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Masters Public Policy, Korean Air Force Pilot

March 30, 2016

I am a 31 year old man serving in the Republic of Korea Air Force as a fighter pilot. I think I have lived somewhat unconventional life. Starting from the president of student council in my high school representing 2400 students, I was class representative and cadet wing commander in my years of air force academy. I passed the pilot training with an honor and also found myself in the Western Saharan dessert serving with the UN in an effort to bring peace to the region.  I am proud because I have overcome hardships that ultimately made me a stronger person.

One of my accomplishments is becoming a pilot, despite the fact that my physical condition pointed in the opposite direction, beginning with my surgery on deviated nasal septum, I had to get it fixed if I wanted to enter air force academy. During my senior year in the academy, my nasal septum again had a problem and I had to undergo re-surgery in hope to pass physical aptitude examination before commencement only to find out that I had another problem in the veins near my testis. I had to take yet another painful surgery of which did not make me a qualified pilot but only that I was qualified to enter a pilot training course.

For two and half year I underwent basic, intermediate, advanced and combat readiness training. During intermediate course, I failed solo check-ride and my instructor pilot told me that there is little hope that I would finish the course. Even if I could somehow manage to pass intermediate course, I would be washed out either in advanced or combat readiness course. I was shocked, but I could not think about myself as anything other than a pilot because I knew that being a fighter pilot was the best thing that I could give back to my country. I realized that I had to try twice or three times harder than my colleagues since I was not a natural born pilot. I never gave up, however, and graduated near the top of my class.

I volunteered to join the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara as a part of my long held endeavor of devoting my life and talent to peace. It was not easy from the beginning, I had to convince senior officials who would not allow a fighter pilot to apply for UN mission. I was even told by the Army general in the joint chiefs of staff that it would be a national loss (as the nation makes a huge investment in each pilot) if I were to be sent to Western Sahara. I replied that I define myself not as a pilot but an officer in the military who should have a broader view and experience if one is to become a wise decision maker in the future. It was arrogant enough for a captain to refute a general’s assertion and I did not expect that I would be selected as the only officer from the air force to be deployed to Western Sahara. Nevertheless, I was honored to be selected as an air liaison officer in the Mission headquarters in Western Sahara and found out that there was a lot to be revised in the air casualty evacuation procedures to be more pilot friendly so as to expedite emergency response time.

It was not easy for a captain from a small country in East Asia to convince both stubborn UN civilians who had already spent more than 10 years in the mission and the section heads from different armies with little experiences in air operations. At first, I sent a letter of complaint to them only to realize that even though my suggestion was logical enough, it would not be seen with favor. Next, I tried to convince them with politeness and little by little opened their mind to me.  I was proud when we could transport a local Saharawi woman living in the desert that had been bitten by horn viper to a hospital in Algeria in time and eventually saved her life. Those experiences assured me that nothing makes me happier than when I find myself immersed in the process of helping others.

My long-term plan is to be a decision maker in national defense especially dealing with North Korean regime. For many years the majority of the military decision makers were dominated by army personnel. As an air power expert, however, I believe that there are special things that I will be able to contribute to my country and the World.

My short term plan is to move up in the ranks of the South Korean Air Force to a level where I have some strategic authority. I hope to work with the Ministry of Defense in the area of policy development. I will focus on North Korean Policy, based on the Air Force’s view that I may be able to fill in the gaps that remain neglected by Army personnel. IN this way, I will be able to give all of the support that I can to the South Korean government’s struggle to bring peace to East Asia, especially the Korean Peninsula.

I have served in the Air Force for seven years and developed US-KOREA wartime plans for air assets. I have participated in numerous joint exercises and operations between our militaries, including ‘Counter Yeonpyeong Island Bombardment’. In the Western Sahara I worked with people from diverse backgrounds and developed my global leadership. Furthermore, by participating in a ceasefire monitoring mission in Africa mission, I have become much more international and analytical in my thinking about multiple party conflict negotiation.

My short term goal is to study at the XXXX School of Government MPP Program  because both myself and my superior officers are convinced that you program will provide me with the optimal preparation that I will need to make the most valuable and thoughtful contributions possible to the maintenance of peace in South East Asia.

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