Recently I wrote a travel book about Seoul, South Korea. Many ask why I wrote a travel book about a faraway place. I have lived in Korea for seven years. My wife, Dr. Anna Hyonjoo Lint, is from Korea. We are both authors and we have different perspectives from living and serving in Korea.
One traveled with multiple tours of duty from 1987 to 2015, (two military active duty tours plus five years of civilian service). The other is a native of Korea with a master’s degree in Korea, and a master’s and doctorate in the United States. Both currently are professors in the U.S., and semi-retired living in Las Vegas.
This book is written after our last visit in October 2015. The trip I took in 2015 was the first time I have paid for travel to Korea. Uncle Sam has always footed the bill in the past. Between the two of us, we have 47 trips going between the U.S. and Korea. This was my eighth round trip with Anna having almost double the number of trips, with her start in 1983 and my first trip was in 1987. It is hard not to learn from travel in this amount. This has broadened our minds and experience. Both of us have also traveled to other countries in Asia, Europe and Central America.
The dynamics of being a soldier and civilian in Korea for seven years scattered over a 28-year period were interesting and that is something unique we bring to this story. Life is seen differently from the where you are standing. Anna, growing up and living in Korea for 40 years, sees Korea differently than I do, just as she views the U.S. differently. These are some of the dynamics we bring to sharing a view of Korea that may be different.
The times changed is a slogan. In Korea they really do. There were great shopping opportunities in Korea. Food is well priced, if you are eating Korean cuisine. If you are eating foreign food, it gets more expensive, just like eating exotic food in the U.S. is costlier. American food is called foreign food in Korea.
I have been an unaccompanied married soldier, a single soldier, a single civilian, and a married civilian. Married to a Korean in Korea is very different. It does not matter if I was the best Korean linguist, if I am with my Korean wife out in town ordering food, no one wants to talk to me. The order takers at the restaurants completely ignore me and ask my wife what I would like to eat. It is humorous, after you get used to it.
Korea has a truly an amazing story of going from no two-story buildings in Seoul in 1953, to a city of few buildings that are not high rise skyscrapers in the capital city of Seoul in 2015. Seoul is a city of 11 million plus people. New York City is a small town of 7 million people. Real estate is very expensive in Seoul. There are some places with expensive real estate in New York City. Most living quarters of a small U.S.-sized apartment or condominium is extremely expensive in Seoul.
According to the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, as of July 2015, the total population of Korea is 51,448,183, ranking 26th globally by country. Out of the total population, roughly 20 percent live in Seoul, the capital city of Korea. Other large and economically advanced cities such as Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju and Ulsan have higher population densities than other cities besides Seoul in Korea.
During my tour of duty in 1997, I had shoulder surgery on my rotator cuff. Those who remember the "MASH" television show remember their higher headquarters was in the 121 Army Medical Hospital. That was located in Yongsan Army Garrison, Seoul, Korea. That is where I did my surgery and I did not see Hawkeye or Hot Lips in attendance. Being a single guy, with no family, living in a foreign country, it is different going in for surgery. Being a tough guy, who does not want to bother my fellow soldiers with my problems or issues can be dumb.
I was in the hospital long enough so the meds would not interfere with driving and I was allowed to drive home. I drove to my apartment with my right arm in a sling. Did I forget to mention the apartment was on a hill, and my car was an automatic transmission on the column and I had to parallel park? This means that on the right side of the steering wheel was a gear shift column. So, I tried to parallel park using only my left arm. (I do not parallel park well with both arms and a fit body.)
It was an adventure. The small fairly new moped in the next parking area was knocked over. Mirrors broken and moped scratched. Lucky for me, I knew my neighbors before I made any problems, and no one was mad. I compensated the owner and he gave me a get well gift.
In 1998, I was a defense contractor in the Washington, D.C., area working in support of an Army Headquarters, (INSCOM). They were sending a five-person team to Korea to conduct an inspection of a unit in Camp Humphreys, Pyeongtaek (평택), South Korea. I had more experience in Korea than the others who had more experience in Germany. I went over as the advance team a few days early. An interesting point of this trip was during my flight over, I missed my 40th birthday due to travel from D.C. to Kimpo (Gimpo, 김포) Airport in Seoul and over the International Date Line. I claimed that I never turned 40 years old. My Korean friends did have a great party for me when I arrived.
For those who studied or did time in Korea, there are three major time periods observed during US-Korean foreign relations. The Korean War 1950-53, Armistice pre-1988 Seoul Olympics, and post Olympics Armistice, after the 1988 Olympics. I am too young for the Korean War, and many of those personnel are rapidly marching to the final parade. I was there in 1987 for my first one-year tour. I heard much about the 1970s and other good days for the Americans stationed in Korea. Just as in Germany in the old days, a former broken country after war takes time to grow. Korea is truly an amazing story of going from no two-story buildings in Seoul in 1953, to few buildings that are not high rise skyscrapers in 2015.
See the book Co-Authored with Dr. Anna Lint, “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea.” Multiple perspectives of Korea from both Americans and Koreans. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01BAEVN7I All proceeds go to scholarships at Lint Center for National Security Studies charity.