Download: KUSAF news-2020 August
By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) — South Korea will begin developing its own interceptor system like Israel’s Iron Dome in the next five years to defend the country’s core infrastructure in the capital area against North Korea’s long-range artillery threats, the defense ministry said Monday.
Unveiling its defense blueprint for 2021-2025, the ministry also said it will officially begin procedures to acquire a light aircraft carrier next year and start the production of a homegrown fighter jet which is currently under development.
The defense program calls for spending 300.7 trillion won (US$253 billion), a 6.1 percent on-year hike on average over the next five years. Of the total, 100 trillion won was allocated for improving defense capabilities, while the remaining 200 trillion won was set for force management.
“When we talk about South Korea’s missile defense system, it usually refers to one targeting North Korea’s Scud-type or stronger missiles, whereas this new interceptor system will focus on protecting the capital area against the North’s long-range artillery such as its 240-mm or 300-mm multiple rocket launchers,” a ministry official said.
The actual deployment of the Korean version of Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system is expected to be put into force in the late 2020s or early 2030s, officials said.
South Korea will also begin developing long-range air-to-surface and air-to-ship guided missiles to be loaded on the indigenous fighter jets.
When the production of the fighter jet is complete, South Korea will become the 13th country in the world to own a homegrown combat plane, the ministry said.
South Korea launched the 8.8 trillion-won KF-X project in 2016 to develop the homegrown fighter by 2026 to replace the country’s aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 aircraft.
Last week, the arms procurement agency said it has produced a prototype of an advanced radar system, a key part of the envisioned jet.
For the Navy, the ministry said the country will begin building 3,600-ton and 4,000-ton submarines during the period.
A ministry official said the government plans to load submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on the new submarines, adding that whether they will be nuclear-powered has yet to be decided.
Following the recent revision in the country’s missile guidelines, South Korea will also push to develop a space rocket to launch small-sized satellites.
Last month, South Korea announced that it has become able to develop solid-propellant space rockets under the new missile guidelines with the United States, saying the deal is expected to help sharply improve the military’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
South Korea plans to put military surveillance satellites and unmanned reconnaissance planes into operation by 2025. It will also begin developing ultra-small satellites during the period to realize near real-time monitoring of the Korean Peninsula.
“The ministry will continue to cooperate with the monetary authorities to successfully push for the 2021-2025 defense plan,” it said in a release.
By Andrew Jeong
By Lieutenant Colonel James F. Durand, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
At 06:10 on September 27, 1950, Republic of Korea (ROK) Marines raised the flag in front of the Seoul Capitol. Three months earlier, the ROK Marine Corps faced skepticism from the other services and doubt within its own ranks. Created without American advisors or equipment, the nascent ROK Marine Corps was a product of the determined efforts of its founder and first Commandant, Colonel Shin, Hyun-joon. The Marines’ superb performance in the early battles of the Korean War is a testament to his leadership.
In the wake of the failed amphibious assault at Yosu, Rear Admiral Son, Won-il tasked Shin with forming a ground combat unit within the ROK Navy. Shin had participated in the October 1948 military in which four navy cutters attempted to land ROK Army Soldiers to suppress the rebels who occupied the port city. After the operation, Shin submitted a combat report arguing for the creation of a specialized unit within the Navy responsible for amphibious operations. Admiral Son assigned Shin to lead the new unit on February 1, 1949.
Shin found few takers as he sought officers and noncommissioned officers for the new unit. Those with knowledge of the Imperial Japanese Navy knew ground combat units as backwater assignments relegated to garrison defense duties by war’s end. Kim, Seung-un rebuffed Shin’s first two requests to transfer to the unit before accepting an offer to serve as chief of staff. Navy commanders withheld sending their model sailors in response for a call for noncommissioned officers, instead sending “those who were brave with a strong sense of justice, but occasionally caused some trouble in their units.” Despite these challenges, Shin assembled 80 officers and noncommissioned officers to lead the new unit. Three hundred sailors from the Navy’s 13th Recruit Class began training as the 1st Marine Corps Class.
On April 15, 1949, the ROK Marine Corps was activated in a simple ceremony at the Deoksan Air Base in Chinhae. The Marines assembled before the dignitaries were a humble lot, wearing an assortment of discarded uniforms and helmets; Japanese leggings were worn over oversize American boots. Those issued weapons carried Arisaka Type-99 rifles; others carried wooden drill rifles.
