NEWS | Aug. 4, 2022

Profiles in Professionalism: PS2 Sukwon Jung

By Lt. Bryce Baswell

The Navy Reserve has many officers who were prior enlisted service members. However, very few enlisted Sailors are prior military officers. Personnel Specialist 2nd Class Sukwon Jung holds the distinction of being part of that very small group.

Jung was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to Dublin, Ireland when he was 11 years old. He attended middle school, high school, and university in Ireland before moving back to South Korea. In November, 2009, Jung commissioned as an interpretation officer in the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN). During his time in the ROKN, Jung served tours of duty for ROKN Naval Special Warfare where he worked in partnership with U.S. Navy SEALS.

During his service in the ROKN, Jung deployed to the Horn of Africa with Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151) to assist with a counter-piracy partnership between the U.S. and ROK, as well as the United Arab Emirates with the ROKN Naval Special Warfare and the ROK Army. Additionally, he served at the Korean Defense Language Institute as an instructor teaching English and training other interpreters. Jung served as an officer in the ROKN for a total of six years before resigning his commission and moving to the United States in 2016. After moving to the U.S., Jung decided to join the U.S. Navy.

“I had other plans when I first came here, but then I thought if I joined the U.S. military, especially the Navy, which I knew, it would help me to integrate into the U.S. better and get citizenship,” said Jung. “Also, as a Korean, I was taught that there was great debt to the United States for the U.S. military involvement in the Korean War, so I thought that it would be one way to help pay back the U.S. for all the sacrifices they made. Also, I thought my experiences in the Korean Navy could benefit the U.S. Navy, especially with heightened tensions in the North-East Asian region.”

Jung enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2017 as an undesignated seaman. He served his first tour aboard USS San Antonio (LPD-17), in Norfolk, Virginia, where he designated as a Personnel Specialist and was meritoriously advanced to Petty Officer 3rd Class. After that, he served a tour at Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“I decided to become a PS because it was an option open to me, and people told me that, because I was previously an officer, I already knew how to do paperwork,” Jung said.
Jung and his wife welcomed their first child, a daughter, in 2021. He decided to transfer to the Navy Reserve in 2021 in order to have the flexibility to spend more time with his family.

“I had my first child, and I heard that the Navy Reserve was more flexible to work where you want to work, so I thought that it would give me flexibility as a new father to be with my family,” said Jung. “That’s a big plus of the Reserve side. It also gives me the chance to apply for mobilizations in Korea whenever they come up. There are lots of Reserve opportunities to go to Korea.”

Jung is currently serving on orders for the Navy Pay and Personnel (NP2) Fleet Delivery Team at Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command, where he was recently selected as the Junior Sailor of the Quarter. His Reserve unit is Logistical Support Unit (LSU) 18, which provides logistics for Navy Reserve SEAL Team 18. Jung is also actively involved in volunteer partnerships between the U.S. and ROK militaries. He serves as a community sponsor for Korean military officers.

“As a Reserve Sailor here, I’ve been supporting Korean officers,” said Jung. “I’m a community sponsor for the Joint Staff College here in Norfolk, Virginia. I found out about it about five years ago because my friends [in the ROKN] were coming here to study. I lived here on base, so they used to call me up. I used to just do it unofficially, but now I’m doing it officially, too. I help them out—any Korean military. I bring them lunch or dinner. If they have an issue with English, I help them out with that, too.”

Jung also leads the Norfolk Chapter of the Korean American Sailor Association (KASA), an organization recently founded by Capt. Henry Kim, Commander, Amphibious Squadron Three (CPR 3), for the purpose of fostering partnerships and cultural understanding between U.S. Navy Sailors and ROKN Sailors.

“Korean-American Sailors have a small number in the U.S. military,” Jung said. “However, we do have a very long history with the U.S. Navy. The first female gunnery officer in the U.S. Navy was a Korean American, Lt. Susan Ahn Cuddy. She was a gunnery school instructor during World War II. Also, not many people know, but the ROK was actually the second largest allied force that fought in the Vietnam War, second only to the U.S. A lot of Korean Soldiers and Marines died in Vietnam. Korea also fought in the Iraq War. My cousin and uncle fought in the second Iraq War.”

Jung described more about the goals of KASA.

“I teach KASA members about what is happening in the Korean Navy and Korean culture. That way, if they get stationed in or visit Korea, they will have a better understanding. It’s not just for Korean-Americans, though. It’s for everybody.”

Jung offered to provide information to any U.S. Navy Sailors interested in South Korea.

“There are a lot of young Sailors who want to go to Korea. Korean culture is becoming very popular through [popular culture] things like ‘Squid Games.’ Everybody knows Korea now. I think by promoting Korean culture, hopefully, more and more U.S. Sailors want to go serve there. If there is any Sailor that is going over to Korea for training or a billet, you can reach out to me, and I can give you assistance.”

Those interested in KASA can contact PS2 Jung at sukwon.jung4.mil@us.navy.mil.