Department of Defense Education Activity

The Korea Experience "Why We're Here"

Those of us who have opted to teach abroad have usually arrived exuberantly at our destinations, and our ebullience (after having overcome shipboard lethargy or jet lag) has continued into our new assignments. There was undoubtedly a time, however, in our Korean experience, that our thoughts were sobered.

Our orientation tour to the Demilitarized Zone brought us to the very real consideration that this narrow line separates two opposing factions, and only thirty-five miles to the north of Seoul men and machines stand their posts to keep the fragile truce. Most of us learned with new awareness that the Korean War was never officially over, and our obligations here took on a bitter-sweet overtone. We had a new appreciation of the difficult circumstances of the parents of our children, and we tried to be more compassionate.

For some of us, our less-than-perfect sense of history had to be refreshed. We had to be reminded that when DODDS came to the Pacific Area in 1946, Japan had relinquished control of Korea at the end of World War II, and that the 38th Parallel became the separation of Soviet-supervised North and the United Nations' supervised South. Korea's brief moment of freedom had been almost immediately overshadowed by world politics, and a collision of wills would again, until 1959, preclude families of the military and embassy from dependent schools in this beautiful country.”

-Teachers Pat Dowling, Dolores Stone, and Arlene Monroe O'Brien – thoughts on an on a Command Orientation Tour, September 1968 (Source: DoDDS Pacific Region 1946-1986. Page 90)