A community forged from shared culture

Back row: LS Kim, AB Park, SLt Hahm, and SLt Yun. Front row: SLt Lee and LS Moon.  Photo by Leading Seaman Victoria Ioganov

Back row: LS Kim, AB Park, SLt Hahm, and SLt Yun. Front row: SLt Lee and LS Moon.
Photo by Leading Seaman Victoria Ioganov

Capt Jenn Jackson, HMCS Ottawa PAO ~ 

Within HMCS Ottawa’s bulkheads is a small community of sailors with personal ties to some of the many ports visited by ship and crew during Operations Projection and Neon.

Six members were born in the Republic of Korea, many with close family still living in Pyeongtaek, Incheon, and Busan – three of the ports visited during the deployment.

“One of the highlights of this deployment for me was being able to come alongside Busan. I’m glad Ottawa had a chance to appreciate my family’s hometown and made me proud to be Korean-born Canadian,” said Sub-Lieutenant Hyunji (Ann) Lee, Bridge Watchkeeper-Under-Training.

While in Pyeongtaek she served as a translator.

“It was a difficult time because I was exposed to a much higher level of Korean than what I am used to, but acting as a translator proved to be a valuable experience and really made me appreciate the efforts my parents had gone through to make sure I still retained Korean as a language.”

All six Korean-Canadians on board speak Korean, so it’s not uncommon to hear them chatting Korean in the flats or messes.

“I grew up speaking Korean at home, although my vocabulary could use some work,” said SLt Jong Won Joseph Hahm, Marine Systems Engineering Officer Phase VI. “It’s good practice to have an opportunity to speak Korean on the ship and it has helped build our community.”

For Leading Seaman Guyeon Kim, Weapons Engineering Technician – Sonar, his Korean heritage has built strong ties within the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

“I have found a solid bond with the other Korean-born Canadians because we have a lot in common, coming from similar backgrounds,” explains LS Kim. “I have experienced this not only in HMCS Ottawa but on other ships as well.”

Just as in other areas of life, life in the RCN also comes with challenges. For example, although not common, incidents of racism can occur. While such encounters happen occasionally, such as during port visits and dealing with members of the public, sailors are able to draw on a wide array of tools to deal with these challenges such as reporting to the chain of command, and support from peers.

For SLt Hahn, he focuses on de-escalation, because “ignorance thrives on attention.”

While all similarly have family remaining in Korea, maintain close ties, and attribute the sense of community to mutual cultural understanding, they are also very diverse in their occupations in the Canadian Armed Forces and the reasons they joined.

Three are officers and three are non-commissioned members, all different occupations – Naval Warfare Officer (SLt Lee), Marine Systems Engineering Officer (SLt Hahm), Naval Combat Systems Officer (SLt Joo Whan (Kevin) Yun), Weapons Engineering Technician – Sonar (LS Kim), Boatswain (LS Isaac Moon), and Steward (Able Seaman Thomas Park).

“There is a definite sense of community between all the Korean-Canadians in Ottawa despite the various age differences and occupations,” says SLt Joo Whan (Kevin) Yun. “We can relate to many things like our love of Korean food, our cultural similarities, and our similar backgrounds. All of that aside, I have met lots of people from many backgrounds while serving in the RCN. I would encourage anyone to join – but only if they are 100 per cent sure it is right for them.”

Journey to the RCN:

AB Thomas Park

“My dad was an infantry officer in the Korean Army and I grew up hearing stories and seeing his old military medals. I guess subconsciously I developed a willingness to join the Forces. I am now approaching three-and-a-half years in the glorious RCN and cannot wait to see what the future brings.”

LS Guyeon Kim

“I joined because of my older brother. He was a member of the Forces before I was and told me about all the benefits he was receiving and the subsidized educations plans. I decided to take a chance a joined the RCN.”

LS Isaac Moon

“I decided to join for the experience. Beyond work experience, I can’t deny that the RCN has provided life experiences, travel, and unique opportunities – such as being a member of the Naval Boarding Party.”



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  1. Question from this old Gezzer … Is the Crowsnest newsletter still around?

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