A veteran of fighting in Manchuria, Colonel Shin was accustomed to material deficiencies. He demanded tough, physical training. Noncommissioned officers drilled the new Marines on Deoksan’s cement landing strip and marched them up the 1,800-foot Chonja Peak so often that the mountain quickly became a symbol of the new Corps.
In late August, the ROK Army Chief of Staff requested that Colonel Shin send Marines to Jinju to protect the town from guerillas who had operated in the nearby mountains since the Yosu rebellion. In exchange for dispatching a battalion-sized unit to Jinju, the Army agreed to leave its equipment to the Marines. Over the next four months, Marine patrols restored security to the region.
On December 28, Colonel Shin and 1,200 Marines landed at Jeju City where a protracted insurgency had shattered the peace of the tranquil island. The Marines were as aggressive in earning the trust of the people as they were ferreting out remaining guerillas, assisting farmers with spring planting, and arranging free medical care. Colonel Shin worked to establish the Corps’ ethos, establishing an NCO Training Unit to instill a fighting spirit in the new Marines. He pressed Navy Headquarters for more Marines and equipment.
Despite success in early operations, Navy Headquarters refused to expand the Corps. This led to a sense of despair among the Marines. On June 23, the Corps’ senior officers resigned en masse. Two days later, North Korean Army units attacked south to start the Korean War.
The Korean War transformed the Marine Corps. Resignations were withdrawn as the Marines prepared for war. Colonel Shin’s efforts to restore trust among the people of Jeju were reflected in over 3,000 islanders joining the Marine Corps; the 126 women who served would be the only women to earn the title “Marine” for nearly half a century. A battalion-sized unit landed at Kunsan on July 16. They fought the North Korean People’s Army’s 13th Regiment for four days, delaying the attack south. Marines under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Kim, Seung-un earned the war’s first unit-wide promotion for their actions at Chindong-ni, and received international acclaim as the “Ghost-Catching Marines” following their amphibious landing at Tongyoung.
On September 3, the U.S. Far East Command approved the attachment of the ROK Marine Corps — organized into three infantry battalions, a reconnaissance company, and a headquarters element — to the 1st Marine Division. Initially assigned as the landing force reserve, the ROK Marines were tasked with clearing Incheon and the Kimpo Peninsula following the Incheon landing. ROKMC battalions were attached to the 1st and 5th Marine Regiments as they began their final assault on Seoul.
Colonel Shin invited Major General O.P. Smith, Commanding General of the U.S. 1st Marine Division, to review the Korean Marines following the liberation of the capital. The battle-tested Marines who paraded before the division commander were a sharp contrast to those assembled 18 months earlier. All wore complete uniforms, packs, and web equipment; their rifles, machine guns, and mortars were “spotless.” Writing in his log, the veteran of fierce fighting on Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and Okinawa noted, “These Korean Marines were quite remarkable.”
After leading the ROK Marines in the defense of Wonsan, Colonel Shin turned over command of the newly established 1st ROK Marine Regiment and focused on training and equipping the rapidly expanding Corps. As Commandant, General Shin forged a relationship with the United States Marine Corps and instituted training and education practices modeled on the American system. The relationship between the two Corps would continue throughout the Korean War and Armistice, including deployments to Vietnam and Iraq. General Shin served as commandant throughout the war, remained in uniform until 1961, and served two assignments as an ambassador. He holds the distinction of being South Korea’s longest serving general officer and longest serving ambassador.
About The Author:
Lieutenant Colonel Durand is a graduate of the 31st Marine Corps Course at the ROK Naval War College. He has worked with General Shin’s children to translate their father’s autobiography, “Memoirs of an Old Marine.” His article, General Shin Hyun-joon, “Father of the Marine Corps,” is available at http://icks.org/n/data/ijks/2017FW-6.pdf.
See this and other stories of our Veterans in KDVA’s “I Know a Korean War Veteran Campaign” webpage at https://kdva.vet/i-know-a-korean-war-veteran-campaign/.
By Fred Lash, from an interview with George V. Lampman
In June of 1950, Sergeant George V. Lampman, USMC was a member of the Marine Security Guard (MSG) Detachment at the newly established U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea. The detachment numbered 20 Marines in all.
