Brigade Hail and Farewell

Hail and Farewell gatherings are a long-standing tradition in the military to welcome Soldiers just coming into the  unit and say “farewell” to those who are leaving. The Army doesn’t have a prescribed ceremony or format for Hail and Farewells, it is up to each unit to decide how often to have them and what they will be composed of.

The brigade I am leaving tried to have them every other month or so, so there was never too many being hailed or farewelled. Coming up on PCS season, however, there are a lot more changes, so they started farewelling people farther away from their actual departure than normally would be done. I was farewelled a full three months before I was scheduled to leave!

This Hail and Farewell was held at a massive buffet that had a variety of Korean, Chinese, Western and all sorts of types of food to include breads, fruits and desserts. There was too much to chose from, but it all looked good. Of course, one of the criteria for picking the location is that they have a meeting room so that we can be separated from the rest of the restaurant guests.

501st MI BDE H & F
The new Command Sergeant Major was being hailed the night I was being farewelled. When being hailed, the commander or your supervisor shares a little background about you: past assignments, family, hobbies, etc.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
When you’re being farewelled, your supervisor, or in my case the Brigade Commander, talks about your contribution to the unit mission.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Usually you’re presented a farewell gift, often the “colors” of the unit. Sometimes it’s another symbol of the unit or location. Some received a Korean Familial Bell.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
A close-up of the colors I received.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
I also received a Brigade Commander’s coin.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
The farewellee is given a chance to speak, often thanking those who contributed to their success.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Many times there are games or some other form of entertainment.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Continuing to play a game
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Of course, there’s food, too. I can’t say that I ate any of this fish…
I didn’t eat any of this fruit, either.
I did have Bulgogi Pizza






Soldier & KATUSA Spiritual Development Day

501st MI BDE Soldier & KATUSA Spiritual Development Day

Occasionally Unit Ministry Teams offer events to help Soldiers develop personally, professionally and spiritually. Our brigade UMT offered one such event today. We named it, “Soldier and KATUSA Spiritual Development Day.” Our plan was to have U.S. and Korean veterans from the Korean War to speak to our Soldiers, and I would provide a presentation on “Behaving Valiantly in War and Peace.” We would round out the day with a movie that explains the Korean experience, “Ode to My Father,” with lunch provided, of course.

MAJ Kim, the ROK Army officer in charge of our KATUSAs, introduced our guest speaker, MG Joon Hyung Ryu, with these comments (edited only for better translation):

The guest today is MG (Retired) Ryu, Joon Hyung who participated in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars and served as the Deputy Commander of ROK-US Field Command.

The Korean War refers to the 3 year war which started  when North Korea invaded ROK at 0400 on June 25th with the support of the Soviet Union and lasted 1,129 days until both sides agreed to a truce at 1000 on July 27, 1953.

It was a tragic and fierce war that almost two million Soldiers among 26 nations took part in on this small peninsula. There were 620,000 ROKA, 160,ooo U.N., 930,000 North Korean, 1,000,000 Chinese, and 2,500,000 civilian casualties and also resulted in 10,000,000 separated family members, more than half of the 30,000,000 North and South Koreans.

Even now, the Korean Peninsula suffers from division after over 60 years.

MG Ryu was commissioned as a 1LT in November 1950 and is a war hero who stood up and defended Hill #854 on the eastern front line in Injaegoon, Gangwon Province from the final attack of the Chinese and North Korean armies. This battle is called the Battle of Ssangyong Highland.

MG Ryu was the first Korean to graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry Airborne School in 1957 and on 1 April 1958, he became the main founding member of the 1st Airborne Brigade which is now the Special Operations Command.

After that, he was deployed to the Vietnam War and distinguished himself serving on the command staff of various main units.

In 1980 he worked as the Commanding General of the 8th Infantry Division then in 1982, became the Deputy Commander of the ROK-US Field Command. In 1985 he retired as a Major General.

After retirement, he actively worked as the Chairman of the Korean Parachute Association and Defense Industry Association. Now he is the Chairman of the Patriot Lee Dong Hwi Memorial Organization who was head of the Military Ministry and the first Prime Minister.

I introduce to you ROK war hero, MG Ryu.

MG Ryu
MG Ryu (seated) with the interpreter

MG Ryu presented a history of Korea-International relations, highlighting relations with the United States and the significance and necessity of the Korean-U.S alliance. It was great to hear about history from one who was part of that history.

