Andy Kim '10 Prepares for Life in the Korean Air Force
Kee Hyun “Andy” Kim’s name was read at this year’s Commencement, but he wasn’t on campus to accept his diploma. Instead, he was home in South Korea, awaiting news of his future as an interpreting officer in the Republic of Korea Air Force.
All South Korean men ages 18-35 are required to serve in the country’s military. Most men serve as soldiers for 22 to 26 months depending on the specific branch of the armed forces they join. Kim, however, chose to take the test to become an Air Force Interpreting Officer. On May 31, he learned that he passed the exam. Now a member of the 125th class of the Republic of Korea Air Force Officer Candidate School, he will begin basic training September 1, and be commissioned in January 2011. He’ll serve for a total of 40 months.
Because of the significant difference in the time of service, most men serve as soldiers, but political science major Kim wanted to become a officer, a position for which only those with bachelor’s degrees or higher may apply. “Although the required time of service is longer, this will allow me to practice interpreting between Korean and English, which I believe can be a useful skill in the future,” he says. “Serving as an officer will also give me a chance to hone my leadership skills.”
The duties of interpreting officers vary. Some translate documents such as field manuals, while others are assigned to senior ranking military officials: “A friend of mine interprets for the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” says Kim. A number of officers are sent abroad with peacekeeping forces, to places like Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Kim is no stranger to service in foreign countries. The summer before his freshman year at Haverford, he went to Afghanistan with an organization called East-West Cultural Development Corporation; he helped build an elementary school and a Korean cultural center at Kabul University. And, as a high school student, Kim worked in Guatemala and Sri Lanka with KOICA (Korean International Cooperation Agency), the Korean Peace Corps, and in Mongolia with UNICEF.
This summer, before training begins, Kim will work for a South Korean venture company called StarProbe, which he first became acquainted with while studying abroad his junior year. He’ll draft letters and translate documents for the company, which focuses on natural resource development in places like Kyrgyzstan, New Guinea and East Timor. Kim will also continue pursuing his photography hobby.
Kim hopes that his military service will give him the chance to experience working in his home country. “Although South Korea is my home, I’ve spent most of my time in the United States,” he says. “This will allow me not only to work in South Korea, but also to see how decisions are made at the highest levels.”