This week we have with us Kowanda from Yongsan South Korea. Many of you know Kowanda because she is often with us in the chat room on Monday nights!
1. Representatives Name: Kowanda McBride
2. Experience in Military: Grew up as a military dependant and than married military. So, that’s about 28 years all together.
3. Their Home State: South Dakota. But, I’ve lived in the Southern part of the U.S. most my life so I consider the South home
4. Other locations they’ve lived: Ft. Bliss, TX, Ft. Knox, KY, Mainz, Germany, Ft. Bragg, NC, Ft. Benning, GA, Baumholder, Germany, West Point, NY
1. Post Name: Yongsan
2. Post Location: Yongsan South Korea
Major Units/What Post is “known for” (ie basic training, AIT, MP Headquarters etc): This is a very top heavy post. It is also a joint post. There are Marines, Navy, Air Force and Army.
3. Name of Surrounding Cities: Seoul- you can go out any of the gates and you are in Seoul. This city is huge. If you can’t find something to do than you aren’t looking.
4. Closest MAJOR City: Seoul
5. How long have you been there? We’ve been here a little over a year
6. What is housing like – on post/off post? (tell us about rental conditions, buying/selling, privatized or DoD housing – interesting policies etc): Housing is ok. It runs a little smaller than housing in the States. Especially for the Enlisted. On South Post there is housing for E-9’s, WO, CPT’s, MAJ’s, LTC’s, COL’s and GEN’s. Most Enlisted and lower ranking Officers live at Hannam Villiage. This housing is mostly high rise, no pets allowed and is pretty small. South Post has 2 high rise apartment structures, Burke Towers. No pets are allowed and you have to have at least 2 kids to live in them. Burke Towers has larger floor plans and are 3 and 4 bedroom units. The rest of South Post housing is multiple units buildings. Some are upstairs units and some are downstairs units. There isn’t much yard space. But, the patios/balcony’s are a nice size. Off post housing is mostly apartment style high rises. Typically smaller than what Americans are used to. If moving here you need to get recommendations for a realtor.
7. Rate the PX: The Exchange is challenged. Through AFAP I was able to talk to the Exchange manager and he said that he is operating with less than half the square footage he should have for the size of this community. The Exchange management is very aware of the lack of sizes, quantity of product and choices. I’ve participated in 2 surveys regarding these issues and they are trying to resolve them the best they can. Of course, if they had more space these things probably wouldn’t be an issue.
8. Rate the Commissary (and why): The Commissary is fine. It has recently been remodeled. New freezer and cold storage. Thank goodness! When we got here there were several freezers that were in operable and the others frequently had problems. The new freezers and cold storage have awesome lighting and work
9. Rate MWR/ACS (and why): MWR/ACS is excellent. MWR offers lots of trips, concerts and such. At almost every large community event they raffle off 2 roundtrip tickets back to the States. Nice prize since it costs so much to fly back! ACS offers numerous classes including Korean Language, How to use the Subway, Korean Cooking and a great New Comers Orientation
10. Active Spouse Club? (tell us about it): I am active in the spouses club. They offer monthly luncheons. Vendors come to the luncheons for us to purchase their wares than we eat, have drawings, guest, etc. The Spouse’s club operates the Chosun Gift Shop. Everything in the Chosun is from the surrounding Asian countries. Nothing from Korea is sold in the store. It isn’t necessary as you can walk out any gate and buy Korean. The Chosun is the main fundraiser for the spouse’s club. The money raised goes toward American Service Projects, Korean Service Projects, Grants and Scholarships. The members of the spouses club have been invited by various groups to special events. One that I was able to attend was a fashion show by Su Wan Lee (I think that’s her name). She is the most famous Hanbok (traditional Korean dress) designer. She also puts a modern twist on the Hanbok.