Me presenting a gift to MG Ryu for spending time with us
Me presenting a gift to MG Ryu for spending time with us
MAJ Kim (left) and me (right) with MG Ryu (center)
MAJ Kim (left) and me (right) with MG Ryu (center) after MAJ Kim gave gifts to MG Ryu to thank him for being with us

Coincidentally, the INSCOM Chaplain was visiting Korea so was in attendance and added to MG Ryu’s presentation, tying in the importance of what we, as U.S. Soldiers, do here in Korea and how even we are in the midst of making history as we preserve the peace and defend freedom on the Korean Peninsula.

The INSCOM Chaplain speaking to our group
The INSCOM Chaplain speaking to our group
The INSCOM Chaplain (left) talking to MG Ryu about his experiences
The INSCOM Chaplain (left) talking to MG Ryu about his experiences

Next, MAJ Kim also introduced the film, “Ode to My Father” with these comments:

The film you are going to see today is a Korean movie named “Ode to My Father,” or literally translated from the Korean, “International Marketplace.” It is a film about Korean fathers after the Korean War of the 1950s.

After the war, many people lost everything and some families were separated forever.

This movie depicts the heartbreaking story about fathers who had to travel to West Germany coal mine and sacrifice their lives in the Vietnam War just to rebuild the nation of Korea and protect their families.

My own mother was an only daughter of an affluent family in North Korea and was a refugee who fled from the Chinese Army’s invasion of ROK in a U.S. transportation ship. She is one of 10 million separated families due to the war.

The story of the movie is more than a random family’s history, it is a people’s history of overcoming [adversity] that all of ROK citizens had to suffer.

I hope this film will be a better opportunity to understand Korea and the Korean people.

MAJ Kim, ROKA (left), introducing MG Ryu with MAJ Kim's KATUSA/Interpreter (right).
MAJ Kim, ROKA (left), introducing MG Ryu with MAJ Kim’s KATUSA/Interpreter (right).

We provided lunch from Subway (which is always a treat) and showed the film which is the story of a family who was separated during the evacuation of North Korea as China was invading from the North.



A group of Soldiers and KATUSAs from the BDE with MG Ryu (seated), the INSCOM Chaplain (left of MG Ryu) and me (right of MG Ryu). The interpreter is in a suit to my left.
A group of Soldiers and KATUSAs from the BDE with MG Ryu (seated), the INSCOM Chaplain (left of MG Ryu), MAJ Kim (far left) and me (right of MG Ryu). The interpreter is in a suit to my left.



DMZ Visit

Since the Armistice Agreement was signed on 27 July 1953, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) running for 160 miles roughly along the 38th parallel from the East Sea to the Yellow Sea, has been one of the most unusual places on earth. Less than 35 miles from Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), the 2  1/2 mile wide DMZ is centered on the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), the political border, the violation of which could get you shot.

DMZ Guard Tower
There are guard towers all along sections of the DMZ.

Despite the name which seems to indicate a lesser degree of militarization, the DMZ is extremely militarized with the North and South facing off eyeball to eyeball as though the war which preceded the armistice is just paused. The agreement, however, prevents either side from introducing large weapons or large numbers of troops within the DMZ, which acts as a buffer zone between the two belligerent nations, who, ironically, do not recognize each other as legitimate governments.

My visit to the DMZ was to the area known as the Joint Security Area which originally was jointly governed by North and South Korea, but after soldiers from North Korea killed 2 American officers and 4 South Korean Soldiers with axes the U.N. Soldiers were using to remove limbs from a tree which was blocking visibility between guard posts in August 1976, the MDL was established, separating the two and leaving the only area of responsibility that overlap being Panmunjeom. Panmunjeom is an 800 meter area which is most famously home to the building where the armistice was signed.

Panmunjeom. The blue building on the left is where the Armistice Agreement was signed in July 1953. The large building in the back is Panmungak, in North Korea, used as a waiting are for North Korean visitors and guards. If you look closely, you can see a North Korean Soldier just left of center of Panmungak.
Panmunjeom Conference Building
Inside the Panmunjeom conference building. The center table sits on the line between North and South Korea and is where the military leaders signed the Armistice Agreement ending hostilities during the Korean War.

The battalion tasked with security of the area around the JSA, formally known as the United Nations Command Security Battalion, operates under the Armistice Agreement, reporting directly to United Nations Command. the UNCSB is one of the few purely joint-nation battalions composed of approximately 10% U.S. Soldiers and 90% ROK Soldiers. Together, they are responsible for monitoring the area around the JSA, protecting visitors to the area and those who work in the zone, and executing the education mission (which includes tours of the significant sites around the DMZ).



