KATUSA’s and the US Army

Had something a little bit troubling happen the other day at work. I had a KATUSA soldier tell me he hated Americans. For you all that don’t know what a KATUSA is; KATUSA stands for Korean Augmentee to the United States Army. They are ROK Army soldiers that serve inside regular US Army units here in Korea.

Having served in Korea before my impression of KATUSAs is very positive. In general they are really smart young men (women cannot be a KATUSA), usually very hard working, and motivated. However, this time around in Korea this is the third time I have talked to a KATUSA who told me he disliked Americans and I have talked to other KATUSAs who disliked being KATUSAs. Each time one of these incidents happen I probe deeper and ask plenty of questions to determine the thought process of what is going on. What I find out is really rather interesting.

The KATUSAs that did not like Americans disliked the soldiers because of cultural differences mainly. Soldiers play loud music, party in the rooms to much at night, to many girls come over to hang out, and I even had a KATUSA tell me he did not like having to take orders from female NCOs he feels he is more competent then. I tried to turn situations like this around and ask them if they would raise these complaints if Koreans were doing the same things because I am sure there are plenty of Koreans that play loud music and party. Mostly no to all of them. I then ask them why they wanted to be a KATUSA. Most of the replies were to avoid regular ROK Army service and to learn English.

I tell them that when they applied to become a KATUSA they should of realized that they were going to have to adapt to American culture and American ways of doing things since they would be serving in the American army. If they were not willing to make that committment they should not have applied. If they want everyone to act like a Korean they should of joined the ROK Army. The ROK Army is always hiring. Also the primary job of a KATUSA should be to help US soldiers better understand Korea and foster friendship between the two countries not to come here to avoid the regular ROK Army or to learn English. That is coming here for the wrong reasons.

Look at the perspective of things from a soldier. Most soldiers here are very young 18-21 and this is their first time away from home with no support base around them. Most likely they came here against their will to serve their one year tour. Plus many people are here for year away from their families which further complicates things. Then you have them all crammed into old, over crowded barracks on top of one another plus many of them are experiencing alcohol for the first time. Then outside the gate you have a bunch of sleazy run down bars filled with ladies of the night trying to shake you down for money. So naturally soldiers first impression of Korea is not to positive.

This is where KATUSAs can make a big difference. I have seen some really outstanding KATUSAs that take soldiers out on trips regualarly, show them how to use the subway and buses, conduct home stays with their families, take them out to eat at Korean restuarants, teach weekly Korean classes, and setup volunteer work for soldiers with local schools and orphanages. This is what I saw alot of the last time I was in Korea and I have seen a lot of these activities this time too.

However, I have seen more KATUSAs this time around who are more negative about being KATUSAs. What I am finding out is that I really think the 2002 incident when the two girls were killed has really effected their opinion of Americans with the current crop of KATUSAs. I actually had a KATUSA tell me he believed that the soldiers involved in the incident intentionally ran the girls down and that the Army covered it all up. He had a wild conspiracy theory and when I asked where he heard it from he said the internet of course.

Americans aren’t the only ones hated. I had other KATUSAs tell me they hate Korea because of the mandatory military service requirement mostly and a variety of other reasons and look forward to completing their services so they could go to college in a different country and hopefully find a job there so they do not have to come back. This is a common problem I have seen just talking to Koreans not in the military. I have talked about this before, “the small, weak country” sydrome that causes Koreans to talk down Korea. Koreans need to realize there are plenty of things to proud of in Korea and not to worry so much about what others think but that is a whole other post altogether.

The life of a KATUSA is really pretty easy compared to the regular ROK Army. They get payed about only $40 dollars a month so they don’t make anything. However, many of the KATUSA’s families are already wealthy to begin with. To become a KATUSA you need to receive high scores on an English proficiency test and then you are entered into a lottery. If you meet the mark on the test you pretty much have a 1 in 3 chance of becoming a KATUSA. To receive high marks on the test wealthy families can afford expensive English tutors while a regular middle class family cannot afford such an advantage. Thus the reason why there are so many wealthy KATUSAs. A really nice benefit of a KATUSA is the time off they receive. They get all US and ROK holidays off plus still have their yearly leave. Then to top things off it is much easier to receive a pass to go home in the US Army then it is in the ROK Army. Than compared to the ROK Army you have much better living and working conditions. You may have to worry about loud rap music but you don’t have to worry about being beaten by a ROK NCO.

As living standards improve here in Korea and the government continues to take the appeasement approach with North Korea I really think the Korean government is really going to find it harder to keep the mandatory military service feasable especially when now even KATUSAs are complaining about it. The more I probe into it I find the KATUSAs I have had issues with are not anti-American but are more disgruntled about just being in the Army all together and are just venting about it. Then you look at all the draft dodging already going on in the newspapers and you can understand why they are frustrated. I think it will only get worse as time goes on. Talking to older Koreans they told me that when they did their mandatory service it was a badge of honor and something you did to prove you passed from boyhood to manhood. It is definitely not looked at that way now. Now it is a burden to be avoided.

