Post-94: A Peace Corps Volunteer in Korea, Circa 1970

The great Korea-focused blogger “Gusts of Popular Feeling” (who is from Canada, and I think is a professor in Seoul) has just posted a link to a number of digitized books about Korea from the 1970s and prior.

One of them is an informational booklet about the 17th group of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers in Korea from around 1971. Here is a link to a PDF of the booklet. It consists of a short introduction, a lot of pictures, and then a profile of each volunteer in this 17th group of Peace Corps volunteers to Korea.

One of the pictures jumped out at me:


Peace Corps Volunteer in Korea, circa 1970 (from page 8 here)

He is imitating the typical Korean (East-Asian) picture-taking pose. (It is common for Koreans today to put up two fingers like that in photos, often near their eyes.) That was my first thought. Actually, he is almost certainly making a symbol that has long since become an anachronism in the USA, the “peace sign”. It took me a few moments to realize that. When I first saw it, I quickly speculated about whether Koreans already doing this in the early 1970s and whether he was imitating them. I was surprised, because I imagined the Koreans’ “showing two fingers for a photo” habit started much later (though I have nothing to base that on, actually). No, it’s just a run-of-the-mill peace sign.

This man may be Cris Groenendaal, judging by page 70 of the booklet, which I will reproduce here:

Cris Groenendaal (from Erie, Pennsylvania) graduated from Allegheny College, majoring in English Literature, it says. It lists the countries he had visited before Korea: the UK, France (spelled 불란서 here, which I had to look up — an awkward/old spelling), Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Austria, and Italy (spelled 이태리 here, which copies the English pronunciation — today Koreans call it “Italia”, not “Italy”). It says he could speak German and French, he had studied at Exeter University, and he had worked in a bank. His hobbies are listed as tennis (written as “정구”, an obsolete word I had to look up; Koreans today use the English word “tennis” [테니스, te-ni-suh)]). ping pong, swimming, singing, and either “guitar” or “other” (기타 can mean both).

I hope this man, who’d be 65 as of this writing, pardons me for prying into a snapshot of his life 40-some years ago.

Gusts of Popular Feeling also links to a neat little essay by Amy Lennard Goehner, a volunteer there in 1974-5.

The Peace Corps was discontinued in South Korea in 1981. Two years later, it stopped in Malaysia.

Both my parents were Peace Corps volunteers in Malaysia around the time the booklet I link to above was made. The Peace Corps website says that 4,067 American volunteers served in Malaysia from 1962-1983. I’ve known two of them since the day I was born. They both speak nothing but highly of their time in Malaysia. What I’ve done in Korea for three (non-consecutive) years is something similar, I like to imagine.


  1. Enjoyed the post. I had to chuckle when I read your profile and realized the view from your officetel in Bucheon looked quite familiar – I worked in the building next door more than ten years ago (there used to be a Wonderland there on the 4th floor, and Reading Town on the 5th; the latter has taken over the 4th floor now). I remember when they started breaking ground on the officetel and have photos somewhere of the art high school next door under construction (and the Emart – then a Walmart) as well. Small world!

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