North Korea has always been antaginistic toward the South and countries allied to them. For years, plans have been in the works to re-invade the South. In 1978, as a result of information received from a North Korean defector, a third infiltration tunnel was discovered. This tunnel is about a mile long and about 6 1/2 feet in diameter. Had this tunnel been used by the North for an invasion, 30,000 soldiers per hour could have traveled through it. It is said that there still could be 20 tunnels running under the DMZ which are yet to be discovered.

Tunnel #3
The entrance to Tunnel #3. There are no photographs permitted within the tunnel.


Near the DMZ in Peju on Mt. Dora is the Dora Observatory where onlookers can view several sites in North Korea. There are tourist binaculars available, but to take a photograph toward the North, you have to stand behind a line well behind those binaculars. Without recording what you see, you get a great view of North Korea from this observatory, though I did take a few pictures before I was told we couldn’t.

Dora Observatory
Dora Observatory in Peju
Dora Observatory
A view of North Korea from the Dora Observatory
Dora Observatory
There is a small Buddhist shrine next to the Dora Observatory. On top is a traditional Buddhist bell
Dora Observatory
Inside the Buddhist shrine next to Dora Observatory.


In 1953, following the signing of the Armistice Agreement, prisoners of war (POW) were exchanged over what became know as the “Bridge of No Return,” so named because once a POW returned to the North, they would not be permitted to come back to the South.

Bridge of No Return
Bridge of No Return within the DMZ


In 1976, a group of United Nations Soldiers were trimming limbs from a large tree in the DMZ which was blocking the line of site between two guard posts when they were attacked by a group of North Korean soldiers. 2 U.S. officers and 4 South Korean Soldiers were killed. Today, there is a monument near where the attack took place which was near the Bridge of No Return.

DMZ Ax Murder Monument
The monument honoring the deaths of U.N. Soldiers killed with their axes by North Korean soldiers. The round base of the monument is the size of the tree the U.N. Soldiers were trimming.
DMZ Ax Murder Stump
The stump of the tree involved in the 1976 ax murders located in the museum at the JSA Visitor’s Center


Gijeong-dong Village
A view of North Korea from an observation post near Panmunjeom. In the center of the picture is Gijeong-dong Village, built by the North for propaganda, but there are many things that indicated it is not lived in but rather a “fake” city housing only some soldiers. The tower holding the North Korean flag is said to be the world’s tallest flag tower.


For several miles along Highway 77, between Seoul and Peju, there are double fences with barbed wire and guard posts every few hundred feet. A vivid reminder how close Korea is to war.
For several miles along Highway 77, between Seoul and Peju, there are double fences with barbed wire and guard towers every few hundred feet. A vivid reminder how close the people of Korea are to war.




Additional References:

National Geographic website, Korea’s DMZ: Dangerous Divide.

Life in Korea website, Joint Security Area (Panmunjeom).



Food Critic Korea: Braai Republic

Braai Republic

On a recent visit to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, I went with one of my battalion chaplains and a visiting chaplain into “The Ville” to eat lunch at a restaurant called Braai Republic (down the main road of “The Ville” a couple of blocks, on the left then go to the 2nd floor). The battalion chaplain who was our guide said that it appeals to Americans because it’s a “meat and potatoes” restaurant (which appeals to me!) though the entrees are prepared a special way.

Braai Republic
The Braai Republic in Pyeongtaek is on the 2nd floor of a building a couple of blocks from Camp Humphreys (“Visions” is another establishment on the 1st floor).

Braai Republic advertises itself as “A Taste of Africa,” serving “Traditional South African Food.” I’ve never been to any country in Africa or eaten at a fully African-themed restaurant, so I don’t have those comparisons to draw from,  but can evaluate the food on its own merits. Walking into the restaurant, it looks very African in color and decor. There are a variety of stuffed animal heads lending to the African feel.

Braai Republic

The menu has a good variety of meats: beef, lamb, chicken and pork. Many of the names are European in origin as well as uniquely South African and Zimbabwean. There are Lamb & Pork Chops, Pork Ribs, Bangers, Boerewors, Pap and Wors, Oxtail Stew and Potjie, Prawns, Biltong, Droewors and a variety of pies: Lamb, Chicken, Pork, Mixed Meat and Spinich & Potato. Also on the menu is Peri-Peri chicken, wholly roasted, in a sandwich and livers.

