- Associated Press - Saturday, January 16, 2016

MILFORD, Va. (AP) - He’s commanded thousands of soldiers and issued countless orders over 32 years of service in the Korean army.

But Maj. Gen. Kyoung Soo Shin, defense attaché for the Republic of Korea’s embassy in Washington, said those experiences didn’t prepare him for speaking to seventh-graders at Caroline Middle School.

“I’m a little bit nervous,” Shin told students on Wednesday. “Sometimes, I have to talk (to) about 10,000 soldiers, but this is more nervous for me. And I don’t know how to … effectively communicate with young kids.”

Shin, the highest-ranking member of the South Korean military in the United States, visited Caroline County to discuss the history_and future_of his country’s alliance with the United States.

U.S. history teacher Sara Gibson, who also co-coordinates the middle school’s history club, said the embassy reached out to her in late 2015 to put together the visit.

“He told me in May he wanted to set something up,” she said. “He didn’t want us to be forgotten.”

Wednesday’s visit marked Shin’s second since last spring, when he unveiled a series of engraved bricks purchased by the embassy for the middle school’s memorial garden commemorating the Korean War.

The garden lies in front of Caroline High School at a latitude of 38 degrees north -which is the dividing line between North and South Korea on the other side of the world.

In his remarks, which included a brief history of his country as well as the alliance’s origins, Shin said the relationship between the Republic of Korea and the United States was one of the reasons the ROK moved toward democracy.

Shin told the students the two countries’ relationship is the strongest it has ever been, but the future depends on their generation.

“I hope that you will become some kind of liaison to connect with Koreans and Americans,” he said. “I can see you all in 10 years in Korea, in Seoul, and hopefully you can.”

Gibson later said she loved Shin’s remarks and was excited about the students’ opportunity to learn history from a different voice.

“We’ve had a 60-plus year alliance and that’s definitely a key point that I feel like they need to know,” Gibson said. “They are in our top five allies. They are a huge country, population wise and GDP-wise, and we are a huge trading partner with them.”

The alliance shows in subtle ways, Gibson said, ones that her students hadn’t immediately picked up on.

“I asked my kids when preparing for this, ‘How many of you have an LG phone? How many of your parents drive a Hyundai? Do you have a Samsung anything in your house?’” she said. “Because all of those are Korean products.

“All of the kids were like, oh my gosh. You actually have these connections to Korea and you don’t even realize it.”


Information from: The Free Lance-Star, https://www.fredericksburg.com/

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