Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Is Hyun Bin the Korean Lou Gehrig?

It seems impossible, particularly if you're a 20-something female, to overstate the significance of what Korean actor Hyun Bin just did. Arguably one of Korea's most famous celebrities, Hyun reported later than others to his military service at the age of 28, but more than made up for it by joining the Marine Corps. Ten thousand fans, mostly female, watched Hyun Bin report to duty yesterday afternoon in Pohang.

Before leaving for 21 months of service, Hyun made a short speech, cried, took off his hat to reveal his military-approved hairbut, and made a formal bow where he touched his forehead to the ground. Interesting to note in the background were all the ordinary soldiers and their crying fans, largely their mothers. Some of the soldiers had a hard time keeping a straight face as they stood in the background of endless coverage of Hyun.

Also making news yesterday was the fact that Hyun donated a car to UNICEF yesterday, the reason being that he won't need it while in the military. With that in mind and watching him bow to his fans, I was struck by the notion that maybe Hyun is secretly a deranged murderer, because he seems too good to be true.

Hyun's decision to join the marine corps is especially relevant because it deals with two key aspects of Korea's military service: masculinity and equality. In theory, all men serve two years in the military around the age of 20, but in practice, some people, usually well-off, can get around this for reasons of health, postponements for education or career, or nationality. Men who do not serve in the military can face the same issues as American politicians who were of fighting age during the Vietnam War era.

Needless to say, attempts to circumvent the service for whatever reason are not well-received. Nationality laws are constantly revised to prevent dual nationals from avoiding their duty, and would-be dodgers face a backlash for ridiculous attempts to find loopholes, as was the case of famous rapper MC Mong.

In light of all this, to watch Hyun Bin do so with dignity, albeit career-serving dignity at that, is welcoming. He will work harder than others in the Marine Corps and will not do the desk job that so many others seem to find. To watch him do this at the peak of his success after the drama Secret Garden is, well, like watching Lou Gehrig deliver his famous speech.

Of course, Hyun Bin is performing a duty required of him by law that he has already managed to put off for years, while Gehrig was dying at a cruelly young age from a terminal illness. And, of course, Hyun Bin's squeaky clean actions will benefit his squeaky clean image with fans and the public, but it never hurts to watch someone do what's difficult and yet the right thing to do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I was struck by the notion that maybe Hyun is secretly a deranged murderer, because he seems too good to be true."

Just like Lou Gehrig. He's killed so many with that disease.