The sides are mainly common ones, though some with an ethnic twist: Potato Fries, Green Salad, Slaw, Creamy Spinach, Curried Green Beans, Garlic Potatoes, and carrots.

Braai Republic

Our group ordered a variety of entrees from the menu, realizing that each meat dish is prepared and cooked when it’s ordered. The first to order asked for the Chicken Pie, which was the last they had. Another ordered Lamb Chops which looked very good. Someone else ordered Peri-Peri Chicken (a marinated half-chicken). I ordered the Peri-Peri Chicken Sandwich with Potato Fries and the battalion chaplain, not having much time because of an appointment, just ordered Garlic Bread, which came with a number of toppings making it almost a meal on its own.

Our group enjoying lunch at Braai Republic in "The Ville."

Everyone spoke of their meals being good, but I can only speak to mine. First, the iced sweet tea came in a handled mason jar. It’s brewed fresh (with the tea bag still in the glass when it arrived). The taste was a bit different from “American” sweet tea, apparently being sweetened with honey.

I ordered my Peri-Peri Chicken Sandwich with Potato Fries instead of the Green Salad, not knowing what may be in the salad or what the dressings may be like. I wondered, with a name like “Potato Fries,” if they would be any different than American “French Fries” and discovered they weren’t, but they were very good, certainly better that fast-food French Fries.

Braai Republic

I’ve had Peri-Peri Chicken before, but at an Afro-Portuguese restaurant in Qatar, called Nando’s Peri-Peri. I assumed it would be similar, which it was. The sandwich came on a hoagie-type bun with shredded chicken marinated in the Peri-Peri spice. It had a thin white sauce along the top, though I’m not certain what that sauce was. While the type of bun was more bread than I would prefer, the taste of the sandwich -with the seasoning and sauces- was very, very good. It did remind me of the Peri-Peri chicken that I ate at Nando’s, which is a pleasant memory. There wasn’t a choice of levels of spicy (at Nando’s, I’d get “mild”) so had to take what I received. It was what I would label as medium-spicy. Spicy enough that I needed to get an additional glass of water but not so spicy that I couldn’t enjoy the flavor. The Peri-Peri Chicken Sandwich was a great choice, and one that I will make again…after I sample the other items on the menu which all also look great.

I would highly recommend Braai Republic if you’re looking for “meat and potatoes” with a bit of spice and good side dishes. And, I found out while writing this review that not only is there a Braai Republic near Camp Humphreys (where I ate), there is also one in Itaewon near USAG Yongsan (their website is here), so I’m looking forward to eating at Braai Republic again soon!

Additionally, I discovered that the same owners of the restaurant have a shop where a variety of sausages and cured and dried meats can be purchased. Here is a link to the store’s website, which also has good descriptions of the types of meat they sell at the store as well as serve in the restaurants: The Biltong Guy Shop.






Higher-Command Chaplain Visit

Most of the time, higher headquarters are located near their subordinate units. Sometimes, however, higher headquarters are more distant, like here in Korea, my higher headquarters are located near Washington D.C. Also, usually there is a clear chain of command to those higher headquarters, but sometimes there are dotted lines of command as well as multiple chains. That is the case with my brigade and the subordinate battalions. Being in Korea, we have “dotted-line” chains of command to 8th Army and U.S. Forces Korea and in the event of resumed hostilities in Korea, Combined Forces Command. With all of the organic and “dotted-line” chains of commands and technical/supervisory chains, there is the potential of many different VIPs coming to Korea.

This week, one of my battalions had such a visit. This battalion is muddled with solid and dotted lines and a Chaplain (Colonel) from one of their higher commands visited the battalion and its chaplain. Adding to the “muddle” is that this chaplain is in a joint billet, so is an Air Force chaplain, visiting an Army battalion.

The visiting chaplain (center) with the psychologist (left) and the battalion chaplain (right).
The visiting chaplain (center) with the psychologist (left) and the battalion chaplain (right).

One of the things that this chaplain did while in Korea was present a “safeTALK” which is a half-day of training on suicide prevention, awareness and intervention. There were 30 or so Soldiers present for this training which helps them identify Soldiers in crisis and intervene to prevent suicide.

Each participant in the 1/2-day safeTALK class received a completion certificate.
Each participant in the 1/2-day safeTALK class received a completion certificate.

Since this Chaplain (Colonel) came from the U.S., the battalion chaplain did much of the coordination for his visit and for the class, so she was honored with the presentation of the visiting chaplain’s coin of excellence which is always a thrill to receive.