George was at the U.S. Embassy when, on June 25, 1950, North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea.
Backtracking a bit, these 20 Marines who would eventually serve in the first MSG detachment at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea were selected from approximately 70 Marines, mostly veterans of World War II.
They reported to Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia on November 10, 1948 and were trained for several weeks by State Department security officers in Washington, DC, then taken to a local clothing store to be fitted for civilian clothes (suits, overcoats, hats, shirts, etc.).
George should know—he is the only living member of that 20-Marine MSG detachment. The reason they had to be outfitted with civilian attire is that they would not be able to wear Marine Corps uniforms where they would be going. They were also ordered not to tell anyone where they were to be assigned.
The 20 Marines arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on January 9, 1949. It is interesting to note that they arrived in Korea without uniforms, military identification cards, or dog tags. On November 10th of that same year, the detachment held its first Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Seoul, with more than 300 guests.
Next came routine security duties and time passed rather quickly—until Sunday, June 25, 1950, when at 8:45 a.m., the MSG learned that North Korean forces had crossed the 38th Parallel at approximately 4:00 a.m.
The following is an account by CWO George V. Lampman, USMC (Retired) of the actions and events that occurred on the 25th, 26th, and 27th of June 1950.
On Sunday, June 25th, I was the Embassy Security Officer and had the midnight to 8:00 a.m. watch. About 4:30 a.m., I started getting telephone calls from various people asking me what was going on in the north and what had I heard. Even newspaper reporters were asking the same questions and I just told them that I did not know anything. I and other two Marines who were on watch with me went back to our quarters. However, we were not there long when our “room boy” came into our room, woke us up, and told me that I was wanted on the phone right away. I went down to the phone and spoke with Paul Dupre who relieved me and said, “George, get all the guys, bring any weapons you have, and get down here right away. We are sending a Jeep to pick you up.” As we were driving down a main street and some aircraft were flying extremely low over us. Gus said, “Look at those damn P-51s and how close to us they are flying. It’s very dangerous.” We had recently heard that the first class of the Korean Air Force had graduated from flight school, and we thought these new pilots were just showing off. As we continued down the street, it became clear that these planes were not our P-51s but instead were Russian Yaks, flown by North Korean pilots. We found out later that the Yak has the same silhouette as American P-51s. The Yak started strafing us, and we had to do a lot of dodging and stopping quite often to get protection behind the stone pillars of government buildings.
Finally, we made it to the Embassy and our NCOIC (noncommissioned officer in charge) told us there were pre-prepared evacuation orders that we had never heard about. At that point, we learned that we were among the lead people in these evacuation orders. However, the orders were up-to-date and extremely precise, telling us exactly where to go, what to do, and when to do it.
After we received our instructions and knew what we had to do, we drove to all the quarters in the city occupied by embassy staff personnel, advising them of the evacuation plans. The evacuation went quite smoothly, considering the circumstances. The personnel were all driven in busses to the port of Incheon, southwest of Seoul where there was a fertilizer ship on which everyone boarded. The Seventh Fleet escorted this ship to Japan.
After they were all evacuated, we still had work to do. The Ambassador directed us to destroy all the communications equipment in the embassy. All we did was to go from floor to floor, grabbing all the telephones and throwing them out of windows. Now, it was Monday and we began wondering just how remaining personnel would be evacuated.
The embassy had inherited all the 24th Corps’ vehicles, and they were in our embassy motor pool. We took a couple of M-1 rifles, a couple cases of armor piercing ammunition, and destroyed perhaps two hundred jeeps and other vehicles. We devised a system to make this operation go more smoothly. One guy would open the hood and another guy would then fire two or three rounds into the flywheel. That way, the North Koreans would not be able to cannibalize them. We did all of that in about three to four hours.
We then continued to destroy classified and sensitive material. The Army Attaché’s office had tons of training manuals marked “Restricted,” and all that fell into the category of burning. There was so much burning of various documents that the furnaces became overloaded, and we needed to erect a burning bin in the parking area made from chain link fencing. With the use of lots of gasoline, we were able to get everything destroyed.