I really see no way the Koreans can make an all volunteer army large enough to defend the country from the North Koreans even if they wanted to do away with the mandatory service. They would have to really increase the amount of money they spend on the military to offer college and monetary benefits just like the US Army does to get people to enlist. I think over the next decade the mandatory service requirement will become a bigger issue. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Overall the KATUSA soldiers continue to be great soldiers and a force multiplier for the US military but it looks like I am beginning to see some cracks in it just like the ROK-US relations continue to show cracks. Fortunately all the problems between the US and Korea are easily mendable with good diplomacy and understanding even at the KATUSA and US soldier level. Every time I have had an issue with a KATUSA, I explain things to them from the US soldier perspective and then they begin to understand and come around. I’m sure the same thing can be done for overall relations in Korea. The last thing you want to do is scream and yell. That just gets people defensive and will not solve anything. This is definitely a technique some politicians can learn from.

GIKorea

GIKorea

I am a US military veteran that has served all over the world to include in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. I have been blogging about Korea, Northeast Asia, and the US military for over 10 years.

59 Comments

  1. An invaluable post with current info on a subject I have been curious about.

    I'm encouraged to see your positive and optimistic attitude — you're doing what you should be to promote good relations. However, I'm not optimistic about the long-term relationship between the US and ROK. (This post, and the one immediately beneath it about Rep Roh, are examples).

    In engaging in what I consider to be a delusion — that the ROK can be a "mediator" between the US and the DPRK — ROK political leaders are doing great harm to the alliance, which is why (after a lifetime of believing otherwise) I think we need to announce a date for the complete withdrawal of all our ground forces.

    If the young people of ROK are becoming disgruntled and see no need for military service, then why do we need to be there? It's their country, not ours — and it's not our job to convince them otherwise. Maybe if we left it would ease tensions on the peninsula and the Koreans could work things out between themselves over a long period of time.

    "Appeasement"? Fine with me, as long as it's not financed with our money. Seems to me that's essentially the policy the last two ROK administrations have followed anyway. They just want us around as "disaster" insurance, while we also provide a convenient "whipping boy". And I think many Americans are starting to realize this.

  2. My brothers-in-law weren't KATUSAs but they did their service. The big difference with them is that they felt it was easy; well, easier than farmwork. I get that impression from a few men from rural areas. It may be just a macho thing, "I'm from the country and tougher than a city guy." I don't know.

  3. I know of one person who served in the Katusa couple of years ago. He hated it because the US soldiers for the most part, look down on the Korean soldiers with disdain and dirision. He joined the Katusa to learn English and to learn a new culture, while doing his mandatory duty. He was very pro-US when he went into the Katusa. He became anti-US when he came out of it.

    You're the first person I've ever heard who have high praise for the program. Most US sodiers don't like nor respect the Korean soldiers in Katusa.

  4. That is just a perception that some KATUSA feel because they are already bitter about their mandatory service and go into service as a KATUSA with the attitude of I'm here to learn English. KATUSA's shouldn't be in it to learn English. Plus some KATUSA do not adjust to the American style of doing things and some have a hard time taking orders from younger soldiers, women, and even African-Americans due to cultural differences between the two countries. Then you add in other cultural differences and this is what contributes to problems. But KATUSAs have to be willing to adapt. If they are not they should not be KATUSAs. The KATUSA that are respected the most by US soldiers are ones that work hard every day, are good at PT, and are involved with the soldiers. What I mean by involved is that they will sit and BS with soldiers in the chow hall, go to the gym together, and go out with soldiers on the weekends. To often KATUSAs keep to themselves and do not interact with US soldiers during non-work times which in turn causes them to be alienated.

  5. Great blog and article, GI.

    I was going to post on your Shinchon Stabbing article, but since you brought up KATUSAs, I'll ask my question here…

    Regarding the Shinchon Stabbing incident, I read that a KATUSA was also part of the GI group and involved as well. As far as I know, I have not heard nor read anything about this particular KATUSA. I'm starting to believe that the Korean media is purposely (surprise! surprise!) covering up the identity of the KATUSA and any statements he may have made. If you have any information regarding this particular KATUSA, I'd greatly appreciate it.

    Thanks!

    Zoomie (A former Osan-based kyopo)

  6. You are absolutely right about the KATUSA. I have been wondering the same thing about the KATUSA involved. His involvement has been kept really quiet. Unfortunately I have no information about what eventually happened to him. The only reason the one GI was charged was because he pulled out the knife. The other soldiers involved including the KATUSA were never charged with anything in the Korean courts but from what I was told they were given UCMJ for being in an off limits area from the military. However, the KATUSA does not fall under the UCMJ and could theoretically not receive any punishment at all. It would all depend on the ROK Army sergeant major in charge of him to decide his punishment.

  7. I appreciate you writing this blog. Anyways I'll be going into the KATUSA program in less than a month. I'm a bit nervous, bit sad, bit excited… But to be honest, I'd rather not go. Don't get me wrong, once I get in I'm going to put my best effort into it. However I'm 26, which is old for a korean soldier to be going in. I'm more "americanized" than I'm korean. I grew up in the states most of my life. My gf is going to be here by her self. She is Canadian so it's going to be hard on her without family here. And it's two years making 40 won per month… and my family is pretty broke now.

    So the questions is. What can I do that will help me get through this time? I have no problems getting along with anybody. If anything I might have some problems with the other KATUSA because my korean ain't that good. Just wondering if you could holla at me with some tips and advice for the upcoming two years of my life.