The battalion chaplain receiving a coin from the visiting chaplain for all the work she did coordinating his visit and the class.
The battalion chaplain receiving a coin from the visiting chaplain for all the work she did coordinating his visit and the class.

After the safeTALK presentation and before the visiting chaplain continued his visit with site tours and office calls, we went to lunch in “The Ville” at a nice South African restaurant called Braai Republic. With us were a couple of gentlemen who are civilian contractors in the same organization as the visiting chaplain, and a clinical psychologist in a related organization. It’s always great to visit with other chaplains, especially senior chaplains, and pick their brain to learn from them and their experiences. We had a good time of conversation while waiting for, and eating, our meal.

Our group enjoying lunch at Braai Republic in "The Ville."
Our group enjoying lunch at Braai Republic in “The Ville.”

After lunch, it was rush back to post for him to continue his visit at the battalion before he moved on to Osan Air Base then to Japan before returning to the U.S.



Interesting People & Curious Things

One of the things that I find most interesting when I visit other countries is the differences that exist between my culture and theirs. Often times what a Westerner thinks is odd or peculiar in another culture is completely normal or natural for them. I can just imagine the thoughts that must go through the minds of visitors to the United States when they see some of the things unique to us.

Since this interests me so much, I take a lot of pictures of those things that turn my head. Most just wind up in a file on my computer, but some of the most unusual ones I like to share. Understand that in posting these pictures I’m not making fun of, or ridiculing, Koreans in any way. Like I said, what seems odd to a Westerner is often very normal for them. I post them here just to show what I find to be unusual, through my Western eyes and the differences that exist between our cultures.

By the way, if you find this post interesting, keep coming back. I’ll add the odd and unusual here as I encounter it, acknowledging the fact that admitting what I view as “odd and unusual” may label me as “odd and unusual”!


I see a lot of Koreans sleeping on the subway. This woman kept going to sleep and would lean on me.
This elderly Korean noticed a tattoo on my Chaplain Assistant and started talking to him. He was all smiles and seemed very happy.
I thought the rolling bag seemed more Western than would be expected here (and thought that my wife would like it…since it has flowers).
This gentleman was eating lunch with a statue. It didn’t seem unusual to anyone else passing by.
Koreans do like their Spam! It seems like they have an unusual attraction to it, even giving it as gifts.
Another Korean falling asleep on the Subway…my Soldier took it like a trooper!
I was surprised to find a Goodwill Store in Suwon.
I found this sign funny. Koreans don’t strike me as being bowlers.
Asleep again on the subway!
A Korean cutting up fish on the street.
An elderly Korean woman selling her wares on the street. It seems odd to me how many booths, kiosks and carts line the roads, often with many of the same things for sale.
Many Koreans still move thins with manpower.
Many of the foods Koreans eat I just don’t find palatable.
My kids used to make sandwiches like these when they were little. I can’t believe they sell them here!
And then there’s the strawberry sandwich…
Instead of liquid soap dispensers in the public restrooms, many of them have bar soap, on a stick.
Sorry, I found this mannequin creepy!
On the way out-of-town on the train, I saw this woman sitting on a cardboard box. When she started looking through the garbage at the restaurant next store, I went to a convenience store and bought her a sandwich. I didn’t see her eat it, but she walked away with it.
You can’t tell as well in the picture, but these fixtures are all miniature for children. It’s was in the Men’s room in the Yongsan Station.
One of the Korean lunches I had. I really don’t like my fish looking at me when I eat it!
At the district assembly of a Christian church, they used a locked ballot box for one of the elections. Is there really that kind of lack of trust among Christians?
This happens in a lot of countries. I’m sure many Americans are fooled by this “Hooters Snack Bar”!
Nearly every convenience store sells squid in various forms. Yuck!
A woman with her baby on her back at a Suwon bus stop. Seems like that baby is a bit big for that kind of carry…
This one isn’t so unusual, but after I bought some of her art work, I asked if I could take a picture of her. She wanted it  in a good place in her shop, and posed appropriately.
I found this amusing. This old couple was at the Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, with a beautiful scene right in front of them, but they were painting from photographs.
Just a couple of puppies on the back of a scooter.
I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like this in the U.S. but I’ve seen them a lot here. It gives you the ideal location to take a photograph.

