For many Sailors on board USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), the ship’s upcoming port call to Busan, South Korea presents some well-deserved liberty, sightseeing and the opportunity to experience a new culture. But for others, this particular visit hits a little closer to home.
From the beach city of Busan to the streets of Seoul, several Korean-American Vinson Sailors will venture back into a familiar part of their lives and some will spend time with family they have never met.
“I didn’t expect (to go to Korea) at all and when I heard we were going, I was really excited,” said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Kathleen Brigham, attached to Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1. She is an Irish-Korean-American who was born in the states and will visit her mother’s family in Korea for the first time.
Aviation Machinist’s Mate Airman Jun Sin, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 25, is returning to a place he calls home. This is his first deployment and the opportunity to reunite with family literally keeps him up at night. “I really miss my family and I can’t wait to see them,” said Sin.
While some Korean-American Sailors are enjoying time with their relatives, others will be using their bilingual capabilities and cultural familiarities to be an ambassador in both professional and personal capacities.
Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Katherine Kim, assigned to Supply Department S-2 Division, will fly to the Busan beach detachment to help the ship prepare supply items and merchandise pier side. She is also providing tours for interested personnel and acting as a translator between Vinson Sailors and South Korean citizens. Kim said she is looking forward to helping and sharing the great pride she holds in her Korean heritage.
“Korea is as much my country as the United States,” said Kim.
Sin is helping as a translator for Vinson’s soccer team, who will play against a Korean team Jan. 7 on the Republic of Korea Navy Base. Sin said he is excited to translate and also play with the Vinson team in his home country.
In addition to providing support through community relations, Korean-American Sailors also plan to share their culture with Shipmates on liberty.
“I plan to take my co-workers from the shop and show them around,” said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Leilani Morton, assigned to Vinson’s Combat Systems Department, CS-3 Division. Morton said she wants to use this opportunity to promote diversity and educate her peers that have never experienced Korean culture, including the country’s cuisine.
“I can’t wait to finally have authentic Korean food,” said Morton, who plans to enjoy several Korean dishes not only served in restaurants. “Street vendors provide a variety of different meal options, ranging from vegetarian to pork ribs, stir-fried beef and buck-wheat noodles,” Morton said.
But Korean culture is so much more than “kimchi.” Sailors can visit the historical buildings of epic dynasties that ruled the peninsula or walk the sandy beaches. And as many Sailors look forward to adventurous tours, over-indulgent shopping, and lots of food and soju, Sin sees this to be an “unbelievable” opportunity to reconnect with his family. “When I first heard we were going to Korea, I didn’t think it would happen. But once the captain announced it, it was like living a dream.”