The web address for the spouses club is : afsckorea.org
Note: In the following three please list annual events as well as things going on now…
1. Things to do ON POST: On Post we have a movie theater (which is free), Main Post Club (has various entertainment and dining options), Putt Putt, Skate Park, driving range and fitness facilities. We just had our Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Santa will be coming to visit at various places on post. The Library hosts two story hours-one for toddlers and one for preschoolers. I wish I could tell you more about what’s going on this month but for some reason the monthly Community Information Forums have been changed to once every three months. That’s were I went to get all the latest and greatest information
2. Things to do in CITY AROUND POST: In Seoul there are so many things to do-shopping, museums, concerts, festival and parks. I really enjoyed the Lotus Lantern Festival earlier this year. Korea is a festival throwing country. There are festivals for everything-Rice, Lanterns, Mystic Sea Parting, tea, mimes and the list goes on. There aren’t any in December. I guess because it’s cold
3. Things to do in MAJOR CITY OUTSIDE OF POST: Outside of Seoul there are many things to do, too. Hiking, deep sea fishing, festivals, etc.
4. Major SPORTING, THEATRE, or CONCERT activities? Right outside one of the gates is The National Museum of Korea. Outside another gate is the National War Museum. Not far down the road is the National Theater of Korea (I saw a musical there, very interesting.) The Olympic Park is easily accessible via the subway and lots of sporting events happen there. The Han river is a 10 minute walk from the housing area I live in. During the World Cup, my family and I walked down to the river and joined thousands of Koreans celebrate and watch one of the soccer games on big screen t.v.’s. Prior to the game there were all kinds of mini-concerts by various popular Korean bands. It was a neat event.
Education/Out and About:
1. School System (how many districts, DOD schools, what are they like etc): On post we have the DOD schools-Elementary through High School. The school buildings are ok. The teachers-like everywhere else. Some good. Some not so good. As most parents know, a lot depends on the kid and their learning style and if it goes well with the teacher’s personality and teaching style.
There are 2 preschools. The Mustard Seed (supported by the South Post Chapel) and the CDC. Both are in high demand and always have a waiting list.
Off post there are several International Schools and Korean schools. We looked at a Korean preschool program for our son when we first got here. If they had space we would have put our son in and left him in the entire time we were here. They have a rigorous curriculum. Several of the Korean schools will offer a discount to English speaking students.
2. Area Colleges? There are college classes offered on post via Phoenix of Arizona and I think one or two others
3. Favorite Restaurants: I don’t have a favorite restaurant as I’m not a fan of eating out much. But I did hear that there was this Garlic Restaurant that was a must eat at place. Personally, I like buying food from the street vendors
4. Favorite Shopping (note: lack of shopping): Shopping is overwhelming here. There are lots of markets. The stores carry so much of the same stuff in such a small place. It’s just amazing. My favorite shopping district is Insadong. It’s artsy and a little more expensive than some other areas
Dongdaemun-here you will find Toy Alley. I found lots of great Halloween stuff here, prizes for an FRG Fall Fest event and I hear in December you can find Christmas stuff here, too. Dongdaemun also has the Fabric Market. This is two buildings, connected together with 5 or 6 floors. Everything you need for sewing. Fabric, notions, trim, thread, beads, etc. You truly need a map for this place. Take pictures of what you are looking for and hope someone can direct you where you need to go. It’s the Mecca of fabric.
Namdaemun- I walked through this market with my jaw to my knees. It was so crowded with people and merchandise. I’ve been back a few times. I’ve decided that I need to go with a plan, know what I want and not deviate.
5. Job Market: The job market isn’t so great here. Some background information will help understand the situation. Until recently, Korea has been an unaccompanied tour, so jobs were filled with the Korean Nationals as they are here and family members weren’t. Family members are being hired for jobs but it’s a slow transition as Koreans will work at the same job (even if it’s at a fast food place) for their entire lives.
Interesting to note that the CDC/CYS is always looking to hire.
1. Best aspect of the post (of the city surrounding?): The best aspect of post is that we are in Seoul. You can do something different here everyday.
2. Worst aspect? The worst aspect is the air quality. It is really bad and when the yellow dust hangs around it’s even more miserable.
3. Local websites – post website or MWR website: The Garrison web site is yongsan.korea.army.mil. USAG Yongsan is also on Facebook.
4. Weather: The winters are cold, we have a monsoon season (this last one wasn’t bad at all), we have typhoons (experienced some serious flooding to the point I couldn’t drive in or out of my neighborhood). The summers are hot and humid.
Now we are filled in on all there is to know about Yongsan South Korea. If you want to be part of our PWTM segment please let us know by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.