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[Guest Blogger Week] Regular Guy or Celebrity: A Soldier Is A Soldier Is A Soldier. Got That?

It's Guest Blogger Week at Oddness/Weirdness!  I'm sure you're wondering what that entails, right? Well, a fellow blogger approached me about writing a post for her blog about something that I really feel strongly about in the world of Kpop.  I thought that was such a good idea that I decided to borrow it for my blog. I begged asked some of my awesome blogger friends to help me out and, surprisingly (and graciously), they said yes!

These fabulous women are a super diverse bunch. They come from all walks of life and all have their own unique niche in the Kpop blogger world. I'm excited to present their posts for your enjoyment, and I hope you'll be as interested to read them as I was. You'll be missing out if you don't!

The first post is written by Stephe of  She's the co-founder of that site, as well as a power blogger, technical writer, Fine Fabrications Fiction Focus Group facilitator, fantasy & paranormal novelist, & Cloud USA Media Blog master, and Rain (aka Jung Ji Hoon) enthusiast.  In other words, she's an excellent writer, and she's here to vent about Kpop Idols in the military.

Regular Guy or Celebrity: A Soldier is a soldier is a soldier. Got that?

Written by: Stephe Thornton,

rok soldiers at seoul national cemetary
Jung JiHoon (Rain), Jo JungIk (Yoo Gun, actor), and troop mates. cr: Yonhap News

The Republic of Korea military forces contain two distinct types of soldiers – the ones who have chosen it as their full-time career for the long haul, and the ones who are interrupting their civilian lives in order to serve the 21- to 24-month mandatory term required of all South Korean males between the ages of 18 and 35.

Think about that for a minute. Really think about it – interrupting your life no matter what you are doing, leaving your place of business, your activities, your loved ones, your freedom, all that you have worked for up to that point, not to mention the salary that feeds you or your family for two whole years, whether you want to or not. I don’t think many people outside of a draft get the impact of it, at all.

Both regular citizens and famous Korean entertainers in South Korea, many of them, face this daunting life change every year, and I commend them all greatly for it. Even if a man is bursting with warrior spirit and loyalty for his country, hurling himself into the unknown of the military is no easy feat. So, just imagine if you’re not soldier material, imagine if learning to slit and gut someone with a bayonet or put a bullet in a head at one hundred paces isn’t something that you aspire to, but you enlist anyway to fulfill your constitutional duty and proudly support those of your countrymen who are career military. (Oh, and to stay out of jail and keep your family or future children from being ostracized.) How can any man not be respected for doing the right thing?

kim ji hoon rain park hyo shin mithra jin kcm yoo seung chong
Corporal Kim JiHoon (actor), Private First Class Jung JiHoon (Rain, actor, singer), Corporal Park 
HyoShin (singer), Sergeant Choi Jin (Mithra Jin, rap artist), Private Kang ChangMo (KCM, singer), 
and Corporal Yoo SeungChan (singer), March 2012.  cr: Kookbang

Well, the regular guys do get respect, at least. The celebrities blatantly do not, which makes absolutely no sense.

Do they all not go through the physical and emotional trials and rigors of basic training? Do they all not suffer the boiling heat, the freezing cold, exhaustion, hunger, and the pain of injuries, side by side? Don’t they go on to serve hours of guard duty, hours of warfare conditioning and training, days out in the field and in the classroom together?

Regardless of where in the R.O.K. military they are assigned, the regular soldier and the celebrity soldier see each other through hard times. They bond, miss their families terribly, and become brothers as each watches the other put their all into their duties. So why, then, do many Korean civilians and the Korean press treat celebrity soldiers as if they are substandard depending on where they’re assigned, when frankly where they are serving shouldn’t matter a hill of beans? What should matter is that they are serving instead of running off and avoiding duty.

mithra jin selca when discharged from army
   Kim JiHoon, Park HyoShin, Mithra Jin, Yoo SeungChan.  cr: Mithra Jin’s Twitter

As I have abundantly seen, regular soldiers adore their celebrity brethren and accept them as full-fledged soldiers every bit as valuable to the troops as they are, probably because they do watch them fulfill all of their basic duties day to day in addition to the extra duties heaped upon them by public relations work (radio, TV, and stage). Regular soldiers tune in to military FM or flock to venues and have loved being entertained by Kang ChangMo (KCM), Park HyoShin (discharged September 2012), Sangchu (Mighty Mouth), Heechul and Leeteuk (Super Junior), Mithra Jin (Epik High, discharged May 2012), speed maestro Outsider (discharged September 2012), Untouchable, Kim YongJun (SG Wannabee), and Jung JiHoon (Rain), just to name a few.

