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.

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

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

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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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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(1) http://www.religionfacts.com/swastika/buddhism

(2) http://eng.templestay.com/upload/board/2013121810273680997.pdf

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

All photos were taken by the author.

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Religion in South Korea

South Korea has a long history of religious observance. Buddhism was introduced in 372 and currently has nearly 11 million adherents worshiping in tens of thousands of temples. Confucianism became the state ideology during the Joseon Dynasty which lasted from 1392 to 1910 but while listed as a religion, is more of an ethical way of thinking and living (but has had profound influence on Korean society).

Roman Catholicism came to Korea in the late 18th century following the baptism of one of the “elite” on a visit to China. Catholics faced significant persecution during the Joseon Dynasty (making Korea the 4th largest contributor of saints) but grew rapidly following the end of the Korean War and now claims over 5 million members.

Protestant Christianity came to Korea with Christian missionaries from North America in the late 19th century. Much of the appeal of the Protestant Church in Korea came from significant investment in schools and hospitals. Today, Protestants comprise about 18% of the population of South Korea, nearly 9 million members.

Combining members of Protestantism and Catholicism nets a total of nearly 15 million members or over half of the population claiming religious adherence, making Christianity the largest faith group in South Korea.

South Korea religious preference
This graphs shows percentages of South Koreans who identify with a particular faith group. It does not include the nearly half of the population who say they are “non-religious.” Thus, percentages are of those who identify with some religion, not of the population as a whole.

 

 

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A short trip through nearly any part of Korea will reveal evidence of South Korea’s religious nature. Driving through most any town you’ll often see a steeple or gold Buddha. Here are a few pictures of some of the churches and temples I have seen in my travels:

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A large modern-Gothic church beside I-1 just inside the Seoul toll gate
A large modern-Gothic church beside I-1 just inside the Seoul toll gate.
A Christian church in Seoul near Yongsan-gu
A Christian church in Seoul near Yongsan-gu.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Church of the Nazarene in Pyeongtaek
A Church of the Nazarene in Pyeongtaek.
A large Presbyterian church in Suwon
A large Presbyterian church in Suwon.

 

A Christian church in Pyeongtaek.
A Christian church in Pyeongtaek.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Buddhist Temple between businesses down a small street in Suwon.

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The religious preference chart and some of the information in this post came from  http://www.korea.net/AboutKorea/Korean-Life/Religion.

Some other information came from  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/why-catholicism-important-korea-201481717037383818.html.

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Lost in Translation (오역) or Korean Signs (한국어 표지판)

Sometimes driving in other countries is easy, sometimes not so much. One of the most difficult aspects are the road signs and sometimes the signs are so different from what we’re accustomed to that they’re difficult to understand. If you don’t know the language, you have to do your best to understand them based on the diagrams or pictures on the sign, context of their placement and what other cars are doing; but sometimes those translations can be pretty comical.

There many sign "banks" like these at intersections. The traffic lights just aren't long enough to read them all (even if I could read the language!).
There are many sign “banks” like these at intersections. The traffic lights just aren’t long enough to read them all (even if I could read the language!).
I assume this is a maximum and minimum speed limit sign, thinking wight has something to do with it...
I assume this is a maximum and minimum speed limit sign, thinking weight has something to do with it…
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Highway direction signs are pretty clear-cut, at least when they also have English.
...though those directions can get more complicated...
…though those directions can get more complicated…
...and sometimes, really complicated!
…and sometimes, really complicated (especially without English).
Others you can kind of figure out. While this seems to be each of the lanes, what each lane designation means is unknown to me.
Others you can kind of figure out. While this seems to be each of the lanes, what each lane designation means is unknown to me. That green arrow must mean something.
There's that green arrow again. It seems to correspond with lighted green arrows in the right lane, which sometimes have a red "X." Pretty clear that lane is sometimes usable, sometimes not.
There’s that green arrow again. It seems to correspond with lighted green arrows in the right lane, which sometimes have a red “X.” Pretty clear that lane is sometimes usable, sometimes not.
You need to be careful here. If you eat while you get gas you may need First Aid!
You need to be careful here. If you eat while you fuel your car, you may need First Aid!
Or worse, here, if you eat while you get gas, you'll get really bad gas!
Or worse, if you eat while you fuel your car here, you’ll get really bad gas which could distract other drivers!
This must be a popular site, the police enforce photography.
This must be a popular site, the police enforce photography.
I guess some of the policeman aren't that good. This area just has "average" speed enforcement.
I guess all Korean policeman aren’t stellar. In this area, their enforcement is just “average”!
This picture isn't very good, but it's a sad commentary on melting snowmen becoming rain.
This picture isn’t very good, but it’s a sad commentary on melting snowmen becoming rain.
It appears that you are required to unplug your car before traveling on this road.
It appears that you are required to unplug your car before traveling on this road.
Yellow cars are headed for the most excitement!
Yellow cars are headed for the most excitement!
Do not dress alike and smile...or you travelers are required to dress alike and be happy?
Do not dress alike and smile…or travelers are required to dress alike and be happy? Or it applies only if you wear green seat belts…
Not a sign, but I'd sure hate this job!
Not a sign, but I’d sure hate this job!
Wait, huh?
Wait, huh?
Oh, these guys aren't real...
Oh, these guys aren’t real…
Or are they?
Or are they?

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Do you have a better caption for any of these? Leave it in a comment!

