Peace Corps Korea Reflections

Peace  Corps Korea Reflections

This is a shout-out to all the Americans who answered the call to serve in the Peace Corps.  As some of you know I served in Gapyeong, Korea from 1979 to 1981, working as a tuberculous control worker in a rural health center.  Serving in the Peace Corps changed my life in so many ways.  It led to a life-long fascination with South Korea, including becoming reasonably fluent in the language, meeting and marrying my wife whom I met after my service ended, and a MA degree in Korean studies from the University of Washington in 1986.  It also led me to join the Foreign Service and serve in the Embassy from 1991 to 1993 and serving on the Korea desk from 1994 to 1996.

Before joining the State Department, I taught ESL for the US Army, for the Korean Consolidated Administration school, and later at Kyunghee University for three years and Government and Asian Studies for the University of Maryland in Korea. I lived in Korea from 1979 to 1984, 1988 to 1991, and from 1991 to 1993, and have resided there as a retiree from 2016 to 2018, and from 2019 to now, residing in Yong Jong International City, near the Incheon Airport, and now in Gimpo City.

Along the way, Korea changed so much and is not the country I first learned to love back in 1979.  Here are a few of my poetic reflections.

Korean Poems

Korea travels

I first came to Korea in 1979 in the Peace Corps
Stayed in the rural countryside
Where I was one of four non-Koreans
Had to speak Korean to survive

Stayed on in a variety of jobs
Including diplomatic service
I last lived there in 1993.

Non-Korean food was hard to get
Outside of the GI ghettos
English speakers were few
And the country was not foreign-friendly

There were few foreign residents
Most American service members
Some missionary types
Diplomatic corps

A few English teachers
A few ex-pat business people

Most women quit after marriage
As it was a male-dominated society

In the rural countryside
No one knew a woman’s name

They were referred
to as so and so “mom”
Or so and so wife,

Or the generic aunt,
or grandmother

Public transit was just getting going
But traffic was not too bad
Few people could afford cars

Back then the old Korea was still there
And it was a very different place and time
Going through the transition
to the country, it has become

Today’s Korea is a very different place
The rural countryside is deserted
Wilderness areas are coming back
Even wildlife is coming back
In the mountain outback regions

50 percent of the public
Live in the Seoul metro area
Including Kyeongi province
And Incheon city where I reside.

Public transit is among the best
In the world.

Internet fast and cheap
Everywhere connected
Highways are decent but overcrowded

The KTX train is fast and convenient
The Incheon airport one of the best
The choices for food are much better

Used to be it was almost impossible
To find non-Korean food
Outside the GI ghetto towns.

Now it is everywhere
Even saw a Mexican restaurant
In a suburban Busan neighborhood.

In the end
Koreans should be proud
Of all that they have accomplished.

I remain optimistic
That someday the two Koreans
Will become one again

And that they will continue
To advance and grow

But the essence of Korea will remain

Waiting for Korean Springtime

poet in springtime
poet in springtime











The world peace forest
Stretches five miles
Through a delightful forest
Including a nice lotus pound

A winter watering hole for birds
And a small mountain

I welcome the advent of spring
The cherry trees snowing
The Tulips and roses blooming

After a cold sometimes hard winter
Especially during the COVID pandemic
Which kept so many people
Trapped indoors

As I walk the path
With the love of my life
By my side

Enjoying another springtime
Filled with love and affection
That is why I love Korean springtime.

Life in a Korean village

I am living in a Korean village as an exchange student.  One day my host family asks me to go to the local health center to tell them to change the father’s medicine, and give me a note, the old medicine, and instructions.  I am a little apprehensive, but they told me that was fine since the dragon who controlled the village had approved the request already.  I smiled I had met the dragon who seemed to like me which made things in the village go much better.  The daughter is cute.

First Trip to Korea

When I first went to Korea
Almost 45 years ago
It was a very alien place.
An overwhelming experience,

I entered a hot, humid, sauna.
The smells were intense
The food was spicy
filled with passionate heat.

discordant sounds
filled the air.

the language sounded
like everyone was screaming.
Taxis honking, cars barking.

People screeching
Loudspeakers blaring
Sirens blasted the air.

Millions of strange people
Military police everywhere
With guns watching everyone.

I felt I was a stranger
in a strange land
Everyone speaking
A weird language

I did not understand anything.
Over time I got used to it
The smells became normal

The food was now delicious.
The sounds are less chaotic
Less cacophonous
Less discordant

I even eventually learned
How to speak the weird language.
I fell in love with this strange place
Which became my second home

And now I live there half the time
And half the time in the United States

Neither here nor there
Am I here
But I remain a true stranger
In a still strange land.

