TAKING CLASSES AT SEOUL NATIONAL UNIVERSITY
No, I did not register as a student in Seoul National University. Rather I took extension courses taught by visiting faculty from the University of California at Berkeley in rooms at the old Seoul National University located in the center of Seoul. This was in 1953. Hostilities were still in effect but Seoul was more or less safe for classes. So I checked out a company jeep and drove to Seoul (about 30 miles to the south of our camp) twice a week for classes from about 7 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. As I recall I took one course in public speaking and one course in philosophy and a third in math.
In one of those courses a Korean army officer was also a student. The other students would wait for him to come and get settled in a seat before we sat down, always a number of seats away from him. It is not that we were prejudiced against Koreans. The problem was he reeked of kimchee and, we figured, he did not bathe too often or, if he did, he bathed in kimchee. I love kimchee but not in that form.
Then, to make the classes interesting, Bed-Check-Charlie would come by. Bed-Check-Charlie was a North Korean pilot in a small single engine plane who would come from behind the lines and, flying very low and out of range of the radar, would fly over Seoul and kick out of the door of his plane several bombs and then hurry back to safety. As soon as he was spotted the air raid sirens wet off and we all hurried down to the air raid shelter where we would remain until the all-clear signal was given.
One course that I took was in the field of mathematics. Frankly, I do not remember what it dealt with (statistics?) but I did notice one evening as I entered the building there was a poster that read “Get to know your instructor” and following the instructor’s name it noted that he liked hiking. After class I asked if he would like to go on a hike up in the mountains north of Seoul which had already been cleared of enemy soldiers and was safe for hiking. He was all for it so the following Saturday I drove to Seoul, picked him up and headed for the hills. We parked the jeep and, as usual, I hired a couple of boys to go with us so we would not get lost and, most importantly, keep an eye out for land mines. They knew the safe trails and were alert to the dangers ahead.
After several hours of hiking I spotted a body of a soldier about 15 ft. from the trail. I was about to take a closer look at it when one of the boys yelled and showed me the wire for a ‘lazy daisy’ mine that would have blown me off the hill if I had tripped it. My instructor friend grew a little pale with that information. We proceeded up the hill. At the top were several bunkers dug into the ground used by one or another of the military units that held command of this hill top. One of them had a fully decomposed body in it with the skull of the individual lying beside the other bones still in a decayed uniform. At this point the math instructor asked if we could head back down the mountain which we did.
I noticed that he was limping a bit by the time we got to the jeep where he proceeded to pull off his shoes and socks and found that his toes were bleeding. He had not cut his toe nails for too long and they pressed into the toe of his shoe on the way down the hill pushing the toe nails into the flesh. He also had bad blisters on both feet. I, meanwhile, was a ‘happy camper’ as I was wearing combat boots and was quite used to hikes twice as long as the one we took. I got him back to his place of residence, said ‘so long’ and headed back to camp. I didn’t invite any other instructors to go on hikes with me after that.
Taking those few courses on the campus of the Seoul National University allowed me to begin my college education once back in the USA as a second semester freshman and it also allowed me to say that I began my college education in Korea at the famous Seoul National University. My Korean friends are duly impressed.