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Home > UNS > 130213-04



Bridging the cultural gap

By Sgt. Daniel A. Carter

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Feb. 13, 2013) – Learning the culture and history of a country is key to understanding and effectively communicating with its people. This was the main goal of the event was to celebrate Seollal, New Years day on the lunar calendar, that was held at the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Feb. 8.

Jeonghye Vogt, a training instructor at the school and lead organizer, said that the event, or program, focused on "promoting Korean cultural understanding and giving the students a chance to demonstrate their language proficiency."

The New Year celebration and learning event took three weeks to plan, according to Vogt.
The first half of the day, students stood at the head of the classroom and talked about their life, hobbies, and trips that they had taken while on vacation. During this time, students were being graded by a panel of teachers and their peers to see who the best was.

“The students' proficiency is very impressive," said Lt. Col. Jinkwan Chung, a Republic of Korea Army liaison with the 18th Airborne Corps. Chung went on to explain that he thinks it is remarkable, that in just a short amount of time, the students are at such a high level of proficiency.

"Their Korean language skills are better than my English," Chung said with a smile.
Students from each cycle attending had the opportunity to speak during the contest. Capt. Nathan P. Derrick, a student with the Korean language cycle 008, said that he thinks that the contest is a fun way to increase language skills and really learn about the culture. He added that being able to speak in front of a room full of people is also a great way to gain confidence in ones speaking abilities.

"We want to build their confidence by having them speak in front of the class. Not just here, but when they go to Korea we want them to be confident there also," said Vogt.

The event lasted the entire day and included eating lunch at Myong's Korean Buffet in Fayetteville, N.C. At the buffet the students had the opportunity to eat a special Korean dish called Tteokguk, soup with sliced rice cakes. According to Korean culture, it is said that those who eat the dish are officially one year older. Along with this special dish, students were able to try many other Korean dishes while at the buffet.

After visiting the buffet and eating the traditional Korean Lunar New Year food the students returned their classroom and reviewed special customs and courtesies associated with the celebration. Students from each cycle participated by giving a brief on certain traditions that are involved with the celebration to include, bowing, food, and traditional clothing.

While the students stood up and briefed the rest of the class about the traditions associated with the Korean Lunar New Year, the teachers were dressing up in colorful traditional Korean clothing known as hanbok. The hanbok that the teachers wore ranged in color from bright pink to dark red and from white to black. After donning the traditional clothing, a few of the teachers demonstrated how to conduct Sebae, or the "big bow" as the teachers call it.

In Korean culture, the younger generations bow to the elder generations to symbolize respect and to wish them a happy new year. Once the students finished their briefs, each cycle gathered in front of their respective teachers and performed the bowing ceremony. Each bow that was conducted was met with applause from the rest of the cycles and teachers watching. During the applause, with smiles on their face, the teachers handed out candy to the students to show them their thankfulness.

At the conclusion of the bowing ceremony Song Camus, a senior teacher instructor, showed the students how to play the traditional Korean game of Yunnori. Yunnori is played by using specially designed sticks as dice and moving game pieces on a mat, similar to the board game Trouble. After demonstrating how to play the traditional game, the teachers gathered with the students to play Yunnori and have fun. Finishing out the day, the students held a talent show in which they had an opportunity to once again showcase their language skills while at the same time showing their understanding of Korean culture.

"After this event," said Vogt, "when the students go to Korea they will have a better understanding of the culture and the Korean people."

"We are bridging the gap," she said, explaining that they are connecting the students with the Korean culture so that they can better understand the people that they are trying to build relations with.