Buddha Prayer Stones

In Korea mountains
There is a custom
Of putting rocks
On top of other rocks

Building little towers
Of rocks
along the mountain path
An ancient shaman tradition
Taken over the Buddhist temples

The rocks piles were dedicated
To the Sanshin mountain spirits

And would grant wishes
To those who added
Rock to the cosmic tribute

Sanshin would honor
Those prayers and wishes

Winter roses

Red, black and yellow
In a field of late snow
Early March

End of winter
Beneath the early blooming
cherry trees
their petals joining the snow
along the world peace forest.

Visiting Jade Garden


Jade garden 7
jade garden 7







jake garden 8
jade garden 8 jpg







jade garden 6
jade garden 6








Near Chungcheong, South Korea

On a beautiful spring day
The cherry trees were in full flower

Pink and white petals
The scent
of cherry trees in the air

Other trees just starting to bloom
Red, yellow and white tulips
Beginning to bloom

The sounds of spring all around
Birds singing
People walking about.

Talking to one another
As they wander the pathway
Taking in the springtime splendor.

The sun warming up
The pathway winding
Through the Forrest.

Meeting the Girl of My Dreams in Korea

April 3

The Peace Corps changed my life
Not in the obvious ways
That it did

I learned a new language
A new culture
Met many different people
Did some constructive
development work

And contributed to friendship
Between Koreans and the US

All the usual things that Peace Corps
Is supposed to accomplish

But the Peace Corps changed me
And I became the man I am now

Because of those two years
I spend in the countryside
Of South Korea

I went to graduate school
I became a diplomat

But most importantly
If I had not gone
to the Korean peace corps program
I never would have
met the girl of my dreams
The women I was fated to meet

I first met Angela in 1974
When I was in high school

And fell asleep in a class
And had the dream that haunted me
To this day

In the dream
I met a beautiful Asian women
Who was speaking to me
In a weird language

And then she disappeared
Like in Start treck

And I fell on the floor

You are you?”

I continued to have these visions
Every month for seven years

I eventually learned that she was in Korea
And so, I joined the Peace Corps
to go to Korea to find her

After I finished Peace Corps
I stuck around for another year

Thinking I would find her
But never did

Just when I was due to return to the US
To go to Graduate school
I had the final dream

In this dream
She said in Korean
Don’t worry you will meet me soon

That night getting off the bus
In front of me
Was the girl in the dream

I looked at her
And I knew she was it

And she looked at me
And knew I was it

We met up for coffee
And we dated

I proposed to her three days
after I met her

And then we married
Two months later

Despite her family’s attempts
To keep us apart

And we have been married 40 years
And I fall in love with her
Over and over again

And I still have the dream
When I am alone
Or when I am stressed out

I see her standing by the bed
Smiling at me

Everything will be alright
And it is

and so thinking back on my life
My life changed forever

When I left the US
To join the Peace Corps

Long Live the Peace Corps

this is a true story of the love of my life.  I met her in 1982 when I was teaching in Korea after having finished my Peace Corps service in 1981.  We got married two months after we met and have been married 33 years.  I still recall the dreams of how I would met her from time to time.

I always thought this would make a great love story movie.

© 7 years ago, john Cosmos Aller    love • spiritual • • wedding • reincarnation   

Spring Time Sketch in Youngjongdo, Korea







In the early morning dawn
I like to go for a walk
Down among the cherry trees
And flowering plants

Just to welcome
Another fine spring day
As the sun comes up
Dispelling my dismal mood

And filling me
With love
Hope and peace
As I walk the in
the world peace forest

Through the forest
and over the mountain
breathing the springtime air
alive filled with life

and I think to myself
this moment
is the moment
that I am meant to experience

life itself
and nothing more
nothing less
Just breath in life

based on a photo of cherry trees along the world peace forest near my house in Youngjongdo, Korea, and based on the April 21 writers digest poetry prompt to write a poetic sketch

Hiking In Korea

Korea is a land
filled with mountain paths
everywhere you go

there are paths
leading deep
into the mountains

one of my favorite paths
is the world peace forrest
which meanders around
my town

linking a lake, a lotus pound
and a nice mountain peak
and on the top
on a clear day

you can see North Korean
in the distance
and the Incheon airport
near by

Korean Pottery of Love

In Korea

there are many pottery kilns
ancient art form
in the land of the morning calm

I have a few pieces
I bought years ago

and enjoy looking
at my vase

filled with love
for my wife

Korean Springtime

Korean Springtime
I walk the path with my love
Still Under her spell

this is the 40th springtime I have enjoyed with the love of my life by my side © a year ago, john Cosmos Aller

one of my favorite places to hike in Korea © 2 years ago, john Cosmos Aller      

American Coffee Takes Over Korea







About 30 years ago,
American-style coffee chains
Discovered Korea.
After the 88 Olympics,
Koreans discovered the joy
Of real brewed coffee,
Hot, Sweet, Neat
The rest is history.

