CHONGDO, South Korea – For the few seconds he hung on the bucking Korean bull, Spc. Eric Kick was back home in Oklahoma.
Kick, 24, was one of eight U.S. servicemen who traded fatigues for bluejeans, boots and cowboy hats Saturday to give South Korea a taste of American rodeo.
"It's just an adrenaline rush. You are trying to figure out which way he's going to go and which way you're going to go, and just hang on," said Kick, 24. "It brings a little bit of home back to us because that's what we do for fun back home."
Chongdo, a farming town 180 miles southeast of Seoul, invited Kick and other rodeo-loving U.S. soldiers to help kick off its annual bullfighting festival with a touch of the American West.
There are about 37,000 U.S. military personnel in South Korea, helping guard the country against communist North Korea.
The event was supposed to help the two countries understand each other better but it appeared to leave many spectators perplexed.
"They must be crazy to enjoy such a dangerous sport. They could be stomped by the bulls. I couldn't bear to watch it," said Lee Jong-min, 61, one of 40,000 South Koreans who attended.
For the soldiers, the rodeo was also a chance to ride Korean bulls, which are smaller and more docile than American bulls.
"We had a hard time with them. We had to use general tactics to get 'em out," said Sgt. Bill Davis from Lodi, Calif.
Still, the bulls threw off most riders in just a few seconds.
In all, 160 U.S. soldiers and family members came to the Chongdo Bullfighting Festival, which usually features just bulls — not people — the dusty arena.
"I enjoyed coming down here and giving some entertainment to the Korean folks. We bring a little bit of American tradition to Korean tradition," Davis said.