After that, I was given the task of getting the two code machines to the sidewalk in front of the embassy. We got everyone back to safety, hooked up the code machines to Jeep batteries, and then put an electrical charge into them. Within about 10 to 15 minutes, we had two football-size lumps of molten metal.
After finishing with the code machines, we drove to the airfield at Kimpo. There were very few transport aircraft available for the evacuation since General MacArthur was using them to bring in the 24th Division. Task Force Smith was at Osan, with a reinforced company of the 24th.
The last planes for evacuating embassy personnel and U.S. citizens had supposedly landed while we were still shaking the bushes to locate ambassadors of other countries who we could evacuate. We found most of them; however, there were so many people they overloaded the planes.
After what we were led to believe was the last plane had departed, four or five of us got ready to drive our Jeeps to anywhere south of Seoul. Just as we were departing Kimpo, someone let us know that there was to be one more plane coming in. It was a C-54 that was being flown to Suwon from Inosuke in Japan. When the pilot reached Suwon, he was informed that there were more people at Kimpo to evacuate, including several Marines, so he headed there. Meanwhile, while we waited for this plane to land, more people arrived and wanted to board the plane. The crew chief said the plane was grossly overloaded; however, everyone got aboard. I never knew how many people a C-54 was supposed to carry, but there were approximately 110 aboard.
As we were taxiing down the runway, I heard the pilot tell the crew chief, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to get this SOB off the ground, so we better open the doors and throw anything out that’s not nailed down.” The Marines assisted in tossing lots of stuff out the doors—life rafts, weapons, cargo boxes—and we were just barely able to lift off.
I was responsible for the Great Seal of the United States that was used at the embassy for passports. Because of International Law, the Great Seal of the U.S. was not to go into another country. My instructions from the embassy security officer were to throw the seal out the window of the aircraft after we were over the Straits of Tsushima. I got the crew chief to open the navigator’s window, and I threw it out of the plane.
We landed at Inosuke, Japan, where the Air Force wives had set up a nice reception for us with refreshments. A few days later, 19 of us (MSG detachment) were assigned to different posts at embassies throughout the Pacific area. Later, after we retook Seoul in September, six of us would be recalled to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. We would be together again until the Chinese Communists invaded South Korea later that same year—but that’s a different story.
About The Author:
Fred Lash works with Military Historical Tours Inc. They are the finest, custom-designed tour program for Veterans, Family Members, Historians, Educators or Students. For 30 years they have followed the vision of providing opportunities to visit battlefields of past conflicts.
See this and other stories of our Veterans in KDVA’s “I Know a Korean War Veteran Campaign” webpage at https://kdva.vet/i-know-a-korean-war-veteran-campaign/.
By: Mr. Ned Forney, U.S. Marine Corps veteran, career educator, and grandson of a Korean War veteran
“When I became a citizen, it was one of the happiest days in my life . . . [the U.S.] is the best country in the world, and I’m part of it.” – Tibor Rubin
He survived more than a year in a Nazi concentration camp, was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Korea, endured thirty 30 months as a Chinese POW, and upon his release, became a U.S. citizen.
The Korean War
Arriving in America in 1948 after surviving the horrors of 14 months at Mauthausen concentration camp, Tibor “Ted” Rubin worked odd jobs, made friends, and repeatedly tried to enlist in the U.S. Army. But his English wasn’t good enough.
In 1950, however, he got his lucky break. With a little “unofficial” help from a few American buddies, he passed the English language test, was admitted into the Army, and was soon on his way to Korea.
As a member of I Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division, PFC Rubin fell under the wrath of his company First Sergeant, a man described by fellow Soldiers as an “extreme anti-Semite.” The ruthless Staff NCO, who made no qualms about verbally assaulting the 21-year-old PFC and giving him the company’s worst jobs, frequently “volunteered” him for dangerous and seemingly impossible missions.
“He would send me to the most difficult positions so that I would be killed,” Rubin recalled. “It scared the hell out of me. I couldn’t even hold my rifle, but I still went.”
They Looked Like Ants
On July 23, 1950, Rubin’s sadistic First Sergeant sent him on what many would later say was a suicide mission. With his company in retreat, Rubin, now a corporal, was ordered to stay behind and defend a vital hilltop. Alone and without support from other units, Rubin was hit by an overwhelming North Korean force.
