Min Woo Heo ’09 and his colleagues are in a constant state of alert.
“Our base is just 64 kilometers from the DMZ,” said Heo, a first lieutenant in the South Korean Air Force, “so we’re always ready and the work continues at a high level.”
Heo is an interpreter for the air force and lives at the northern-most air base in the country with his wife, Christina (a Denver native whom he met at Calvin), and young daughter, Erin. He credits his four years at Calvin as featuring excellent preparation for writing, public speaking and expertise in English and Chinese—in addition to his native Korean. He also sees the path of four years at Calvin and three years of officer/interpreter experience as a way for Korean Calvin alumni to be successful as they return to their country. Korean men have a mandatory military service obligation, either two years in the infantry or three years in the officer corps.
“Some Korean Calvin students study for two years, then go back home to do their military service and finally return to college to finish,” Heo said. “I am recommending that they finish their degree first and then apply for officer’s training. That sequence is seen as honorable in Korea and sets up the alumnus better for an established career after the military.”
Korean industry giants such as Samsung, Hyundai, LG and Kia are much more likely to hire a Calvin alumnus with the degree-plus-officer résumé, he believes—and he already has an offer from Samsung after he completes his military service. Heo has been back to campus speaking with student groups to discuss career path options in Korea.
In his current position, Heo bridges the communication gaps between military leaders in meetings and conferences. He interprets mainly for the 10th Fighter Wing General and 6-52 Air Defense Artillery Squadron; occasionally he interprets for the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military commanders on the peninsula. Calvin graduate Yohan Kim ’12 is also an interpreter, and Heo hopes Kim will eventually work for the Minister of Defense.
Heo also serves as Calvin’s Korean admissions representative, visiting schools and churches and answering questions about the college. And that’s not all: He is determined to establish the first-ever Korean Calvin Alumni Network for the association, believing that the strengthening the connection among alumni in the country is another key for future success for Calvin and individual graduates.
“Relationships are highly valued in Korea,” he said, “and this is also true in the business and government world. People in positions of authority who have hiring responsibilities look to people they know and have great freedom in hiring. We need to place more Calvin alumni in these positions to build a name for Calvin and significant job prospects for new graduates.”
Heo notes that Calvin has a stellar reputation in ministry and education in the country, but that has created an additional challenge—people in Korea currently do not recognize Calvin as a place that produces outstanding graduates in areas other than theology or religious education. Only alumni successes in other vocational areas, he believes, will change that thinking.
“We will have to start small and build this over the next 10 years or so,” he said. “But if we work in partnership with the college and the association, in time we will have an influential alumni network.”
The Calvin alumni group has already met a few times, and a leadership team is planning for a regular calendar of activities that includes worship, admissions support, career networking and deepening relationships.
His long-term goals are loftier still. He prays for the eventual unification of the two Koreas, and if that should happen, he will be ready to lead in ministry and business.
“If there was one Korea, I would move to the north—to spread the gospel and to create companies there that can hire and provide people and their families a better life,” he said.