    Thank you,

    Jason

    please feel free to email me at jpark1207@gmail.com

  8. You use the excuse that when U.S soldiers arrive here, they see things that aren't positive. Does that excuse their behavior? I'm an American, and find the attitude and manner of the young American soldier to be deplorable. Yet, while you are so ready to make an excuse for your fellow soldiers, you say that the KATUSAs NEED to adapt? This is their country, if you recall. How a Korean decides to see a foreigner in his nation is his business. His culture is his business. The average American citizen has always been defensive about their culture, for good or bad, it is what you were taught. A popular phrase by Americans is "if you don't like it, get out." Well, if you don't like it, get out. If you can't get out, because you joined the military, that's really your fault, isn't it?

    I think if the American soldiers had a little more discipline than the amount displayed in..say..Itaewon, it would do a lot to mend these issues. Remember, EVERYONE stereotypes and generalizes. Some people see American soldiers, drunk, acting like idiots, spoiling for a fight with the local people. Where's your blog on them? Why don't you sit them down?

    I find this to be, once again, completely biased. Don't become a journalist unless you plan on working for Fox News.

  9. KATUSA's serve in the US Army and live in a US Army barracks where American soldiers listen to rap music. I'm not going to order a soldier to stop playing rap music in his room he shares with a KATUSA because a KATUSA doesn't like rap music. KATUSAs volunteer to join the US Army units in Korea knowing they are going to be exposed to US culture. Likewise I'm not going to order a KATUSA to quit eating kimchi because a US soldier doesn't like the smell.

    Also soldiers can't get out of a tour to Korea. Most soldiers do not even want to be in Korea. If you spent some time on a military base during the weekend instead of in Itaewon doing God knows what, maybe you would see all the soldiers calling their families and talking to their kids they haven't seen in months which they probably haven't seen much of in many years due to deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. They are here on a hardship tour without their families and yet you want to stereotype all the soldiers in USFK from the few young male idiots you see in Itaewon that are not acting much different from young male idiots in there age group in the US. In fact they aren't acting much different from young male idiots in there age group in Korea either.

    Your lack of knowledge about the US military is only surpassed by your lack of knowledge about this blog because you accuse me of not blogging about drunk soldiers acting like idiots yet I probably have the most extensive archives about GI crime in Korea on the entire internet:
    http://rokdrop.com/category/crime-punishment/

    I closely track GI crime to compare GI crime percentages to the general Korean population. Low and behold GI crime is lower per capita than the general Korean population. You probably would not realize that since your entire perception of GIs is based off a some drunk idiots you see in Itaewon.

    Plus your ability to determine who I have and haven't sat down for misbehavior is quite amazing. Did you come to Korea to be a psychic? I hope not because you are not a very good one because I have counseled and punished plenty of soldiers including sending some to jail. By the way this is not something I take pride in and I always second guess myself if more could have been done to keep them from getting in trouble in the first place.

    Also I have no intentions of being a journalist but I have been quoted in multiple newspapers and magazines and exchange emails with journalists from time to time seeking information about whatever article they are working on. Guess what none of them are from Fox News.

  10. Many,

    You are completely unqualified to make a blanket generalization that "US soldiers for the most part, look down on the Korean soldiers with disdain and dirision."

    I have spent many years in Korea, and during that time, I have worked with hundreds of KATUSA soldiers in both a "side-by-side" and supervisory role.

    Over those many years, I can only recall a few occasions where US soldiers engaged in the behavior you describe, and some of those occasions were actually driven by "F*@k the Army" behavior on the part of the KATUSA soldier.

    Believe it or not, most US soldiers understand the unique predicament that mandatory conscription places on Korean male youth. Likewise, most US soldiers are willing to take the time to properly integrate KATUSAs into their ranks.

    To be fair, many US soldiers do complain that KATUSA soldiers get too many days off, but they definitely do not engage in generalized "disdain and dirision."

    I suspect that your perception is driven entirely by one KATUSA soldier's particular experience, so I suggest that you frame your position in that regard.

  11. Joe,

    Congrats on your selection for KATUSA program. Only very few ROK conscripts make it to the KATUSA. Your English score must have been high. I hope you will enjoy the US Army life in lieu of ROK Army life. And please do not get offended if Korean-American officers or NCO refused to speak to you in Korean in front of other soldiers. As a leader, they do not want to show any favortism by speaking a language which majority of US soldiers can not understand.

  12. The statement made by the KATUSA is a very disloyal statement. This mentality and verbal communication is detrimental to the ROK-US alliance.

    All KATUSAs are assigned to the ROK Army and are assigned to a unit similar to an HHC in our army with a CSM (or other senior NCO) and officer in charge.

    When you have an issue that you feel is beyond your control, contact that senior NCO; he will definitely light a fire under that KATUSA and you should not have any further concerns. I know that our army leadership sometimes is weak when it comes to persons having their own personal opinions, but the ROK Army does not. It's possible that the KATUSA can receive military justice from his unit. Also, if bad enough, that KATUSA can be sent into the regular ranks of the ROK Army to complete his service obligation.

    Also, you should still continue to lead/train/mentor a KATUSA similar to a Soldier in our army and provide counseling/rehabilitation attempts (and document them) for input to the KATUSAs leadership when appropriate.

    Don't let anyone let you think that your hands are tied and you can't do anything.

    If you need further assistance, don't hesitate to ask for assistance. I will definitely provide you with help.

