Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Special Agent Wonjoon “Eric” Song arrived in South Korea on January 24, 2018. Like 70 other DSS special agents, he augmented security at the 2018 Winter Olympics Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Unlike his counterparts, supporting the games was like coming home.
Song grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and spent many hours on the slopes where Olympians vied for gold.
“It was really cool to come back after all these years to Yongpyong where I came to ski as a child,” said Song. “Everything is pretty much the same as I remembered; it brought back a lot of great memories of being with my family.”
Song was one of 40 DSS special agents who served as field liaison officers (FLOs) at the Games. FLOs, assigned to each of the venues, ensured a safe and secure environment by conducting site surveys, working with their South Korean counterparts, and monitoring venues during Team USA practices and competitions.
Song was assigned to the “mountain cluster,” the location for competitions such as bobsledding, ski jump, and snowboarding. Rather than securing Team USA at a specific venue, Song served in the host nation's Olympics headquarters as a liaison officer to the Security Command Center. He also worked closely with his host nation counterparts at the various venues, accreditation centers, security posts, and more.
As a native Korean speaker and someone familiar with the area, Song’s presence was vital to DSS’ mission at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“Professionally, the Olympics was a great opportunity to use my language skills and cultural knowledge to engage with host nation officials, volunteers, and the public,” said Song. “There are several other Korean speaking special agents here and those who have served in South Korea in the past. I think we made some positive impacts on our overall operations, and I found it very fulfilling.”
Special Agent Karyn Grey, who supervised DSS’ support at the mountain cluster, couldn’t agree more.
“I relied on Eric so much over the past few weeks,” recalled Grey. “He paved the way for us trying to navigate through the rigorous security procedures the South Koreans had in place. I don’t know what I would have done without him.”
Song and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 15. After finishing high school and college, Song served 10 years in the U.S. Army -- eight years of active duty followed by two years in the National Guard.
Song joined DSS in 2009. During his nine years with the organization, Song has served at the DSS San Francisco Field Office, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay, then back to Iraq at the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil. Currently, he works in the Protective Liaison Unit at the DSS Los Angeles Field Office, providing security assistance and guidance to the foreign diplomatic corps in the Los Angeles area.
In addition to speaking Korean, Song also is fluent in Spanish and will soon take lessons in Mandarin for his next assignment.
When asked what his best experience has been while working for DSS, Song said his support to the 2018 Winter Olympics ranked high on the list.
“Working the Olympics is definitely one of my best experiences working for DSS,” said Song. “I’ve enjoyed all of my assignments, though. I haven’t always served in the most sought-after places in the world, but I have always worked with some great people.”
About the Author: Angela French serves in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Services at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.