In fact, Corporal Jung JiHoon/Rain was the most requested artist during the 2012 Morale/Consolatory Train/military event year, and did his level best to be everywhere his fellow soldiers and superiors wanted, in every corner of South Korea.You can imagine what hell that, the travel by bus, and his daily soldier duties and training all together have been on his voice and body, and what kind of stamina that has taken. 
(Korean Singer Rain Hospitalized Due to Back Problem).  
Yes, girl groups are definitely goddesses to the enlisted, but those men love for their celebrity troop mates to come shake a leg and show them a good time.

yu seung chan park hyo shin rain kim ji hoon kcm lee jin ho stellar
Yoo SeungChan, ParkHyoShin, Rain, Kim JiHoon, KCM, Lee JinHo, STELLAR.  cr: DEMAclub.tistory

With that said, why does the general Korean public’s vicious clamor for celebrity soldiers’ roles to be abolished continue? Why don’t they put their ridiculous misconceptions that have been fostered by bad press and shoddy articles aside in the interest of what’s best for their troops?

This isn’t a new controversy. It’s been going on for some years now, way before the most recent K-Pop stars and Korean actors went in. This detailed Star News expose documents just how exhausted and run down entertainment soldiers have been in the past and still are today.
([article][Star News] The hardships of Rain, Yun GyeSang, and many exhausted entertainment soldiers then and now)  
Ridiculous claims about preferential treatment have been dispelled again and again, yet the Korean public still puts credence in the lies that the Korean press carelessly spreads for ratings.
([interview summary] Rep. Shin In Gyun: Singer Rain’s “71 days of leave time” is a distortion)  
([articles] Rain’s lodging issues explained)  
([military account] “I hope you are a big help when things are hard for him.” (Reporters’ distorted reports))
Is it really so much more preferable to believe the worst of someone, to persist in the misconception that entertainment soldiers who aren’t on a front line must be living on Easy Street, have a cushy life, and aren’t real men? Really, folks?

Hyun Bin in military
 Hyun Bin, actor.  Cr: News Report

Here’s a reality check.

1) Tensions are truly walking a tightrope between North and South Korea right now. Every soldier in the R.O.K. is on alert. Heaven forbid, but if the enemy suddenly swarmed the country, just what do you think P.R./entertainment soldiers would do? I’ll tell you what. They would throw on their gear, grab up their gun, position themselves between the enemy and the civilian populace, and protect the populace to the death. They wouldn’t be on some stage singing or acting in a musical or directing a band while everyone else was fighting. They would be square in enemy cross-hairs, prepared to give their lives for strangers and loved ones alike. So who isn’t a man here, pray tell? They are training and drilling every day for the real possibility of war, along with everybody else. What Easy Street? What “comfortable” life?

2) There is no shame in serving as an entertainment soldier. None. I’m a writer, so if I were drafted, the place I would do the most good would be in a communications capacity. Someone who excels in computer language would be needed by I.T. Someone with a business degree or an actual business would serve well in an administrative capacity. Really good swimmers and athletes would soar in Search and Rescue. So why, then, shouldn’t expert entertainers entertain? Why shouldn’t expert entertainers, who have already trained for years on the job in Public Relations, not be in P.R.? Seriously, why the pettiness? Give me a break.

Incidentally, before being yanked into DEMA after eight weeks of basic training rather than the usual four or five, Rain served for months in the Infantry near the Demilitarized Zone, mere klicks from the North Koreans. 
([Rain update][soldier account] One of the most admirable appointments for a new recruit is being an ATO
That doesn’t seem to get him any points with the press, though.

Rain jung ji hoon asst training officer
Rain. cr: Jung JiHoon Rain

3) Every man cannot serve on the front line. If not for backup, supply lines, and soldiers who hold down the fort at home, the front line wouldn’t last long enough to even fire a shot (all history books tell you this). The military needs all of its different components in order to be successful. While men on the front line are imperative and amazingly brave, pinning a soldier’s entire worth on whether or not he serves there is ridiculous.

A soldier’s worth should not be determined by where the civilian public, who has no internal military knowledge, thinks he should serve. That is not the public’s call.

4) Media and paparazzi only follow the celebrities, not the regular soldiers, so when Regular Joes take liberties with time off or get into big trouble, which happens all the time, you simply don’t hear about it. A celebrity can belch, however, and it’s FRONT PAGE NEWS.

And by the way… No celebrity or regular soldier’s military stint is perfect. Sorry to burst that bubble. You have no idea what is deep inside a soldier’s file that has not been revealed to the public, so folks need to get down off of that high horse.

In closing:

Every soldier with the intestinal fortitude to try to serve his country as best he can and return home more knowledgeable and capable deserves the compassion, consideration, and respect of his countrymen, period. This includes the celebrity soldier, who should have the same support befitting human beings who sacrifice for the greater good, rather than malice from people who only guess at what their duties entail or sit safely at home in their armchairs not having to serve at all. You never know – one of these men just might save your life one day.

A soldier is a soldier is a soldier.

kim heechul in rok
Heechul, singer.  cr: BlogDaum.katc

After delving into various parts of South Korea’s beautiful culture and the Korean mindset, although I’m an American, I can see where citizens are coming from in their distrust of the military Brass higher up.  We’ve all had that problem, and it bears remembering that soldiers aren’t responsible for what the the Brass allow. But I’m not coming from a place of nationality with this. Rather, I am speaking as a member of the human race.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

kim joon korean police
Kim Joon, actor.  cr: HIM Military Culture Magazine

Leave us a comment to let us know what you think, and stay tuned for more!

Source: Written by Stephe Thornton.  Take out with full credit.  All images credited as tagged.

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