  13. Wonderful it is to come over an internet post as valuable as this!
    I’ve read the whole thing and I must say, it is very enlightening to come to know of the various challenges and issues that the ROK-US alliance is faced with, specially on matters about the KATUSA’S.

    I deeply understand that the KATUSA’S are not really the happiest of men serving thier time with the US. It is a fact and a truth that they would rather much prefer to spend two years of thier life studying(tough competition all over Korea) or doing other matters of civilian interests. In order to put out this fire of quiet rage in thier minds, the RSG is trying various measures as of now, to help the KATUSAs cultivate PRIDE, sense of RESPONSIBILITY, motivation and determination regarding their mandatory service.(An example of which, a Moral training class given by ROKA LNO’s once each week)

    Still, regardless of the efforts, many KATUSAs have a sense of burden and coupled with the timid-shy korean cultural influence, are not the BEST when it comes to socializing with their US counterparts OR being a GREAT example of the military embassadors that they are. Cultural differences, it seems, play a HUGE role in the interference of co-operation and partnership of both allied countries. However, I personally think this alliance is a marvel and a thing worthy of respect and worthy to have the attention it needs to work well.

    I am a KATUSA. A PV2 to be introductory in terms of rank. I am three months fresh into my service at my unit and my personal goal is to DEMOLISH these petty issues and mis-conceptions we have of each other- they do NOTHING to serve the wonderful co-operation that exists and has existed for decades.
    I’ve seen enough, heard enough, experienced enough. And I’m gonna change it.

    Let us not engage ourselves in arguments and prejudices. Let us not judge each other. Let us instead,become one team, with one fight – Korea thanking the US for her contribution in the victory of our country during the Korean War, and America being the victors of the world that they are.

    Thank you U.S. Thank you Korea.

  14. In 2002, one of the KATUSA’s took me and 3 others to his parents house for a holiday weekend. I really enjoyed it. None of the KATUSAs that I knew were ever a problem and I enjoyed having them help me with Hangul. Some of them took me to locations that I would have never found without them.

    But you should understand that the American Soldier is ORDERED to leave his family for a year, to serve in Korea. Most just want to get it over as quickly as possible. They know nothing about Korea when they arrive. Most know nothing about Korea when they leave.

  15. I know a korean-american who served in US army in Korea. He was asked by them to teach conversational english. Not conversational english like for business purpose but for cussing and stuff that soldiers would use in every day life and in field. Thought that was interesting.

    GI Korea, I wouldn’t give too much thought to the one KATUSA who said he hates Americans. I’d put him in the same group known as dumb teens.

    And yes SK could never field a volunteer army big enough to defend against NK. Not possible. It shouldn’t reflect negatively on SK either.

  16. Forgot to add this.

    GI Korea, one proof the KATUSA you met is dumb is the fact he TOLD you that he hates Americans. And who are you? American.

    He just showed his lack of logic, decency, judgement, etc. Basically, he’s a dumb axx.

  17. GI Korea 9, did the journalists quote you as your real name and rank or as ‘GI Korea’?

  18. #19
    Why would they when they can take the credit for their ‘reporting’?

  19. @#21 ORBIT

    No, KATUSA is not the easiest program of the ROK army. As a KATUSA I have felt that being a KATUSA has it’s own hardships and challenges. It’s both a privalege and an honor to serve my mandatory service with the EUSA, but with the privalege comes responsibility. Responsibility to do the best I can at my MOS. A burden on my shoulder, to do everything I do with all I’ve got. Why? Cus I’m a military ambassador. An example.

    No, I’m not sounding horns and bells about how wonderful a ROKA soldier I am or whatsoever. And sure, many american soldiers would scorn at this post, because when they see KATUSA’s, they may see lazy, incompetent and incapable soldiers. But I say…….give it all a break, will you?

    For me personally, translating my way into the issues between TROKA and EUSA, trying to do my best with my limited Korean, maintaining professionalism and appropriate military bearing at all times with all Soldiers and Officers I come in contact with……..is not that easy a job to do!

    So…YES, a KATUSA may have a tad easier military life than the regular ROKA, but it ain’t all what it seems like.

    GIVE IT A BREAK, you.

  20. I agree with number #8. That comment made more sense than any of these G.I.s and English teachers which are LBhs. G.I.Korea should change his name to G.I.America. Or is it his way of showing that he is two faced?

  21. Joe in #8 missed — just about EVERYTHING. KATUSA’s *job* is to adapt to the US Army’s way of life. They don’t HAVE to be a KATUSA. They *requested* to be a KATUSA. Then they must qualify to be one. It is difficult to become a Katusa and only the few are able to be one. At their own request.

    Joe repeatedly spoke of “young” GIs. So I guess the MAJORITY of us were/are “good to go”.
    I know I spent MANY weekends at Itaewon. Drinking and Whoring on “hooker hill”. I never got in a fight. I spent YEARS in Korea doing the aforementioned. Never had any trouble.
    So it would seem that the trouble is with “young people”. Let’s see, what do we know about “young people”. Well, for one thing, THEY ARE STUPID! No matter their race or sex. They have no experience.
    Which brings me back to my ole enemy “Political Correctness”. When I first arrived in Korea in 1988, I had Senior Enlisted that did not fear giving me the “briefing” that all young people need. They told me of the hookers, pricing, what the girls wanted. What I could expect to see and experience. In 2011, I doubt they would be allowed to give that same briefing. The result is young and dumb YOUNG soldiers without a clue.

