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Comment of the Day: Shin-Soo Choo's plight is no laughing matter

Feb 23, 2010, 2:20 PM EDT

Ron Rollins is probably my oldest commenter, having now followed me to three different blogs in the past three years.  He’s a baseball blogger himself. We often disagree with one another — he doesn’t much go for the steroids and other trivia in which I often delve, and his threshold for sabermetrics is not as high as my own — but when he talks I always listen because there’s 0% bullshit about the guy.  Oh, and he’s retired from a military career that took him all over the world, and unlike a lot of soldiers, he paid attention and learned an awful lot about the local culture wherever he was. Between him and Old Gator, I get the feeling I could get a recommendation for a great restaurant on six continents.

Anyway, Ron weighed in on the Shin-Soo Choo post this morning, and it’s definitely worth a read:

A lot of people are laughing about this, but it really isn’t funny. It’s the law in South Korea, and people take it seriously.

Remember, they are still in a state of war, and there are live fire incidencens in the DMZ on a regular basis. The North Korean army is the 4th largest in the world, and 75% of it is on the South Korean border.

The South Korean people revere their military. They have television shows specifically for their soldiers, and not serving is a serious crime.

Choo could face jail time, or loss of his citizenship. Which means he can never go home. And just because that might happen doesn’t mean he’s free and clear. If he loses citizenship, where does he go? That situation doesn’t qualify for political asylum. He becomes a man without a country.

How would you guys feel if you were stripped of citizenship while in a different country, faced certain jail time, and knew you could never visit home again to visit your family?

If you’re a Democrat, remember all the fuss you kicked up about Dan Quayle and George Bush getting out of Vietnam because of political influence? If you’re a Republican, remember all the fuss you kicked up becaus Bill Clinton protested and stood by while the flag was burned? That’s nothing compared to what Choo will face at home.

There is zero tolerance with serving in South Korea. The speaker of the House of Representatives had twin sons who were attending the most prestigious university in the country. It was front page news they day they were inducted.

The government decided to award an exemption to athletes for a gold medal performance, because supposedly that brings glory to the country. No one remembers silver or bronze athletes. It sounds like a nice idea, but it isn’t exactly the most populare idea among military age males in South Korea, who don’t have the ability to play sports at a high level.

Roger Staubach and Willie Mays did their duty. Ted Williams did it twice. You guys might think it’s a joke, but I’ll bet you Choo doesn’t.

I thought of it as a jokeworthy story this morning, but after reading Ron’s comment, I can’t help but wonder if this situation will weigh on Choo this season.

  1. john - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    Great, more good news for the Indians.

  2. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    Actually, Craig, you shouldn’t miss the penguin jerky at the snack bar at Mirnyy Station in Antarctica. Just walk up to the counter and ask for “пингвин отрывистый”; the borscht isn’t bad either. Okay, I think that makes seven continents, doesn’t it?

  3. Jason @ IIATMS - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    Kickass comment, Ron.
    And Craig, nice job recognizing that your levity didn’t fit that story.

  4. Ryan - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on Kyle Eckel – Me personally, I support Eckel and I would hope that Choo can figure out a way to get out of this obligation. It’s completely stupid. Feel free to disagree with / insult me.

  5. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    And why didn’t it? Is anyone dead, dying, sick or crippled? Do we even know what Choo plans to do – other than taking at face value what the nitwit who wrote that story merely speculated, and I do mean speculated – with typical modern journalistic benign malice arrearsthought, that Choo is going to abrogate his responsibilities? Well, thank Buddha there are no codes of journalistic integrity left that might have confined him simply to reporting the facts at his disposal. How dull would that have been? And if his government – the same one that passed the mandatory service law – also passed a law that you get a military service exemption for a gold medal Olympic performance, where do we – who don’t even have any mandatory form of public service except, sometimes, maybe, if you can’t figure a way out of it, which you almost always can, jury duty – get off insinuating that he’s doing something illegal or immoral by taking advantage of it?
    .
    Sheesh, the hypocrisy and sanctimony gets so thick around here you can cut it with an industrial gas laser sometimes.

  6. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    Your mother wears army boots.

  7. zac - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    I can say that I know much about the situation, and I’m certainly not qualified to speak to South Korea’s policies as a nation, but Ron does a great job of illustrating how, for a country which shares a border with North Korea, military service could be seen as an essential part of preventing war and keeping their country safe. I can only imagine if Canada started adopting policies like those held by North Korea.

  8. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    Fortunately, Canada doesn’t border on a country led by anyone as crazy as Kim – at least, not for the last year or so. But then take comfort in knowing that even if Bush was as crazy as Kim, Kim wasn’t nearly as corrupt and stupid, so I doubt if you were ever in much danger. Just don’t watch Canadian Bacon again if you’ve been drinking; it’ll give you bad dreams.

  9. zac - Feb 23, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    I hated Bush – I really did – but that strikes me as a little overboard.

  10. peteinfla - Feb 23, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Wow, a “Penguin Jerky” and a “Canadian Bacon” reference in the same blog. Amazing stuff. By the way, I was disappointed in the Jackalope Au Poirve – very gamey.

  11. gowhitten - Feb 23, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    And how about George Bush deserting in the time of war?