8 May 2016 Update

Many motorcycles have these racks on the back. Some have things stacked way over their heads.
The way the ROK Soldiers at the JSA stood struck me as funny. It’s like a combination of “attention” and “parade rest” with clinched fists.
Koreans have unusual candy flavor mixtures.
Very unusual mixtures. This one is “chili nut” M&Ms!
American Indians in Korea
A group of Buddhist women taking a break between “performances” at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.
A group of Koreans in traditional dress at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.
A disabled man was pulling himself through town, while pushing a box. You can’t say that he just sat around waiting for a donation. I gave him a few thousand won but it never seems like enough.
This scene struck me as funny. Two girls in traditional Korean dress tied to their cell phones.

14 May 2016 Update

There are a lot of ethnic restaurants in Seoul. It seems like an extremely large amount…Here’s a Turkish restaurant with a Turkish man in traditional Turkish dress.
Compared to American trucks, I find Korean trucks very unusual (their cows look the same, though).
Riding on the subway is always interesting. As a large American, I have to squeeze into the smaller Korean-size seats. It’s also funny how so many people sit on the subway on their phones.
A little Thai boy came and sat down on the subway and started talking to one of my Soldiers, asking all kinds of questions, with just a little occasional help from his mother. I was surprised at how well he spoke English, and how he knew to speak it to my Soldier.
The escalators get packed after a subway opens its doors (the “down” side). Koreans don’t seem to mind being packed together like sardines.
A large selection of snack foods, most of which I haven’t and likely won’t try. Sorry.
These ladies struck me as interesting. When I think of “Roman Catholic” I think “Western.” It was unusual to see Korean women in dress I perceive as from a Western institution. I also found it intriguing to see them in very conservative dress surrounded by a woman with dark red lipstick on one side and short-shorts on the other…cultures colliding…

21 May 2016 Update

There are homeless everyone (any country you go). This man was right outside the subway station in Suwon. It seems like giving a few dollars (or won) isn’t doing enough to help!
It’s funny how job sites provide slippers for workers to wear inside a near-complete building so as not to damage the flooring. I don’t remember seeing this in the U.S. when I worked on construction sites.




Food Critic Korea: McDonald’s Golden Egg Cheeseburger

McDonald's ItaewonI took a trip out to Itaewon to find the antique district I heard about and passed by McDonald’s, whose advertisement of new sandwiches drew me in. The highlighted Golden Egg Cheeseburger reminded me of European hamburgers I have had in my travels. The first time I had a hamburger with an egg on it, I was in Basrah, Iraq which at the time, the post was run by the British so one of the restaurants on post was European. At the time, I thought it was really odd-putting an egg on a hamburger, but now I find it to be delicious.

Now, onto my McDonald’s experience (which, it seems, is always different). Ordering at this McDonald’s is never a problem. Partly because of the younger people they employ, who learn English in school, and partly because they have picture menus I can just point to! I pointed to the sandwich that enticed me in and was given a pager to put on my table, though the cashier told me my meal would be brought out to me when it was finished.

It wasn’t too busy when I was there so I was able to get one of the comfy seats, which I think are there as part of the McCafe appeal. The wait was a bit longer than other sandwiches would have been, but since I ordered a specialty burger it’s to be expected…and guarantees a fresh, hot sandwich.

I was surprised at the meal presentation. It looked like they went all out to magnify the special-ness of the burger. The meal came on a cutting board with the sandwich partially wrapped with the “get busy” side facing me. The french fries were served in a miniature deep-fryer basket. A fork was provided, wrapped in a napkin, which is always a pleasant surprise when eating at a Korean restaurant. Also on the cutting board were pickles and onions on the side along with 1 ketchup packet.

McDonald's Golden Egg Cheesburger
Look at that presentation!

Unlike most wrapped fast-food sandwiches, this one came out looking as good as (or better than) the advertisements. The little toothpick flag holding the sandwich together boasted the fact that the burger was made from Australian Angus Beef, which proved to be very tasty.

McDonald's Golden Egg Cheesburger

All of the ingredients, the lettuce, bacon, hamburger, cheese, egg, ketchup and mustard combined to make a delicious-tasting sandwich. Each ingredient stood out as distinctly good tasting. I’m not sure if it was the egg, or the combination of other ingredients, but it had a distinctive taste from the other McDonald’s burgers and, influenced both by flavor and quality, was much better than any of them.

As always, the french fries were customary McDonald’s French Fries, which in my opinion are very good. Also, McDonald’s has an advantage over Lotteria in that they serve Coke products.

While the advertising brought me in, the taste and quality of the Golden Egg Cheeseburger will bring me back. It makes me hope the McDonald’s in the U.S. will have them when I get back!




