Peace Corps Volunteers Honored by The Korea Society

April 15, 2008

Former Peace Corps Director Kevin ODonnell Accepts Award on behalf of Peace Corps/Korea Volunteers

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 15, 2008 Former Peace Corps Director Kevin ODonnell will accept the 2008 James A. Van Fleet Award tonight at the Korea Societys 2008 Annual Dinner. The Award, presented to ODonnell, will honor the work of the over 2,000 Peace Corps Volunteers who served in South Korea from 1966-1981.

The Korea Society is the leading organization in the United States devoted to promoting U.S.Korea relations. The Korea Society 2008 Annual Dinner will be held at the Plaza in New York and feature notables such as South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who is visiting the U.S. on his first official visit since his inauguration in February, Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill.

The Korea Societys Van Fleet Award is given to prominent Korean and American individuals or organizations for outstanding contributions to the U.S.Korea relationship. Peace Corps/Korea brought over 2,000 Americans to serve in Koreas classrooms, farms and industry. From 1966-1981, the assistance provided by these Volunteers, at a critical period in Korean history, helped to cement U.S.Korea ties. Kevin O'Donnell, the first country director of Peace Corps/Korea, and fourth director of the Peace Corps, will accept the award on behalf of the Volunteers.

Peace Corps Deputy Director Jody K. Olsen said, We are delighted that the legacy of former Director ODonnell and the Peace Corps/Korea Volunteers will be honored at this very special Korea Society event. Peace Corps/Korea Volunteers formed long lasting friendships and deep respect for the people of Korea and we are grateful for the warmth and hospitality that they demonstrated during our time there.

As the first Peace Corps Country Director for Korea, O'Donnell faced the formidable challenge of establishing a new program in an unfamiliar country, including negotiating with government ministries and building curricula that addressed Korean needs in math, science, English and physical education. He also had to make provisions for meeting the physical requirements of the 300-plus American Peace Corps Volunteers who came to Korea on their missions of peace and friendship during his tenure as Country Director.

For his exemplary work, O'Donnell received the Republic of Korea's Order of Civil Merit from President Park Chung-hee in 1970. The legacy of the example O'Donnell set in his devotion to public service is best exemplified by his daughter Megan O'Donnell and granddaughter Allison O'Donnell, both of whom have followed in his footsteps to become Peace Corps Volunteers. Allison ODonnell is currently serving in Honduras as a Health Projects Volunteer. She works with an NGO that provides water filters to families in communities without access to potable water, as well as health and hygiene education. She also works with HIV/AIDS prevention NGOs and local and international Rotary Clubs.

The Korea Society is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) organization that is dedicated solely to the promotion of greater awareness, understanding and cooperation between the people of the United States and Korea. In pursuit of its mission, the Society arranges programs that facilitate discussion, exchanges and research on topics of vital interest to both countries in the areas of public policy, business, education, intercultural relations and the arts.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 47-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Currently there are more than 8,000 Volunteers abroad, a 37-year high for Volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 190,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served, including South Korea. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. To learn more about the Peace Corps, please visit our website: www.peacecorps.gov.

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