  12. Ron - Feb 23, 2010 at 5:44 PM

    On a lighter side, if that’s possible.
    North America
    Lambert’s Cafe
    Sikeston, MO
    Home of the throwed rolls
    Just off of I-55
    Europe
    Arbats Russian Restuarant
    Riga, Latvia
    Great wine and Russian music and dancing
    In the old city, first left past the Roma Hotel
    Africa
    Vietnamese Restaurant
    Luanda, Angola
    Owned by a Swede
    On the left side of the Ihla, on the inside
    Asia
    Beef and Beer
    Seoul, South Korea
    All you can eat and drink for $17. Maybe a little more now.
    Just north of the river, left of the Han Bridge. The one still standing.
    Here’s hopin Choo gets a chance to go back.

  13. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    Is it? Ask Georgie how he thinks the world got here some time. Then we’ll talk.

  14. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 6:07 PM

    What, no mention of the incredible quarter mile of teppanyaki stands along the river in Fukuoka, a mere five and a half hour ferry ride from Inchon?
    Pete: you doubtless forgot to marinate the quarters in milk for a couple of days. Do it right – when the jackalope is very high, and the sauce is ver-ry rich. Oh, and be sure to bring m’sieur’s bucket too.

  15. bigcatasroma - Feb 23, 2010 at 9:21 PM

    Asylum would be available.

  16. KC Mariner - Feb 23, 2010 at 10:46 PM

    In case folks aren’t near Sikeston they can also hit Lambert’s in Ozark, MO and Gulf Shores, AL. I’ve been to all three and the food is just as good!

  17. Rays fan - Feb 25, 2010 at 1:10 AM

    The military obligation might be arguably “stupid” if it were the law here, but our situation is not South Korea’s–culturally, politically, nor (& most importantly) in terms of national security. South Korea’s existance depends on its military resolve. As Ron eloquently stated, the 4th largest military in the world is just across the border in a hostile country (North Korea) whose government would very likely invade if it thought it could do so successfully. {Somne European nations also have obligatory military service, by the way.} The threat from North Korea’s also why the US has military bases there, some placed right in the way of the most likely invasion routes–making it very clear to North Korea that attacking South Korea means attacking us. South Korea might reasonably decide that Choo can serve his country in other ways than military service, but please do not call it “completely stupid.”
    Craig–while I do not argue that many in the military fail to take advantage of the opportunities to learn foreign cultures, many more consider that opportunity to be one of the key drawing points towards military service, right after serving our country, and consider it a point of pride to try to learn some of the language and to soak up the culture.
    Ron–I can’t keep up with 6 continents, but: The Carnivore in Nairobi, Kenya; The Copper Kettle in Manama, Bahrain (great Indian food); anyplace called “gasthaus” anywhere in Germany–just can’t go wrong with a jaegerschnitzel and hefeweizen; the Catfish Restaurant (it doesn’t really have a name) in Georgetown, Arkansas–it’s about a 90 minute drive into the country from Little Rock & your menu choice is catfish or catfish, but it’s outstanding.

  18. Rays fan - Feb 25, 2010 at 1:23 AM

    The military obligation might be arguably “stupid” if it were the law here, but our situation is not South Korea’s–culturally, politically, nor (& most importantly) in terms of national security. South Korea’s existance depends on its military resolve. As Ron eloquently stated, the 4th largest military in the world is just across the border in a hostile country (North Korea) whose government would very likely invade if it thought it could do so successfully. {Somne European nations also have obligatory military service, by the way.} The threat from North Korea’s also why the US has military bases there, some placed right in the way of the most likely invasion routes–making it very clear to North Korea that attacking South Korea means attacking us. South Korea might reasonably decide that Choo can serve his country in other ways than military service, but please do not call it “completely stupid.”
    Craig–while I do not argue that many in the military fail to take advantage of the opportunities to learn foreign cultures, many more consider that opportunity to be one of the key drawing points towards military service, right after serving our country, and consider it a point of pride to try to learn some of the language and to soak up the culture.
    Ron–I can’t keep up with 6 continents, but: The Carnivore in Nairobi, Kenya; The Copper Kettle in Manama, Bahrain (great Indian food); anyplace called “gasthaus” anywhere in Germany–just can’t go wrong with a jaegerschnitzel and hefeweizen; the Catfish Restaurant (it doesn’t really have a name) in Georgetown, Arkansas–it’s about a 90 minute drive into the country from Little Rock & your menu choice is catfish or catfish, but it’s outstanding.

  19. Tim - Mar 11, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    This situation has been known for a while now. The fact that Choo has often not commented on it and seemed to give off an I’m-not-worried-about-it sort of vibe makes me think he really is worried about it. I’d love to believe that he knows something we don’t and he’ll be able to stay. Frankly, I’d rather see him serve his homeland than have our genius franchise send him off to the Yankees(or Boston, Phillies, etc. etc.) for injured AAA level talent. If we’re going to lose our most consistent hitter, I’d be happy thinking he’s in a military uniform rather than seeing him in October wearing some big money legacy franchise jersey. Thanks for the insightful post.

  20. Mr. Glass - Mar 14, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    Yeah hopefully Choo can figure something out, but if push comes to shove I have a feeling he will serve…and maybe come back after his time is up

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