Suwon Mayor Addresses Our Group

The chaplains and assistants in the brigade run a command-emphasized program for Soldiers just arriving to the brigade to learn how to use the public transportation system, order and eat at a Korean restaurant and visit a Korean cultural site. You can read more about these trips here.

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress
One of the battalion chaplains talking about the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress we were visiting.

We usually run these trips twice a month with little fanfare or excitement, but this day, because Suwon was preparing for a big festival on the weekend, the mayor was in the area and asked to talk to us. This is pretty significant, realizing that Suwon is a city with a population of over 1 million.

Mayor Yeom Tae-Young talked about his appreciation for our presence and told us some of the history of Suwon and the fortress we were there to visit. He also asked to have a picture taken with us (which we also wanted with him), then encouraged us to have a great visit and to come back for the festival.

Suwon Mayor
The mayor of Suwon (in the blue jacket) speaks to our group.


Suwon Mayor
One of the BN chaplains greeting the Suwon mayor.


Suwon Mayor
Me with the Suwon mayor after he talked to our group.




Food Critic Korea: Lotteria’s Breakfast

Suwon Lotteria

Lotteria is a fast-food restaurant that was founded in 1972 and came to Korea in 1979. Their stated mission is to care for customers, the environment and the future. As one who frequents a variety of fast-food restaurants, I would rank Lotteria above McDonald’s and Wendy’s, closer to the level of Culver’s or Five Guys.

Suwon LotteriaI previously had eaten at Lotteria to try their Bulgogi Burger to compare it to the one I ate at McDonald’s and decided that Lotteria’s Bulgolgi Burger is slightly better than McDonald’s. On this occasion, I went to Lotteria for breakfast, the first time eating out for breakfast since arriving in Korea (other than on-post restaurants). What was surprising about my visit to Lotteria for breakfast was that while the sign advertises breakfast being served from 0400 to 1100, there were no breakfast sandwiches ready in the warming bin, only burgers. The cashier told me it would be 7 minutes, which I agreed to (really wanting breakfast rather than lunch) and she gave me a beeper to let me know when it was ready which I thought was pretty advanced for a fast-food restaurant.

Suwon LotteriaI haven’t seen on any Korean-restaurant menus the option of a breakfast sandwich on a biscuit, which would be my choice in the U.S. It seems the only options are English Muffins, at least at fast-food restaurants. Despite not being on a biscuit, the sandwich with sausage, cheese, egg and bacon looked good so I ordered it in a “set” (what we would call a “meal” or a “combo” in the U.S.) which included hash browns and a drink…I chose Pepsi, reluctantly, since they didn’t have Coke. The charge for this meal which included the sandwich, hash browns and a drink was just ₩4200, about $3.64.

Lotteria Breakfast

 My order was ready in about the 7 minutes, as promised and was hot and fresh (the advantage of waiting). Not being an English speaker, the cashier pointed to the straw dispenser as she gave me my tray which, along with my food, was already stocked with napkins and 1 ketchup packet. The hash browns were triangles and 2 came with the set. I’ll start with them, they were tasty, no different (maybe a little better) than McDonald’s hash browns and definitely better than Burger King’s “hash rounds.” I’ll quickly say that the Pepsi was fine, but it was Pepsi. Lotteria would do better to carry Coke products, but that’s just my opinion.

Lotteria Breakfast SandwichI was hungry and ready to get into the sandwich. I opened it up and it looked as it should, or at least it looked how I expected it to look … Purchased sandwiches never look as good as the advertisements. It looked good, though I did notice the bacon wasn’t crispy. It seemed more like Canadian Bacon, though it was shaped and sized like regular bacon and tasted more like bacon than ham. The sausage was good. It was seasoned well but not too spicy. The egg was cooked like McDonald’s cooks their Egg McMuffin eggs (I like the biscuit sandwich eggs better) but it was still good when combined with the sausage, bacon and cheese. The English Muffin tasted fine, though it seems like it could have been toasted a little more; it was a bit soft.

Suwon Lotteria RecieptThere was no Korean influence on the flavor of this meal, it was pretty basic but overall, I was very satisfied. Even with those things which were a bit different, it was a delicious sandwich and the hash browns complimented it well. I realize Lotteria isn’t a “high-class” restaurant, it’s fast food, so let me amend my review to say that for fast-food it was delicious and I’ll definitely eat there again.

Once my meal was complete, I took my tray to the trash and noticed that Lotteria, like most other restaurants in South Korea, has a place to separate your recycling, trash and food waste which fits into Lotteria’s stated concern for the environment.

