'Uniformed diplomats' for Korea

'Uniformed diplomats' for Korea
Col. Lee Seok-jae, commander of the U.S. 8th Army ROK Support Group.

SOUTH KOREA - KATUSAs are "uniformed diplomats" that promote the image of the Korean Army while working side by side with American troops, the commander of the US 8th Army ROK (Republic of Korea) Support Group said.

Paying particular attention to such a role, Col. Lee Seok-jae has focused on their discipline, integrity and camaraderie since his inauguration last July.

"For new US staff coming to Korea, KATUSAs are the first Korean soldiers they come across. As such, KATUSAs are a window through which they experience and evaluate the Korean Army," Lee told The Korea Herald.

"I have encouraged KATUSAs to take pride in working as representatives of the Korean Army. Their missions, thus, require more self-restraint and sacrifice given their behaviour can affect the image of the entire Korean military."

From maintaining the allies' defence capabilities to helping US fellows better understand Korea, KATUSAs have contributed considerably to furthering the alliance, Lee pointed out.

"Along with the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command, the KATUSA programme is a symbol of the military alliance. Assigned to the US military, it has truly become an integral part of the 60-year-old relationship," he said.

Lee listed a number of requirements for a KATUSA including English proficiency and mental and physical strength to work alongside the more experienced American troops.

"Although most recruits join the KATUSA programme after passing an English proficiency test, many of them face language difficulties. Military jargon, in particular, is more difficult than thought, and getting used to it takes time and effort," he said.

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