I love coffee and was so glad that you could finally get a decent coffee in Korea, prior to the Olympics coffee shops were called tabangs which were where men mostly would hang out drinking instant coffee or Korean tea, and flirting with the cute waitresses.
© a year ago, john Cosmos Aller

hot humid weather in Korea,

hot humid weather in Korea,
outside like walking in a sauna.

Most people don’t use air conditioning
due to both expenses,
fear of air conditioning disease
(Which is a real thing).

hanging out at a coffee shop or mall
discouraged as COVID continues to spread.
Only two people can dine out at night

over 2, 00 cases a day now
only 20 percent are fully vaccinated.

temperatures will hit 40 degrees (100 + f)
later this week
as the monsoon season ends
and the August heat begins.

Koreans are learning
new words to describe this

heat dome
tropical nights
Polar vortex
Monster typhoons
Killing floods
Killing heat waves
are now common.

used to be that July and August
were hot and humid
but rarely about 100 dF.
Now that is becoming the norm,
as global climate change
begins hitting Korea hard.

the winters are colder
but much shorter.
Late January to early February
Polar Vortex swept through

the summer is longer
starting in May
and lasting until mid-September.

Autumn is lasting
from Mid-September
to Mid-December.
Spring just late April to early June

So far no killer wildfires.
As the monsoon season
Came on time
Monson flooding
Just before the killer heatwaves

the prompt was to write about the local weather Korea is experiencing a heat dome highs in the 90’s (40 C) real feel close to 100 F, with tropical nights in the 80s F.  No relief in sight until late august, the second hottest summer in Korea so far but it will probably break the record heat

Walking Along the Winter Korean Beach

Walking along the winter
Korean beach,
With the love of my life
By my side,

She looks at me
With red hot love
Flames shooting
From her black eyes

Seoul 1979 and 2015

2013 Seoul 1979
April 7

When I arrived in Seoul
Back in the day in 1979

Seoul was a grim city
Big, polluted, overwhelming
Filled with Koreans
And nothing much to do

Other than eat Korean food
And drink Korean booze

Tourist sites were none existent
And foreigners were few and far between

The GI’s stayed in Itaewon
And there were few other foreigners around

And there were very few places in town
To eat non-Korean food

Just the fancy hotels
The base and Itaewon

But Seoul had it’s charms
It grew on me over the years

And gradually became less grim
Less forbidding
And less foreigner unfriendly

When I left Seoul in 1984 it was changing
Before my very eyes

And when I came back in 1988

it was different city
And those were the days
Of the Olympics and Seoul’s emergence
As a modern city


2014 Seoul 2015
April 8

Seoul is so different now days
Very little of the old Seoul remains

The Kangwha moon area downtown
Still exists as warren of alley ways

Between big buildings
Filled with restaurants and shops

But the old tabangs (tea shops)
With the tabang girls
Are long gone

The karaoke bars and girl bars
Are still there going strong

But coffee shops and fancier restaurants
Are everywhere

And foreigners are everywhere
Seoul is no longer a city just for Koreans
It has truly become a world city
Must to the dismay of the traditionalists

Parts of the old Seoul remain
and the mountains and parks
have become very popular indeed

there has been a resurgence in Korean Buddhism
and in traditional arts and crafts
and traditional foods as well

no where more than in Insa dong
the Mecca of traditional Korean culture
these days

and Itaweon has become
the heart of the expatriate part of Seoul
with people from around the world
gathered together

along with the young and hip

And there is even a gay quarter now
unimaginable in the old days

Seoul has changed
For the most part for the better

But I still miss the Seoul of my past
And will mourn its passing
As I get older

Along with the city
That I have adopted
As my second home town

thoughts of life in Seoul in 1979 and 2015 © 7 years ago, john Cosmos Aller      

Melting away my heart
Driving out the cold
of the winter beach.

Korean beaches are romantic in the winter and I am living in a beach resort island near the Incheon airport, © 8 months ago, john Cosmos Aller

Love in Korean

Love in Korean Dew Drop Inn

When sam Adams
first met her
The lady of his dreams

There was as the Koreans
Would say

Spark from heart to heart

truly love at first sight
첫눈에 반하다
cheosnun-e banhada

they both knew
that it is just fate


that they had met
that date.

