KATUSA.
Korean soldiers are integrated throughout the 8th Army, serving as infantrymen, finance clerks, even chaplain
assistants. They provide the army with Korean-speaking soldiers who can communicate better with South Korea's
660,000-man army and its civilians.
But multinational military operations are rarely without conflicts. And the KATUSA program, started in the early
days of the Korean War, has been plagued by frictions throughout its history.
U.S. troops quickly learn that soldiering in Korea is not just about mortars and missiles. There are language and
cultural problems to finesse.
"If you stand back and look at it on the macro level, it works," Hunter said. "If you start looking at the micro,
you find a lot of pimples."
The program's 4,400 KATUSAs (pronounced kah-TOO-sahs) are selected, promoted, disciplined and paid by
the Korean army -- at about $10 a month.
Then for their two years of mandatory military service, they eat, sleep, work and train with the 27,000 volunteer
soldiers of the U.S. Army, wear U.S. uniforms and answer to the U.S. chain of command.
Officials say this saves the United States between $40 million and $80 million a year.
But even if the Pentagon brought all U.S. Army units in Korea up to full strength with Americans, there still
would be a need for Korean assistance.
Some Americans think the program is intrinsically dangerous -- making it appear the United States has a greater
presence than it does.
Some KATUSAs feel they live in a nether world -- outsiders to their own army and to the foreign force they
serve, sometimes at the expense of their national pride.
And small, everyday differences eat at both nationalities.
"It's the way they go dancing down the (barracks) hallways and play their music loudly," Sgt. H.W. Kim, a
KATUSA supply clerk in the 1st Signal Brigade, said of the sometimes more boisterous Americans.
It's also that Americans date Korean women, criticize local customs, and arrive with little or no training in the
Americans say their average one-year tour is far too short to learn a difficult language such as Korean. Some
welcome KATUSA help on one hand, then on the other, complain KATUSAs keep to themselves, don't mix,
don't pull their weight.
"Even in families, brothers fight," said Col. Lee Myong-wan, a Korean liaison officer who oversees the
Last year, more than 100 Korean military officers and Korean parents were indicted in a draft scandal that
confirmed an open secret: Parents for years have been bribing army placement officers to have their sons assigned
to the KATUSA program or exempted from military service altogether.
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