    Lets not forget, they get into trouble in the States as well. They don’t know shit! It isn’t PC to tell them either!

    Oh and to say that it is their fault because they joined the Military, is the most ignorant shit talk I have heard lately. Obviously only a LIBERAL would say something so ignorant. Never served a day in uniform would be a very safe bet. A Soldier would never say that.
    Example: I had never HEARD of Korea when I joined the Army in 1985. STILL had not heard of Korea for two years in the Army, until I got my orders to go there. I had to look it up and then I expected all the females to wear the traditional dress. (they wear cowboy hats in Texas)

  22. Retired GI 24, you’ve insulted liberals. But you didn’t throw anything at them, nor did you create a public disturbance. So I have no problem whatsoever with your comment.

  23. I’m a vet and a liberal and I also have trouble with the PC scene…its usually used as an excuse to avoid uncomfortable subject matters. When I in-processed in Korea I got a thorough rundown of the scene there : “They told me of the hookers, pricing, what the girls wanted. What I could expect to see and experience.” and I was cautioned about being seduced and ripped off. I listened to that and never had any problem in Korea.

    Lack of experience leads to painful lessons..this is true for all except the spoiled or sheltered.

  24. #24 lmfao. Katusas join not because they want to ‘adapt’ to American army, but because they dont want to go to ROK army.

  25. give them some break, at least they didnt join because they were losers who couldn’t get a job like most of the american soldiers.

  26. Most of the guys I knew when I was in where really too young to think they couldn’t get a job, but based on a lot of behavior I saw I wondered if many could hold one.

    The only aspect of Army life though that really did throw me for a loop was the prevalence of alcoholism, especially among the older NCOs staying in for retirement benefits.

  27. I like to point out how the KATUSA program got started.
    In the Korean war when the American Army needed every “warm body” it could get. America asked for manpower.
    All knew American leadership was the best at the time.
    The KATUSA program was an expediency caused by the needs of war.
    Now, every KATUSA saves the $ the American taxpayer would spend for a US soldier of equaly (TO&E) value. What a deal!!!
    To highlight what I am saying. Did we ever have a DATUSA program, Deutsch Augmentee to the US Army? No!! What about a JATUSA, Japanese Augmentee to the US Army?? NO!!!
    Again created by the needs of the Korean war!

    OUTDATED, OUTMODED, GET RID OF IT!!!

    Partnership units like in Germany are the answer.

    My experience, as a Tank Commander. I had KATUSA crewmen, I trained, respected and worked with. They performed their job for me.

    However, I saw other Tank Commanders who treated their KATUSA’s like dirt. Permanent KP..(illegal). Or making the KATUSA dismount the Tank with the Loader’s M240 MG and walk around the Tank on guard duty. MY point of view, “They may do STUPID stuff, but our crew will not!” I draw the line at what I can control.

    Let the ROK Army stand on it’s own, let the Americam Army “man up” and fill it’s ranks in Korea, with full Tank crews.

  28. Oh, BTW, we need a discussion on Kimchee GI’s, and the need they fill.

  29. The Kutusa soldiers are smarter, more mature, than the run of
    mill GI. Therefore they have a natural disdain for the GI right away. The GI’s as Americans, from the greatest country on planet earth have an air of superiority because of our exceptionalism. The GI that never was much of anything back home is now in a place that he can afford to pick up a pretty girl that he would generally never have a chance of scoring with in the USA. They can get away with pushing a Korean around because they are smaller, and docile for the most part. A GI can be arrogant and bossy without repercussions. Another BIG DEAL that I think is significant
    is that we do not view a Katusa as an equal soldier to us.
    A Katusa SGT is viewed and treated as a private. On my 72′
    tour w/2ID as a Supply Sgt I did that. One day when we were
    alone the Katusa brought that issue up to me. He was a great worker and was not a pain in my ass as was the GI’s I had.
    I honestly really liked the guy and recognized that he was
    much smarter than I was. I appreciated the guy a lot. The
    next day after thinking about what he said I took him aside
    and told him I was wrong. I had the superior attitude of the other NCOIC’s. That Katusa made me ashamed of myself. He was
    put in charge of the GI’s I had that were of lower rank if a
    detail had to be done. I had no problem busting the balls of
    the other guys if the did not treat him with respect, at least for his rank.

    Having recently been in Korea (May/Jun) I have noticed that
    the Koreans now are bigger, cockier, richer, and much less
    dependent on us or our money. To the contrary. I visited an
    old friend in Itawon that owns a shop. I noticed a low amount
    of GI’s shopping. He told me in so many words that they are
    yesterdays news. They come in, poke at the stock, do not buy
    anything. They are making money from the Chinese and other
    tourist. It is my opinion that a lot of them that have to
    interact with us as a whole, consciously, or sub-consciously
    have resent us to some degree, especially a Korean that is a
    Katusa. On an individual basis if you behave yourslf and
    behave yourself, as Retired GI and some others have said, you
    will cherish your experiences with them. I do.

  30. “And yes SK could never field a volunteer army big enough to defend against NK. Not possible. It shouldn’t reflect negatively on SK either.”

