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21st Korea-America Association Friendship Night

PA-001-23 | Dec. 22, 2023

Seoul, South Korea —

Korea-America Association held a Friendship Night banquet at Walkerhill Hotel Seoul, to bring United States Forces Korea service members and Korean citizens together in the spirit of friendship and cooperation, on Dec. 5.

This annual banquet is an opportunity for KAA to show their ongoing support to the service members for more than 50 years, as well as mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the association.

Some of the distinguished attendees present at the banquet were Mr. Joong-Kyung Choi, chairman of KAA; H.E. Philip S. Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to Korea; H.E. Akiva Tor, Israeli Ambassador to Korea; representing Gen. Paul LaCamera, USFK commander was Maj. Gen. Brian Wolford, USFK J5 Plans and Policy; and Gen. Shin Chul Kang, Combined Forces Command deputy commander, who provided congratulatory remarks.

“Today, the ROK-U.S. Alliance stands at a crucial turning point, aiming to evolve into a global comprehensive strategic alliance that envisions and acts for the future,” said Gen. Shin Chul Kang, CFC deputy commander. “While upholding its core essence and values built over the past 70 years, we must navigate this fine line with courage and wisdom, making the right choices.”

KAA organizes this year-end banquet to show appreciation and gratitude to the U.S. military and its members stationed in Korea. The events aim to strengthen the bond between the two nations, celebrate the contributions of the military personnel in maintaining peace and security in the region, and foster friendship between American and Korean communities.

“The K.A.A. enhances our team through shared activities such as community outreach, social engagements, friendship concerts, and friendship award dinners,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Wolford, USFK J5 Plans and Policy. “These activities strengthen the foundations of our relationship, by enhancing mutual trust and respect. And because of their efforts, for over 70 years, our Alliance remains one of the strongest in history.”

In addition to the banquet, the KAA has a committee that makes recommendations, evaluates, and selects winners between Koreans and Americans every year for their Friendship Award.

The 2023 KAA Friendship Award recipients were the late Maj. Gen. Joseph P. Cleland, the commander of the 40th Infantry Division, and his wife Florence Emily Cadotte Cleland. While he was stationed in Gapyeong-gun during the Korean War, he was impressed by the sight of village students who studied in tent classrooms.

Cleland and his Soldiers raised about $30,000 to immediately construct a school for these village students. With the help of Division engineers and Gapyeong villagers the school was completed in 40-days.

After the War, Cleland continued to aid the students of Gapyeong by providing scholarships with parts of his pension until he passed in 1975. His wife, Florence, continued to provide scholarships for about 30 years, until her passing in 2004.

“General Cleland is a fine example of a friend of the Alliance,” said Wolford. “His combat leadership, in addition to contributions to the children and their education her in Korea, is an aspiring story for us all.”

Also in attendance were Command Sgt. Maj. Yong Kyu Lee, CFC command sergeant major, Maj. Gen. David A. Lesperance, USFK J3 Operations, and approximately 40 more service members and their guests from Eighth Army, 2nd Infantry Division, United Nations Command, CFC, USFK, and USAG-Yongsan/Casey.

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