1988 Olympic volunteer shares experience with KXAN’s Erin Cargile

Mija Lee, 41, in Seoul, South Korea where she served as a 1988 Summer Olympic volunteer. (Courtesy: Mija Lee)

LEANDER, Texas — We are almost one month out from the start of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. KXAN viewers have been reaching out to anchor Erin Cargile giving her advice before she takes off to cover the games. Friday, one Central Texan invited Erin to her home to share her own unique Olympic experience.

“You know most of the memories are fading away,” said Mija Lee as she flipped through a photo album.

For the last two weeks Lee, 71, has been digging through boxes and putting keepsakes on display that have been packed away for nearly 30 years.

At the age of 41 while living in Los Angeles, she took a temporary gig in her home country.

“In 1987 I saw an article in the newspaper, the Korea Times, so I applied right away,” said Lee.

After a year of training she joined 500 other Korean-English speakers to volunteer for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

“That’s a happy face,” Lee said pointing to a picture of herself sitting in the stands in the track and field venue dressed in her official green sport coat that still fits her today. Lee was a guide for the 29 athletes and officials from Zambia in Africa.

“It gave to me hope, pride, courage and the confidence,” said Lee summarizing the entire experience. “It helped me a lot.”

She paid a visit to PyeongChang on a trip to Asia in September, and was filled with pride once again — not fear about their neighbors to the north. She said South Koreans have grown numb to the threat.

“All the time they’re threatening us — for almost 65 years, yeah, since 1945, so we just stay focused on daily life,” Lee said.

Lee gave Erin a quick lesson in saying hello and thank you: Yeoboseyo and gomabseubnida. And the two talked about about getting together again after the Olympics.

“My heart is beating with joy,” said Lee about the upcoming trip. “I guess in a way, in the future, you and I have a bond.”

Lee said she considered volunteering for the 2018 Games in PyeongChang.

“I was thinking about it, but it’s so cold!”

Mija Lee met with Erin Cargile Dec. 29, 2017 to give her some advice before she heads to the Winter Olympics in South Korea (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)
Mija Lee met with Erin Cargile Dec. 29, 2017 to give her some advice before she heads to the Winter Olympics in South Korea (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)

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