    Korea could if its citizens just learned to pay a little bit more taxes for national defense… But it’s not like Koreans to easily part with their hard-earned money. Korea’s spending only %2.6 of GDP for military budget. The US is spending %4.5.

    Competition for paid military jobs is very fierce, both men and women. There are a lot of university undergraduates and graduates among the applicants too. Very well educated and quick learning, and many enlist with their own prior professional skills in many diverse areas of expertise. The problem is that the government doesn’t have enough to pay and provide for all of them with the current defense budget allocation. And the present tension with North Korea is still not motivating Lee enough to do something about that.

    “Let the ROK Army stand on it’s own, let the Americam Army “man up” and fill it’s ranks in Korea, with full Tank crews.”

    You still don’t have full American tank crews in USFK? The US has more than twenty thousand Soldiers in the peninsula and they operate barely forty or fifty tanks.

  31. South Korea’s percentage defense spending to GDP was 2.9% in 2009, K.

  32. #27 Orbit, you are SOOO easy. That is exactly the point I wanted to see you make. Thanks alot! ROTFLMAO lol

  33. #33 You speak the truth. The Katusa that I knew were better educated to a large extent than the average GI, to include myself. The trade off was my greater experience and I had been in Korea before. It was sometimes amusing. Example: CO weekend warning speech to the company included the train station at such and such location. We were to stay away. He asked if anyone knew why. My hand went up and I stated it was because of the Prostitution there. Later a Kutusa friend spoke to me and was shocked that I knew something about Korea that he did not. It turned out that I had traveled more in Korea than he had. I liked to make friends with college students when possible and that helped.

    If you show an interest and make even a small ackward effort with Hangul, it pays off big time. It did for me.

  34. Tom,

    http://www.index.go.kr/egams/files/defineAnal/1699/1699_20100716_021.htm

    “2010년 국방비 규모는 GDP 대비 점유율이 ’09년 2.73%에서 ’10년 2.62%로 다소 낮아졌으나, 정부재정 대비 점유율이 ’09년 14.2%에서 ’10년 14.7%로 다소 향상되었음”

    “세계 주요 분쟁/대치국이 GDP대비 평균 4.0%의 국방비를 지출하는데 비해 우리의 GDP 대비 국방비 비율은 2.6% 수준”

    The main point is that this country should start spending a lot more for its own defense. Korea already has more than enough willing men and women who’ll voluntarily fight for the country. What Korea needs is the money to pay them and to provide them with better welfare accommodations as well as personnel equipment.

  35. JFisher wrote:

    The Kutusa soldiers are smarter, more mature, than the run of mill GI.

    More mature??

    Most KATUSAs come from upper-middle class Korean families – where the boys are coddled, pampered, and fawned over from day one – and at the age of 20 – maybe have the maturity level of an American 12 year old.

  36. Retired GI#37: Your last sentence “If you show an interest” I
    remember clearly getting off the ship in Inchon and climbing
    into the back of a deuce and a half with the good fortune to be at the tail, 17 yrs old. That was in 64′. Korea was really primitive then compared with today. The guys were pissing and moaning about the dust and dirt, smell of the paddies. I could not believe how different and exciting this place was. I just knew this was going to be the best experience of my life. Within a week I met a guy that had a pawn shop and was standing outside. Got into conversation with him. He could tell I was still pissing stateside water. I shared with him my first impressions. Back then you could not ware civvies off the compound. I would stop in his shop to say hello once in a while. He told me bring out some civvies in a bag and he would take me to Seoul and show the Korea away from “the Ville”. We went to cabarets, thru the then new Shinsegai dept store, the Palace etc. Our friendship lasted 40 yrs until he died in 04′. After I retired in 88′. He made two trips to the states to visit, one of the highlights of my life was to take him around and see the sites. I live close to Wash DC. My money wasn’t any good around him and he never pimped me for any PX stuff. Looking back in retrospect, those guys that did
    not engage the Katusas, or other locals missed out. Of course my “yellow fever” for the women and the culture in spite of their short comings is eternal in my minds eye.
    I wonder if any of those guys that were in the truck when we
    first arrived in Korea realize now that aside from the broads
    and booze, they missed out on the chance of a lifetime to
    broaden their horizons and get to know at least one Korean
    that did not have tits and work in a club. I liked that part
    too but that scene is only 1 part. Just some random thoughts. Got to go and get a tissue, I miss my Korean pal,
    Mr Kim Won Jung, God rest his sole.

  37. This is a bit hard to admit but..I had a couple Katusa friends in the service and found that post #39 was correct though I would also say they were much better educated then myself. They were heavy on the book learning but pretty naive about real life.

  38. Guitard and Chris may be correct in saying my statement of the Katusas being generally more mature than our young troops is not true. In the era of my exposure to them, it is my opinion that although they were more affluent than the the bulk of the ROK soldiers, I think the level of affluence was much lower than the affluence of Korean young guys today. In these last few years, the wealth has grown to a much higher level. They are becoming westernized, cars, good time rock and rollers, boinking to their hearts content. The cultural liberalization on standards and discipline is very different now. So they are more less responsible and wilder, immature as it were. Hell up until I think the mid eighties students had to keep their hair short, wear uniforms, smoking was a big no-no.