“There were so many, they looked like ants,” Rubin recalled in an MOH (Medal of Honor) video. “I didn’t have too much time to get scared, so I went crazy. I was like a machine, a robot. I ran around to every foxhole on the hill and started throwing hand grenades and shooting my rifle to make as much noise as possible so the North Koreans would think they were fighting more than one person.”
According to his Medal of Honor citation, “He inflicted a staggering number of casualties on the attacking force during his personal 24-hour battle, single-handedly slowing the enemy advance and allowing the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal.”
But his First Sgt. was not impressed. Despite the fact that Rubin had been recommended for the Medal of Honor, the enraged Staff NCO refused to submit the paperwork and would repeatedly “misplace” every recommendation (Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and Silver Star) that Rubin was nominated for.
Nightmare at Death Valley
By October 1950, with the North Koreans retreating and the Americans advancing deep into enemy territory, the war appeared to be all but over. The Chinese, however, had other ideas.
Sneaking across the North Korean border during October and November, tens of thousands of Chinese unleashed a massive offensive against U.S. forces in North Korea. In what became known as the Battle of Unsan, two Chinese divisions attacked the 8th Cavalry Regiment.
Outnumbered and outgunned, Rubin and hundreds of American soldiers were surrounded, taken prisoner, and marched for weeks to the camp they would forever call “Death Valley.”
Over the next 30 months, Rubin and his fellow prisoners endured the barbaric conditions of the remote camp located in the remote mountains of North Korea. Suffering from extreme cold, deprivation, and physical and mental torture, men starved to death, succumbed to disease and exposure, and simply lost the will to live.
Rubin, however, never lost hope. He became a beacon of optimism and strength for all the men in the camp. Frequently risking his life to steal food and medicine, the seemingly fearless corporal raised the morale of the prisoners and saved the lives of 40 men.
“He’d go out of his way . . . to help us survive,” fellow inmate Leo Cormier said. “He saved a lot of GI’s lives. He gave [us] courage to go on living when a lot of guys didn’t make it. He saved my life when I could have laid in a ditch and died — I was nothing but flesh and bones.”
James Bourgeois remembers Rubin boiling snow and using the steaming water to clean his wounds and bandages. “At one time my wounds got so infected he put maggots in them to prevent gangrene from setting in. [He] not only saved my left arm — which I have full use of today — but also my life.”
Rubin’s nightmare of Chinese captivity came to an end in 1953 when the 23-year-old corporal and countless other emaciated, sick, and wounded Americans were repatriated during “Operation Little Switch,” an exchange of prisoners from April 20 to May 3, 1953.
His release and reunion with his family back home, however, was bittersweet. Recalling his buddies that perished, he told Soldiers Magazine, “Some of them gave up, and some of them prayed to be taken.”
When asked years later about his feelings toward those who had imprisoned him during the Holocaust and Korean War, he replied, “I don’t hate nobody because life is so short. If you feel hate for your fellow man, you’ll only hurt yourself.”
To read the full story of Tibor Rubin’s life and how he became the only Holocaust survivor to be awarded the Medal of Honor, visit: http://nedforney.com/index.php/2020/06/22/tibor-rubin-holocaust-korean-war-pow-medal-of-honor/
About The Author:
Ned Forney is a Marine veteran, career educator, and grandson of the late Colonel Edward H. Forney, USMC, the evacuation control officer at Hungnam in December 1950. He is currently working on a non-fiction book about the Battle of Chosin (Changjin) Reservoir and Hungnam Evacuation, the largest U.S. military amphibious evacuation of civilians, under combat conditions, in American history.
See this and other stories of our Veterans in KDVA’s “I Know a Korean War Veteran Campaign” webpage at https://kdva.vet/i-know-a-korean-war-veteran-campaign/.
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL/WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) — North Korea continues to push aggressively to develop long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S. homeland through a “very deliberate testing program” for systems improvement, a senior Pentagon official has said.
Victorino G. Mercado, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, made the remarks during the 2020 Space and Missile Defense Symposium held online on Tuesday (Washington time), according to the transcript posted on the Pentagon website on Thursday.
“North Korea has worked aggressively to develop nuclear-capable long-range ballistic missiles able to threaten the homeland, allies and partners,” Mercado said. “Despite our ongoing diplomatic efforts, North Korea continues to expand its ballistic missile capabilities and conduct test launches despite international restrictions.”
