Looking out into North Korea from the Dora Observatory located along the 38 parallel was in stark contrast to the leafy quad of Rutgers Law School in Camden. This past summer, I interned with the Eighth Army Office of the Staff Judge Advocate in the Republic of Korea. This internship was part of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Summer Internship Program. Specifically, I interned at Camp Humphreys near the Pyeongtaek metropolitan area which is approximately one hour south of Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
I primarily interned with the Eighth Army Administrative Law department. In that role, I drafted legal and policy reviews covering subjects such as local fiscal law issues, military travel requests, and exceptions to policies. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work on a long-term legal research and writing assignment for the Eighth Army National Security Law department. The goal of this assignment was to distill the various laws, regulations, and policies on detainee operations on the Korean Peninsula into a concise and readable quick reference handbook for all military personnel operating on the Korean Peninsula. The handbook focused specifically on Article 5 tribunals under the Geneva Conventions. Article 5 tribunals are administrative hearings conducted by a board of officers and determines the status of a detainee which, in turn, determines the detainee’s legal rights and protections under international law.
Additionally, I was able to meet with Judge Advocates in other military branches and nations to gain familiarity with the various legal disciplines practiced in the Republic of Korea. Meetings included learning from Judge Advocates of foreign militaries serving under the United Nations Command, attending the “State of the Corps” address presented by the Deputy Judge Advocate of the U.S. Army, and observing a Status of Forces Agreement proceeding in Korean District Court under the Korean judicial system.
On the weekends, I had the opportunity to travel throughout Korea and nearby countries to broaden my cultural experiences and learn more about the region. Within Korea, my travels included trips to Seoul, a trip to the Demilitarized Zone which is the border between North and South Korea, and a trip to the large port city of Busan which is located at the southern end of South Korea. Additionally, I was able to travel to Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong during the summer.
Simply put, the opportunity to intern in Korea during my 2L summer was very much unexpected as I entered my second year in law school. Experiencing the United States and the Republic of Korea Alliance first hand during my 2L summer emphasized how Judge Advocates make a daily impact on the Korean Peninsula and the greater region. It was fulfilling to know that my daily duties and responsibilities had real-world consequences and furthered the larger Eighth Army mission. These opportunities showed me how my legal training and desire to serve can be put into practice on an international level. I hope to continue this work as an active duty Judge Advocate upon graduation from law school.