  39. I have some KATUSA buddies that I’ve known for almost 30 years. One is now a high level bank executive in Seoul. Another one – and this came as a huge surprise when he contacted me again after many years of no contact – immigrated to the US and now owns a dry cleaning business. The really funny part about it is that he bought a dry cleaning business that’s less than ten miles from where I was born and raised. I stopped by his place last summer when I visited my hometown and we had a great time.

    Around ten years ago, I was in the subway changing trains. While walking to my next train, a guy stopped me and said hello. He was a KATUSA in that same company all those years ago. I recognized him after he told me who he was, but I would never have recognized him if he hadn’t said anything.

    Realistically, you’re only going to make friends with a KATUSA if you are a young soldier. If you’re in your late 20s or older – they’re going to feel uncomfortable about socializing with you. So if you’re a young soldier – nows the time to make some KATUSA friends. You’ll have drinking buddies for the rest of your life when you visit Korea.

  40. GUITARD#46 GREAT STORY! Here goes mine. 73′ I am an Army
    Recruiter in New London Conn. Had a cyst (not going to tell you where). The US Navy Submarine school is there. We used their medical facilities etc. The doctor that cut it out was a Korean that was a nationalized US citizen. I started yapping like a mental patient telling him how much I enjoyed Korea and was married to one of the little darlings. He got a big kick out of that and the fact that I could converse a bit in Korean. He was a Navy Commander, whatever grade that is. After he took care of my problem he said he wanted my wife and I to come to and have dinner with his family. There are few Koreans in that area so our wives had a great time conversing. We took them to my hometown in Vermont and other places. We ate out from time to time over the few years. I
    was stationed there for 5 yrs. He wrote prescriptions for my
    mothers’ ailments, illegal stuff like that which I thought was cool. Free medicine compliments from the Navy. Point is we became good friends. When we parted in 78’we promised to keep in contact but that did not last very long. Fast fwd. to 2006. I am on vacation in Korea and while hanging out with
    my previously mentioned pal Mr Kim, we decided to leave
    our wives at home and go to Yongsan. We were in the Townhouse
    snack bar. It was mid afternoon and not much of a crowd. As
    we were chatting and drinking our coffee I noticed this lady
    facing me from three or four booths away staring at me. I
    thought it may be a blast from the past but did not recognize
    her. She got up and walked over to our booth leaving the male
    at their booth. She spoke to Mr Kim in Korean and I picked up
    the “Jeff Fisher” part. He said yes. My mind was racing thru
    the faces of my past and but came up blank. She shook my hand and then went and got the guy and they came back and sat down with us. Yes, it was Dr Song. He had filled out, had white hair and glasses, when he opened his mouth and spoke it clicked who he was. He had retired and was living in Hawaii. He was in the snack bar killing time because he was catching a plane. He gave me an invite to visit him but I never did. His wife could not speak English well. I guess that is why she did not address me instead of Mr. Kim That is my amazing coincident story. Guitard, you revived a memory I had since forgotten. Thanks.

  41. JFisher

    #47 what a chance happening. I’m starting to doubt “coincidences” exist. That is just too amazing to me a coincidence.

  42. Chris, you have never experience a surprising, albeit amazing coincidence and thought wow! this is amazing? I would have thought that most people have. I have over my lifetime. Anyone want to comment on this subject?

  43. In the early 90s I ran into a guy with whom I went through Basic. I just pumped into him on the street..on the opposite coast from where we did basic. I don’t have anything in my experience though that matches your experience or that described in GUITARD’s post #46. Also Jeff…didn’t your wife have a chance meeting with a childhood friend from Korea here in the U.S.? I think that was you who described that. That happening was also amazing to me.

  44. I was stationed at the 121 Evac Hospital in Yongsan from 1979-1980 & worked on the orthopedic ward. We had KATUSAS on our ward and to be quite honest most of them were worthless at tits on a bull. The wardmaster (NCOIC) finally got rid of them because they were more trouble than they were worth. I was a SP5 (E-5) & one day I was looking for one of the KATUSAS. I found him asleep in THE LATRINE, I $h!+ you not! The KATUSAS were supposed to have been picked at random to be in the program but the truth was that they were mostly from rich families who bribed their way into the program. The one that we had who was a good soldier was named CPL Pi (pronounced pee which means blood in Korean). I don’t know how to say pee in Korean, lol. He confided in me one day that he had been a student protester in years past so he would never be assigned closer to the DMZ. He was extremely intelligent & good read & write English far better than most Americans although his speaking ability was good, but not excellent. I knew some KATUSAS who could read & write English excellently but could hardly speak it at all. He told me one time that he met a female college student who made a little money on the side selling her body. He spent a whole lot more than I did in the ville. He was a nice guy. If you really wanted to get the KATUSAS in line the wardmaster would threaten them that he would have them sent to the ROK Army. That would do the trick as the ROK’s hated & despised the KATUSAS because they were a bunch of spoiled rich boys. Korea, ah the memories.