Two months later
They were married
It all happened
40 years ago

48 years after
She first came
To him in his dreams.

the prompt was to incorporate foreign words into a poem I chose Korean which is my best foreign language as I have been struggling to learn it for 43 years › post › 651516125065183232 › venice-in-korea

Jake Cosmos Aller — Venice in Korea







May 18, 2021Venice in Korea “Venice in Korea and other Korean Stream Bed Parks ARA Canal Incheon Over the last decade, Korea has build hundreds of stream bed parks throughout Seoul and Korea. There are great… Jake Cosmos Aller — Venice in Korea. 1.5M ratings 277k ratings See, that’s what the app is perfect for. Sounds perfect Wahhhh, I don’t … › post › 652960510670766080 › ara-canal-incheon-venice-in-korea-manisan

Jake Cosmos Aller — ARA Canal Incheon Venice in Korea Manisan…

manisan top

Jun 3, 2021I have reached three milestones. the World According to Cosmos now has over 4,000 followers from around the world. Thanks to all of you for visiting my site and caring about my musings about Life, the Universe and everything. Second, I have not posted 264 posts over the last few years since I started this blog late in 2019.

Korean Summer Haiku by jake cosmos aller – FanStory

Jul 2, 2022Korean Summer Haiku by jake cosmos aller. General Poetry posted July 2, 2022. jake cosmos aller. Retired US Diplomat (State Department) living in South Korea. Served 27 years in 10 countries. Traveled to 55 countries, all 50 states. Grew up in Berkeley, California. Married, no children. › displaystory.jsp?id=1061790

Korean travels by jake cosmos aller –

May 20, 2022jake cosmos aller Retired US Diplomat (State Department) living in South Korea. Served 27 years in 10 countries. Traveled to 55 countries, all 50 states. Grew up in Berkeley, California. Married, no children. A published poet, and short story writer. Finished six nove – more… › post › 653430254473494528 › update-korean-riverstream-bed-parks-ara-canal

The Life of a PCV by jake cosmos aller – FanStory

Jul 20, 2022by jake cosmos aller. Corners of the world. In 1979-1981. Than my own. I learned to speak Korean. In a town that was in the countryside. Of Seoul or the nearby city of Chuncheon. And foreign agricultural workers as well. Than when I lived there over 43 years ago. › jake-cosmos-aller › biography

Jake Cosmos Aller — Yeongjongdo Redevelopment Proposals

Yeongjongdo Redevelopment Proposals ” Yeongjongdo redevelopment proposals bike rail trail in Yeongjongdo The Korean government has ambitious plans for developing Youngjongdo where I live. Here are my… Jake Cosmos Aller — Yeongjongdo Redevelopment Proposals. 1.5M ratings 277k ratings See, that’s what the app is perfect for. … › poems-jake-cosmos-aller-2018

Food Imperalism by jake cosmos aller –

Jul 17, 2022Food Imperalism by jake cosmos aller. Biographical Fiction posted July 17, 2022. Retired US Diplomat (State Department) living in South Korea. Served 27 years in 10 countries. Traveled to 55 countries, all 50 states. Grew up in Berkeley, California. Married, no children. › author › jakecosmosaller

Venice in Korea by The World According to Cosmos








poetry and rants by the Cosmos. Listen on . Message › theworldaccordingtocosmos › posts › 1480226155746852

Jake Aller – Venice in Korea WHERE TO LISTEN to the World… | Facebook

Venice in Korea WHERE TO LISTEN to the World According to Cosmos breaker audio Google podcasts radio public Spotify Korea Radio public c: on PocketCasts: Visit to Gangwha Ginseng Market We… › jake-cosmos-aller › biography

Jake Cosmos Aller — ARA Canal Incheon Venice in Korea Manisan…

Jun 3, 2021I have reached three milestones. the World According to Cosmos now has over 4,000 followers from around the world. Thanks to all of you for visiting my site and caring about my musings about Life, the Universe and everything. Second, I have not posted 264 posts over the last few years since I started this blog late in 2019. › post › 653430254473494528 › update-korean-riverstream-bed-parks-ara-canal

Jake Cosmos Aller — Update: Korean River/Stream Bed Parks ARA Canal…

Jun 8, 2021Update: Korean River/Stream Bed Parks ARA Canal Incheon Updated letter to NPS and updated photos for Cheongjecheon streambed park. Letter to National Parks Director, Minister of Tourism, and KT One of the little-known gems of Korean tourism is all the great river parks and stream bed parks throughout Korea. › morning-light-by-jake-cosmos-aller

Jake Aller – Venice in Korea WHERE TO LISTEN to the World… | Facebook

Venice in Korea WHERE TO LISTEN to the World According to Cosmos breaker audio Google podcasts radio public Spotify Korea Radio public c: on PocketCasts: Visit to Gangwha Ginseng Market We… › mypage.jsp?userid=859865

Finally here are a few pictures of my Peace Corps days my friend Robert Voetsch who served in Yangpyeong, Korea just sent me.