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Battalion Memorial Ceremony

Outside of combat, it is not all that often when a Soldier in a unit dies. The exceptions are unfortunate, but demand that the unit properly and respectfully honor that Soldier. The options for the unit are essentially two: a Memorial Service or a Memorial Ceremony. The difference in the two are basically that a Memorial Service is religious in nature, while a Memorial Ceremony is patriotic in nature. A Memorial Service, being a religious service, cannot be required attendance for Soldiers, but since a Memorial Ceremony is basically patriotic (though with religious elements) the Soldiers of the unit can be required to attend, though in most circumstances the majority of the unit will want to be a part of the ceremony honoring their fallen comrade even when not required.

This week, a battalion in my brigade had the opportunity to honor a Soldier who was involved in an automobile accident. This Soldier was proficient and well-liked, so his loss was deeply felt by the unit, especially those in the deceased Soldier’s section. The Memorial Ceremony was an opportunity not only to honor the Soldier who died but also to give an opportunity for the unit to grieve together and begin to heal from their loss.

Here are some pictures from the Memorial Ceremony:

Prior to the ceremony, the participants rehearse the service to ensure a near-flawless ceremony. At the podium is the battalion chaplain (photo by Daryl Densford).
Prior to the ceremony, the participants have several rehearsals to ensure a near-flawless ceremony. At the podium is the battalion chaplain.
The Memorial Stand is set with a rifle, helmet, boots and dog tags. The Soldiers' final award and photo are also on display (photo by Daryl Densford)
The Memorial Stand is set with a rifle, helmet, boots and dog tags. The Soldiers’ final award and photo are also on display.
A small display was set up at the rear of the auditorium.
A small display was set up at the rear of the auditorium.
The FRG set up a hospitality room for the father and close friends.
The FRG provided a hospitality room for the father and close friends.
There was a good turnout from the unit as well as from sister units. There was also great support by chaplains and chaplain assistants from this post and others. At the podium is the battalion commander.
There was a good turnout from the unit as well as from sister units. There was also great support by chaplains and chaplain assistants from this post and others. At the podium in this picture is the battalion commander, the first of several of the Soldier’s leaders and friends who eulogized the deceased Soldier.
The battalion chaplain shares a message of hope.
The battalion chaplain shares a message of hope.

Following the “Last Roll Call,” the Honor Guard firing squad provides a 21-gun salute.

Upon completion of the 21-gun salute, the bugler plays Taps, out of sight of those in the ceremony, but where he can be heard by them. This isn’t the best of videos, but it shows the honor rendered to the fallen Soldier. This bugler did an excellent job.

At the end of the ceremony, participants and attendees have the opportunity to offer respects and render honors for the fallen Soldier at the Memorial Stand.
At the end of the ceremony, participants and attendees have the opportunity to offer respects and render honors for the fallen Soldier at the Memorial Stand.
Respects are paid in different ways. Most salute, some give coins, others offer a prayer.
Respects are paid in different ways. Most salute, some give coins, others offer a prayer.
The rank of the deceased and those who honor him/her are irrelevant. Here a Command Sergeant Major, Colonel and Major General render honors to the fallen Private First Class.
The rank of the deceased and those who honor him/her are irrelevant. Here a Command Sergeant Major, Colonel and Major General render honors to the fallen Private First Class.
By the time everyone had rendered honors, there was quite a collection of coins, patches and notes that will be send to the Soldiers next-of-kin.
By the time everyone had rendered honors, there was quite a collection of coins, patches and notes that will be sent to the Soldiers next-of-kin.

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While Memorial Ceremonies are not usually attended by family members, sometimes they are. This ceremony had the Soldier’s father in attendance. A video of the ceremony will also be sent to the other family members as a remembrance of the Soldiers honorable service and to show how the unit honored that service and the memory of the Soldier.

Memorial Ceremonies and Services are not only an effort to honor the fallen Soldier but also to provide an opportunity for the unit -often the Soldier’s closest friends- to remember, memorialize and honor their friend and comrade. Additionally, they give an opportunity for those Soldiers to grieve their loss and begin to heal and recover. This ceremony, with the remembrances shared by the unit leadership and friends and the message by the chaplain, went a long way toward bringing this healing to the unit’s Soldiers.

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KATUSA Promotion Recognition

The U.S. forces in Korea have a large number of KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to U.S. Army) Soldiers working with us. The chaplain’s offices often have a KATUSA assigned to them. In my brigade, we have a KATUSA as part of the BDE UMT and one of our battalions also has a KATUSA. These KATUSAs are doing a 2-year tour of duty with about 18 months of it on assignment with us. They receive their rank based on time-in-service. My KATUSA was recently promoted to corporal and the battalion KATUSA was just promoted to sergeant. To help him celebrate his promotion, we went to Dino Prime Meat Bar in Pyeongtaek, a great meat buffet. Here’s some pictures:

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Dino Prime Meat Bar
Dino Prime Meat Bar in Pyeongtaek.

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Dino Prime Meat Bar
A large assortment of meats are in a refrigerated case where you select what you want then take to your table to cook.

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Dino Prime Meat BAr
A variety of raw cuts of beef and pork, some marinated (no dinosaur, though). All of it looks good (at least if you’re a carnivore)!

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Dino Prime Meat Bar
Each table has it’s own grill (and exhaust flue) and you’re brought a variety of “sides” to eat with your meat.

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Dino Prime Meat Bar
This particular Dino only has seating on the floor…not very comfortable for old guys like me! This is some of my chaplains and assistants.

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Dino Prime Meat Bar
Here’s another of my chaplains and 3 KATUSAs (also on the floor!).

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KATUSA Promotion
I gave the newly-promoted KATUSA a choice of a cross to wear around his neck or a cross on a key chain (both made and donated by my nephew).

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KATUSA Promotion
He chose the one with the leather string to wear so I “officially” presented it to him as congratulations for his promotion.

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Pyeongtaek street
Here’s a very Korean-looking street of Pyeongtaek on the way to Dino Prime Meat Bar

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