The official noted that while many often highlight its failed launches, the regime “has a very deliberate testing program where they push their technological limits, learn from failures and demonstrate continual improvement.”
As denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea have made little progress since the no-deal summit in Hanoi last year, Pyongyang has been focusing on its missile and other conventional weapons such as multiple rocket launchers, though it has refrained from test-firing long-range missiles since 2017.
North Korea is believed to have several types of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), including the Hwasong-15 that is capable of striking any part of the U.S. mainland, according to data by the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).
“U.S. missile defenses strengthen the leverage of our diplomats at the negotiating table, such as talks with North Korea on denuclearization, by demonstrating our ability to counter its threats of nuclear attack,” the assistant secretary said, adding that its missile defense system also serves as “insurance” against the possible failure of deterrence and diplomacy.
North Korea is believed to have secured a considerable level of technology to miniaturize a nuclear warhead for ballistic missiles, according to South Korea’s defense ministry. The U.N. also reportedly said in a recent classified paper that Pyongyang has probably developed miniaturized nuclear devices to fit into its ballistic missile warheads.
Late last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that the country’s security and future will be guaranteed forever “thanks to our reliable and effective self-defense nuclear deterrence.”
The United Nations published a report for the first time that North Korea might have completed the development of nuclear weapons miniaturized enough to be mounted on ballistic missiles.
Reuters reported that an independent panel of experts monitoring U.N. sanctions against North Korea submitted the interim report to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee on Monday (local time). According to the report, multiple unidentified countries said North Korea’s past six nuclear tests had likely helped it develop miniaturized nuclear devices.
“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is continuing its nuclear program, including the production of highly enriched uranium and construction of an experimental light water reactor. A Member State assessed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is continuing production of nuclear weapons,” the report said. It added that North Korea “may seek to further develop miniaturization in order to allow incorporation of technological improvements such as penetration aid packages or, potentially, to develop multiple-warhead systems.”
If indeed North Korea has succeeded the miniaturization of nuclear weapons, the country would be considered to have overcome major hurdles in the development of nuclear weapon systems as it could launch long-range missiles targeting the U.S., etc.
“North Korea’s miniaturization capabilities of nuclear weapons seem to have reached a significant level,” Moon Hong-sik, the deputy spokesperson of the Ministry of National Defense, said on the report during a regular briefing on Tuesday. “However, the South Korean government does not recognize the North as a nuclear state.”
Kyu-Jin Shin firstname.lastname@example.org
SEOUL, South Korea — The influx of American troops testing positive for the coronavirus after flying to South Korea and other U.S. bases highlights the dangers of air travel during the pandemic.
Nearly 82% of the 133 confirmed cases affiliated with U.S. Forces Korea have been service members or dependents moving to the peninsula for new assignments or returning from a trip abroad.
The overall USFK number is relatively low considering the Pentagon has reported that more than 27,000 troops globally have contracted the virus since the outbreak began earlier this year.
Still, the fact that all but 24 patients had traveled to the divided peninsula — mainly from the U.S. — warrants a look at the risks of flying and the best ways to mitigate them.
Airlines have measures in place to reduce the risk of in-flight germ transmission, including filtration systems that remove most airborne particles and a rapid turnover of air in the cabin.
Many also have implemented new coronavirus-specific rules including mandatory masks, limited interaction with flight attendants and reduced capacity.
“So far there’s no evidence that anybody definitely got it from the airplane,” said Qingyan Chen, an engineering professor at Purdue University who has researched disease transmission aboard aircraft.
Nor has it been ruled out since much remains to be studied about the virus, which first appeared in China late last year and has proven highly contagious.
“I don’t think there’s any virus in the air conditioning system supplied into the cabin,” Chen said in a recent telephone interview.
“But the infection doesn’t occur because of the air conditioning system. The infection occurs when your neighboring passenger coughs, talks or breathes,” he added.
Travelers also may be exposed to the virus during other parts of the transportation process starting with their ride to the airport.
“The whole United States now has rampant community transmissions,” said Paloma Beamer, president of the International Society of Exposure Science. “It could be in their communities before leaving. It could be on the flight. It could be at the airport.”
With little control over most aspects of travel, the best way for people to minimize the risk is to protect their personal space as much as possible, she said in a recent telephone interview.
