My Journey: South Korea to the United States

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Wooyoung Jang
  • 60th Comptroller Squadron

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – I was born in Seoul, Republic of Korea, and I lived there until I graduated from college. I also served in the South Korean army as an assistant operations officer for two years to fulfill my duty to my people. I was responsible for disseminating command level information to subordinate units.

In South Korea, males 18 and older must serve in the military. This is mostly due to South and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea being technically at war since 1950, despite recently signing a new peace agreement.

My time serving in the South Korean army was challenging. We were paid $300 a month and were only able to leave base during our two weeks of vacation each year.

When I finished college, I came to the United States to find a job and, hopefully, a better a life. Fortunately, I found a company that sponsored a work visa for me and I worked as a market analyst. After work, I studied every day and eventually acquired a certification with the Internal Revenue Service. This enabled me to work as an accountant and I later got a green card. Despite some successes, I struggled to make ends meet and wanted a better life.

I decided to join the U.S. Air Force and I was overjoyed to learn how the U.S. military accepts all people. The U.S. Armed Forces has standardized regulations that all must follow, but they acknowledge and respect each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing this helps service members achieve their maximum potential. In basic training, I found people from different countries, a variety of backgrounds and different ethnicities. We were all accepted to serve something greater than ourselves.

Upon graduation from basic training, I became a U.S. citizen and later graduated from the Financial Management and Comptroller Apprentice course at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, with academic excellence honors. Today, I work as a travel pay technician at Travis AFB, California, and I love my job. It allows me to repay the U.S. for everything that has been given to me. 

I have had a challenging life, and I’ve worked hard to become a U.S. citizen and an Airman. Since joining the Air Force, I’ve often heard people say thank you for serving. These kind words encourage me to succeed not just in my mission, but my life. As a member of the world’s greatest Air Force, I am serving to defend my country and answer the nation’s call by being faithful in my role.