Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The arrival of the Peace Corps in Korea, 1966

For my latest Korea Times article, I wrote about the decision to send Peace Corps Volunteers to Korea, their training in Hawaii, and their arrival in Korea in September 1966.

(From the Korea Times, September 14, 1966)

The fourth-last paragraph originally had other material in it, followed by two more paragraphs that I cut due to space and tone:

Two days later, 98 members of the K-1 group arrived in Korea. Upon arrival they attended an orientation program offered by the American embassy in Seoul where “they heard lectures on Korea and Korea-US relations given by Embassy and USOM people.” While it’s not clear how these were received, a year later “K-3” member Bruce Cumings, now a well-known historian, attended a similar orientation during which the speakers largely “misjudged their audience, mentioned goals for Peace Corps Korea which they themselves dreamed up, and presented talks distinguished solely by their irrelevancy.” 
On the day of their arrival, the Dong-A Ilbo, worried about the difficulties the volunteers might face in adapting to Korea, suggested that Koreans should do their “best for the foreign guests by giving careful and hospitable treatment.” 
Not everyone took the newspaper’s advice. During their orientation, three Peace Corps Volunteers decided to lodge at an inn downtown “to get used to Korean style housing accommodations,” but instead grew accustomed to being without money after thieves stole their wallets.

Almost a year ago I uploaded an index of links to the Peace Corps newsletters published between (1966 and 1981) digitally archived at the University of Southern California, but it seems the USC Digital library moved stuff around... or something... and none of the links below seem to work. I'd be annoyed if not for the Wayback Machine, which has the post archived here.

On the topic of the Peace Corps, a book titled Peace Corps Volunteers and the Making of Korean Studies in the United States was published last year and has interesting contributions by Seung-kyung Kim, Michael Robinson, Don Baker, Edward J. Baker, Donald N. Clark, Carter J. Eckert, Bruce Fulton, Laurel Kendall, Linda Lewis, Edward J. Shultz, Okpyo Moon, Clark W. Sorensen, and Kathleen Stephens. 

(Clark Sorensen is the head of the Korea program at the University of Washington, and I've had people swear to me that he was a Peace Corps Volunteer - he wasn't - but his participation in this volume will likely not disabuse people of that notion.) 

Lastly, here is a photo essay published in Shin Donga in January 1967 which profiles Stephanie Walmsley, a PCV who was teaching English at a girls' middle and high school in Yeongdong-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do.









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