Beamer, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Arizona, recommends multiple, shorter flights to decrease the need to use the lavatory and to lessen time spent on the same flight as somebody who may be infected.
“Duration is really important because the longer you’re breathing the air, the larger viral dose you would get,” she said.
• Avoid crowded lines for security and maintain distance from other people while waiting for the flight and boarding.
• Use plastic bags for tickets and passports that often need to change hands.
• Choose a window seat to minimize the number of people nearby.
• Bring sanitizing hand wipes to clean unavoidable surfaces such as seats, armrests and trays.
• Turn the ventilation above the seat to the highest level you can tolerate.
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees that the risk of in-flight transmission is low but has recommended that Americans avoid all international travel during the pandemic.
“Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes,” the CDC says.
“However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights,” according to the agency. “This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.”
The Defense Department halted military moves in March but recently lifted restrictions for many locations, including South Korea, that have had success in slowing the virus’ spread.
Anticipating a surge of newcomers during the summer, USFK implemented a two-week quarantine process that begins the moment passengers get off the plane. Everybody is tested at least twice — upon arrival and before being allowed to leave quarantine.
Many service members travel on a government-chartered flight known as the Patriot Express, which originates in Seattle. Others take commercial flights.
USFK spokesman Col. Lee Peters said Monday that 23% of the new arrivals had negative results on the arrival test but positive on the second one required to exit quarantine.
The estimated median incubation period for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is five days.
“We don’t know where the people are catching COVID-19,” Peters said. “All we know is that we control our bubble, and when they come to South Korea we immediately take control of them.”
“They don’t have interaction with anyone on USFK installations or the local community,” he added.
The U.S. Transportation Command, which oversees the Patriot Express, said passengers and crew members undergo medical screenings and temperature checks prior to flight.
“We continue to evaluate these cases and are not aware of any confirmed transmissions of COVID-19 in-flight,” a spokesperson told Stars and Stripes in an email.
The directive to wear face coverings during the flights and inside air terminals applies to all military personnel, family members, contractors and civilian employees.
“Data from multiple sources indicate the risk of viral transmission in this environment is low,” the spokesperson said in response to questions.
Aircraft also are equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filtration systems and a rapid turnover of air in the cabin.
“The system does not kill the virus but filters it out of the airstream,” the Transportation Command said.
By Lee Haye-ah
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) — The U.S. State Department has named a new envoy for defense cost-sharing negotiations with South Korea and other nations, a department spokesperson said Monday.
Donna Welton, who recently served as assistant chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, will succeed Jim DeHart, who was appointed last week as the U.S. coordinator for the Arctic region.
“As Mr. DeHart’s successor, Ms. Welton will pick up where Jim left off in regards to the ROK Special Measures Agreement, the Japan Host Nation Support Agreement, and all other defense cooperation and burden sharing negotiations we conduct worldwide,” the spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.
Defense cost-sharing negotiations between Seoul and Washington have been deadlocked for months amid U.S. demands for a significant increase in South Korea’s contribution to the cost of stationing 28,500 American troops on the peninsula.
Under the previous one-year agreement, which lapsed at the end of December, South Korea agreed to pay US$870 million.
This year the U.S. is known to be requesting $1.3 billion a year, a 50 percent increase on last year, while South Korea maintains it can only increase its payment by 13 percent.
Japanese media reported Welton’s appointment earlier, saying she will lead negotiations for the two countries’ defense cost-sharing agreement, which is due for renewal in March.
Welton is known as an expert on Japan with a fluent command of Japanese. She previously served in Tokyo, Nagoya and Sapporo, Japan, and also worked as a curator of Japanese art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
As a diplomat, Welton has over 25 years of experience and has worked in countries including Finland and Indonesia and at the U.S. mission to the United Nations.
She has studied Korean, Indonesian and German, among other languages.
The personnel shift comes amid renewed speculation the U.S. may pull troops from South Korea if the defense cost-sharing negotiations continue to stall.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Pentagon presented the White House with options to reduce troops in South Korea in March.
“President (Donald) Trump has already rejected a tentative agreement once, so it’s unclear how much discretionary power a new negotiator will have,” a diplomatic source said, referring to an earlier near-deal to increase Seoul’s contribution by 13 percent.