Lotteria recycling



Buddhism in South Korea

In my post about religion in South Korea, I talk more about Christianity and other non-Buddhist traditions but since Buddhism is so ingrained in Korean life and culture I wanted to spend a bit more time on it … and … I have several pictures of Buddhist temples and statues that I’ve taken that I want to share!

Laughing Buddha Suwon
A traditional “laughing” Buddha statue at a shop in Suwon.

Buddhism came to Korea from China in 372, about 800 years after the death of the original Buddha. It has grown to nearly 11 million adherents. These 11 million worship at tens of thousands of Buddhist temples located in cities and countrysides all over South Korea. For example, the small area of Suwon that I visit with Soldiers and spend about an hour walking on each trip, have 3 Buddhist temples within about a 20-minute walk of each other.

Korean thinkers developed their version of Buddhism into a more distinct version, correcting what they saw as inconsistencies in Chinese-Buddhist traditions, though is derived primarily from Seon Buddhism with other variations followed to a lesser extent.

At least early in Buddhism in Korea, many temples were located in the mountains, as a result of a practical mixture of Buddhism with Shamanism that was present in Korea before 372. Shamanism taught that the mountains were home to the spirits, so it was natural to combine Buddhist and Shaman thought in the placement of Buddhist temples. In fact, the 3 primary spirits of Shamanism remained in most Korean-Buddhist teaching and hold a place of honor and many Buddhist shrines have a place for them.

During the 500+ years of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), Buddhism was forced to give way to a neo-Confucianism which grew in dominance until Buddhist monks were significant players in repelling  a Japanese invasion during the 7-year war in the late 16th century which caused Buddhist persecution to come to an end. Adherents to Buddhism increased until following World War Two when Christianity’s influence increased starting a rapid decline of Buddhism in South Korea to its present place of only about 20% of the population.

As mentioned above, you don’t need to drive long before you see a Buddhist temple or statue. Much of my walking and site-seeing has been in the Suwon area, however, so the pictures I have are of 3 Buddhist temples in that area.


Suwon Buddhism
This picture was taken from the parking lot of the palace in Suwon and shows the prominence of some of the Buddhist statues.
Suwon Buddhist temple
This is the entrance to the temple that is home to the statue in the above picture. It’s above a number of small side-streets.
Suwon Buddhist temple
One of the buildings in the temple complex.
Suwon Buddhist temple
The statue in the center of the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
Below the statue is a shrine for worshipers.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Like many Korean sites, there are slippers for you to change into before entering.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A view inside the shrine below the statue. Notice the banners hanging on the ceiling on the right and left which contain what looks like Nazi swastikas. “In Buddhism, the swastika signifies auspiciousness and good fortune as well as the Buddha’s footprints and the Buddha’s heart.”(1) This symbol was used in art and religion long before the Nazis used it.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Notice to the right of the statue are notes left by worshipers.
Suwon Buddhist temple pagoda
A pagoda on the temple grounds
Suwon Buddhist temple
A number of small monuments on the hill above the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
Some type of oven on the temple grounds with small statues on it.
Suwon Buddhist temple
The entrance/exit to the temple complex. Notice the bell on the tower. “Beomjong, as Buddhist bells are called in Korean, are one of the four Buddhist instruments…” (2)
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress bell
Here’s is a better picture of a Korean Buddhist bell though this one isn’t at a Buddhist temple but on top of the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (you can ring it 3 times for ₩1000).



Suwon Buddhist temple
The entrance to another Buddhist temple complex in Suwon
Suwon Buddhist Temple
This temple complex has more of an appearance of a vihara, or Buddhist monastery, with living and working areas.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Some of the temple complex was undergoing renovations so we couldn’t see it all. The sign on the structure above the steps is about praying for children’s testing for university attendance (a big deal in Korea).
Suwon Buddhist temple
The building housing a shrine in the temple complex.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Notice shoes sitting outside of the shrine. Shoes are always removed before entering.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A view of the inside of the shrine in the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
The inside of the entrance/exit gate of the temple complex.



Suwon Buddhist Temple
Another Buddhist temple on the other side of the Suwon River from the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.
Suwon Buddhist temple
This temple is larger and uses modern architectural design in contrast to the ones above which use more traditional Korean architecture. However, there is an elaborate pagoda on top of the building.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A sign on the temple building
Suwon Buddhist temple
A look inside the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
A sign describing the temple complex





Some of the information for this post came from the online New World Encyclopedia.

All photos were taken by the author.