  45. #50 Chris: Yes about my wife’s story. She went to a Catholic
    high school in Gimchon. She is 60 now so it has been long time since she graduated. When she went to Korea in 09′ she bumped into a fellow classmate that she has not seen since she graduated. Not such a big deal. They had lunch together and in the course of talking about school and what ever happened to…her friend said that another girl they were pals with and her family(Korean husband) immigrated to the US long ago and own a hair dressing and nail manicure place in Flushing NY just up the road from here and gave my wife her tel#. She has been here visiting and they talk once a week or so. I was in a barracks at some small military base in CA getting ready to leave for
    Korea in 64’on a merchant marine ship (USS Mitchell). There
    were literally 100’s of us there. It was not a unit movement.
    We were just kicking back laying on cots waiting to move out
    the next day. I started up a conversion with the guy next to me and asked where he was from. He said he was from Vermont. That is where I am from. It is a dinky state. Meeting someone from there is not frequent. We both were somewhat surprised. Then a guy from a
    couple bunks away piped up and told us he was from VT as well
    We stayed up have the night talking. I thought that was quite a fluke. I enlisted a guy in CT in 73/74(?). In 88′ I
    was in Korea and getting ready to retire and was out processing and hanging around the snack bar killing time. A
    guy came up and tapped me on the shoulder. It was the one and only person out of God knows how many I enlisted that I ever bumped into after leaving Recruiting. He ended up getting a Commission and was a chopper pilot. I found that ironic at a
    time when I was getting out of the Army.

  46. Chris: It just popped into my memory that a fellow blogger
    named Dan Duffy has a Korean wife that out of the blue bumped
    into a friend of years gone by in a store here in the states.
    Amazing item there in my opinion.

  47. Chickenhead, As always the Master! Right before I retired on 1 April 96 I had to go to some building to do something that I don’t remember now. Anyway I saw a SFC walking down the hallway, looked at his nametag and knew that I knew him from somewhere. I identified myself and asked him about “Have you been stationed in Germany, etc?” He had never been stationed where I was stationed or if he was he was in a different unit or at a different date. My last question was “Have you ever been to Ft Leonard Wood?” He replied, “I took basic there.” Bingo, he was in my basic training company, he in fact was the honor graduate of my basic training company. Around the same time I was somewhere and somebody called out my name. He was stationed with me in my first permanent party unit. When I first went to Korea and was inprocessing I ran into a Kimchi GI who was stationed with me at HAAF in Savannah, GA. He had to go to Korea for emergency leave. After I retired my wife and I were on a MAC flight going to Asia & I ran into a guy who I was stationed with in Nuremberg, Germany. One time after I retired my wife & I went to the commissary at Ft Campell, KY and I ran into another guy that I was stationed with in Nuremberg.

  48. this is a great post, one that explains nearly all current points of the program one would to have a good feel of what the relationship is like between the GIs and the KATUSAs, to which I had belonged about a decade ago. Even then, KATUSAs, I personally found, were more egg-headed than other ROK soldies, with attitudes sometimes bordering on brashness from the standpoint of the general Korean public where one’s better off looking humble and down-to-earth than proud and overly confident. Those attitudes might have had to do with the personal backgrounds that they had come from, such as the wealth their families had and etc. But not every Katusa did I find to be coming from a wealthy family. For one I myself came from a family that couldn’t pay for my college tuition. I had friends who weren’t so better-off, either. Even though I do agree the portion of wealthy kids among Katusas is higher than among other parts of the Rok army, I wouldn’t be so definitive about their class in the income hierarchy. I’d rather say part of the pride also largely came from their educational backgrounds. I actually had a look at the statistics aggregated by the Roka army and they showed that over 80 percent of Katusas at the time of my service were enrolled or had graduated from the top three universities in South Korea. Of course, you’d argue that kids who enroll in those schools received an education that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without money, but there are still many enrolled in those schools who managed to enter them with a sheer determination to beat the competition intellectually.

    But overall, this is a pretty good post, reasonable and insightful, as good as I’ve seen on the Katusa-GI relations from someone actually involved. Kudos.

  49. by they way I don’t think the katusa meant it when he said he hated Americans. These are young kids just barely out of high school and experiencing their much delayed social puberty after cramming in high schools made the complexities of their puberty much more complicated. These kids don’t have a very good grasp of Enlighs, either, and tend to use words that strike them the strongest rather than pause and try to come up with words that better describe how they feel. I’m certain they also hold favorable feelings toward the American GIs and the US presence, and they mean the negative aspects of that presdence that can also be admitted by US troops also when they say they hate Americans.

  50. I had a very interesting year in Korea 1989-1990. My first six months I had two KATUSA roommates. When they re-arranged the rooms I tried to get the NCOs in charge to put me in a room with the KATUSA’s but they segregated them into only KATUSAs in a room. Best roommates I ever had during my time in the military. They taught me a bit of Hangul & a lot about Korean culture. When I learned what they didn’t make pay-wise, I filled the fridge with soft drinks and after a few weeks all the KATUSAs understood they could come in grab a soda and I wanted them to do that. Most of the KATUSAs were pro-US or at worst neutral. At that time the college student riots were a daily occurrence, but most of the KATUSAs seemed opposed to the riots, thinking they would not change the government thinking. There was one guy, wealthy family Daddy bribed someone as his English skills were terrible, speaking & writing. About 3 or 4 months into my tour he was about go on leave my roommates told me no matter what I heard to not come behind the barracks. It seems the senior KATUSAs sent him home bleeding and bruised and told him to return with a better attitude. When he returned he quit calling us “bugs” to our faces anyway. My biggest regret is that I did not think to get addresses for those roommates and absolutely amazing guys, as other have said, smart, excellent English skills and hard workers. I was given a Korean nickname, it was only later that apparently that was a great honor among them, I was accepted into their “family” by being named.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *