News: Soldiers kick it at Taekwondo camp
Story by Pfc. Gun Woo Song
YONGSAN, South Korea –Taewondo is a much beloved form of traditional martial arts that combines acts of agility with incredible speed and powerful kicks. Since the year 2000, Taekwondo has become one of the official games in the Olympics.
Although some consider Taekwondo just a sport, it is actually an art form that represents the spirit and culture of South Korea.
On June 10, more than 50 Soldiers from United States Forces Korea participated in a Taekwondo camp, hosted by the Ministry of National Defense, to see if they could keep up with their instructors, in Yongsan, South Korea.
While participating in the camp, Staff Sgt. Dustin Millett, a fire support noncommissioned officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, showed his passion for Taekwondo.
“I thought it would be a great way to learn more about Taekwondo and Korea,” said the native of The Dalles, Ore.
He has been taking Taekwondo classes at Carey Gym on Camp Casey, South Korea, for over a month.
“I think it’s a great work out,” said Millett. “For my age, being in my late 30s, getting back the flexibility and getting back in shape is great.”
According to Song, Min-kyong from the USFK Public Affairs Office Community Relations Division, which supports the ministry with the camp, this program has existed for 38 years.
“Starting in 1975, there are five tours that invite about 230 Soldiers a year,” said Song. “They are held to show thanks and appreciation to those Soldiers coming to serve in Korea.”
Song also talked about how the camp is designed to help new Soldiers familiarize themselves with the local culture.
“Taekwondo has many cultural factors embedded in it, so it’s a good start to learning the culture.”
As early as the first century, Taekwondo had been developed in Korea as a combat and survival skill. However, the sport fell to the wayside when the country focused more on intellectual and academic developments.
After the Japanese occupation and during the Korean War, it reemerged through the opening of kwans, or martial arts schools, and exhibitions much like the one provided for USFK Soldiers by the Third Republic of Korea Army Command Taekwondo team.
Grand Master John Hur, the Taekwondo instructor at Yongsan Garrison, said that learning Taekwondo is more than just picking up a new martial arts skill.
“The programs that the Soldiers are participating in can help them share an insight into the Korean philosophy,” said Hur. “It also helps them have fun and increase morale, not to mention how much it helps them develop self defense skills as well.”
Millett also focused on the purpose of the Taekwondo camp, and similar tours like the Demilitarized Zone Bike Tour and Gyeonggi Security Exhibition, that can help U.S. Soldiers learn more about the local culture.
“It gives Soldiers a broader outlook of everything,” said Millett. “With this and other tours, they open up our minds to see why we are here and why this is an important part of their culture.”