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South Korean Cultural Immersion and Exchange

  POSTED ON: Tuesday, June 11, 2019 9:55 AM by CDR Janice Rice

This summer four midshipmen spent two weeks immersed in not only the culture of South Korea, but also travelling to key military sites throughout the Korean peninsula in order to better understand U.S. Military interests in the Republic of Korea and to participate in an exchange at the Republic of Korea Naval Academy (ROKNA).

This trip was a faculty-led cultural immersion opportunity sponsored by the USNA International Programs Office.

Commander Jan Rice of the USNA Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering Department led the group of four midshipmen – 3/C Robin Oh, 3/C Caleb Vargo, 3/C Katie Miller and 3/C Kelly Milliken – on a  Language Proficiency, Regional Expertise, and Cultural Awareness (LREC) trip, titled “South Korea Cultural Immersion and Exchange,” that focused on cultural, historical and military significant sites throughout Seoul, Jeju, Busan, Gyeongju and Chinhae in South Korea.


CDR Jan Rice, MIDN 3/C Robin Oh, MIDN 3/C Caleb Vargo, MIDN 3/C Katie Miller, and MIDN 3/C Kelly Milliken at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.

The program provided a multi-faceted approach to student engagement and learning and started in Seoul, with four days to explore the Capitol City. Visits were made to Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong, Korean War Memorial, Sool Gallery, Bukchon Hanok Village, Samsung D’Light, and Gwangjang Market. The group also spent one day touring the Korean Demilitarized Zone, to include the Imjingak Pavilion, Dora Observatory, Third Infiltration Tunnel and Dorasan Station.


The LREC group visiting the Third Infiltration Tunnel at the Demilitarized Zone in Republic of Korea.


Dorasan Station – the northern most train stop in Korea that one day may be the gateway to North Korea.

From Seoul, the team flew to Jeju Island and spent two days visiting several of Jeju’s natural wonders, including Manjanggul Cave, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, Seopjikoji, Sanbang Mountain, Yongmeori Coast, and Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls. The team also toured the O’Sulloc Green Tea Fields and witnessed the famous Jeju women divers cleaning their sea urchin catch for the day. Jeju was a highlight for many in the group.


Women divers along the coast of Jeju cleaning their daily Sea Urchin catch.

Midshipmen 3/C Robin Oh was particularly impacted by his visit to Jeju as he states that it was “once a place for locals and scenic views” and now, “there is an increased presence of cafes along the coast of Jeju, as entrepreneurs are trying to capitalize on the increased surge of visitors to the island.”

Next, the group took a short flight to Busan. In Busan, the team went to Haedong Yonggung, a unique seaside temple complex, Dongbaekseom Island, Gamcheon Culture Visit, Gukje Market and Jagalchi Fish Market. In Busan, the team also met with several Junior Officers from Commander, Naval Forces Korea (CNFK) for a no-host dinner to chat about life while being stationed in Korea.


A quick stop at Gamcheon Cultural Village – an artist’s neighborhood that represents not just the heart of fashion and art, but also rebuilding and revival in Korea.

Following Busan, the team drove to Gyeongju to visit the Bulguska Temple, Seokguram Grotto, and Gyeongju Donggung Palace, before heading to Chinhae to start the exchange with ROKNA.

The last four days of the trip were spent at ROKNA. Activities included participation in the 3rd Annual Korean-U.S. Women's Leadership Symposium (KUWLS), meetings with both the Commandant and Superintendent of ROKNA and Commander, Fleet Activities Chinhae, a visit to Geoji Prison Camp, a tour of ROKNA and quality time with ROKNA running mates.


The LREC team with their ROKNA Running Mates.

According to Midshipmen 3/C Katie Miller, “I learned a lot about the Korean culture during our trip….it was easier to relate the different culture to something I find familiar in America when we saw how the region we were in influenced people’s lifestyles”. 

After two solid weeks, the Midshipmen participants and professor all returned to USNA with a greater understanding and appreciation for both the South Korean culture and the significance of U.S. military interests in the Korean peninsula.

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