And a few other photos from here and there

What a beautiful journey!: Celebrating the 50th … – Peace Corps

The Korean government has acknowledged these strong ties by hosting several reunions over the years. Last month, about 80 returned Volunteers and family members traveled to Seoul, South Korea, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps arrival in the country. We were there to attend the opening of an exhibit on the Peace Corps at the …

Images for peace corps Korea

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Peace Corps Announces Collaboration with the Republic of Korea on Volunteer …

Peace Corps opened its program in Korea in 1966, and more than 2,000 Peace Corps volunteers served there before operations closed in 1981. Since 2008, the Republic of Korea has recognized the service of Peace Corps/Korea volunteers by hosting return trips for many former volunteers so they can again visit the country. Peace Corps and KOICA … › news › library › peace-corps-volunteers-honored-by-the-korea-society

Peace Corps Volunteers Honored by The Korea Society

Peace Corps/Korea brought over 2,000 Americans to serve in Korea’s classrooms, farms, and industry. From 1966-1981, the assistance provided by these Volunteers, at a critical period in Korean history, helped to cement U.S.Korea ties. Kevin O’Donnell, the first country director of Peace Corps/Korea, and fourth director of the Peace Corps will … › countries

Countries – Peace Corps

Peace Corps Volunteers serve in over 60 countries. Find your place in the world. … South Korea 1966-1981 2,060 Volunteers Served Caribbean. The Dominican Republic. 1962-present 13 Volunteers … › stories › korea-in-the-side-view-mirror-reflections-of-a-former-peace-corps-volunteer

Korea in the side-view mirror: Reflections of a former Volunteer

It was, as the Peace Corps ad says, “The toughest job you will ever love.” When I left Korea in the mid-70s I was certain I would never see it again. As the years passed, the recollections of my life in Korea crystallized into increasingly romanticized memories. They became nearer and dearer to me in my life’s side-view mirror. › companies › friends-of-Korea

National Peace Corps Association | Friends of Korea – NPCA

About Friends of Korea. Friends of Korea was founded in 2002 by former Peace Corps volunteers who served in the Republic of Korea between 1966 and 1981. Since Peace Corps ended its program in Korea in 1981, the challenge for Friends of Korea has been to find a mission. Over the past several years we have been engaged in a series of … › memories-of-serving-as-last-peace-corps-Korea-director

Memories of serving as the last Peace Corps/Korea Director

Oct 21, 2020Oct 21 2020. 1. by James Mayer (Korea 1978-81) The Korea Times. Friends of Korea. Peace Corps volunteers and others hold a walk-a-thon to raise funds for heart surgery in 1981. / Courtesy of Nancy Kelly. No one likes to be last. But I had that distinction as the Peace Corps Korea country director, and I am forever grateful that it happened.

Peace Corps – Connect With the Peace Corps

Connect With the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps. We are inspired by hands-on, grassroots-driven, and lasting impact. Learn more about our mission. In a changing world, building a better future together. New Opportunities Now Available. Dozens of new Volunteering openings are live on our site. › articles › peace-corps-volunteers-and-the-making-of-korean-studies-in-the-united-states

Some 2,000 Peace Corps Volunteers Served in Korea. They Have Also …

Peace Corps Volunteers and the Making of Korean Studies in the United States. Edited by Seung-Kyung Kim and Michael Robinson. Center for Korea Studies, University of Washington. Reviewed by Steven Boyd Saum . The Peace Corps sent more than 2,000 Volunteers to South Korea 1966-81, to teach English and advise on healthcare. › events › peace-corps-korea-all-group-volunteers-staff-and-friends-reunion-2018

National Peace Corps Association | Peace Corps Korea All-Group … – NPCA

Mention you’re with the Korea Peace Corps Reunion. Dan Strickland (K-18; is our reunion point person and is available to answer questions or make suggestions. Let us know you’re coming by sending Dan an email with your name(s), your Korean name, K-group #, and check-in/out dates.

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