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Shin-Soo Choo might have to join the army

Feb 23, 2010, 8:28 AM EDT

What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded
on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are
dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans
are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There
are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely
so many counties can’t all be worth dying for
:

Able-bodied South Korean men must serve two years in the military by
the time they turn 30 years old. For the 27-year-old Choo, who turns 28
in July, that deadline is coming up quick.

Choo spent his entire life preparing to become a professional
baseball player, and he refuses to walk away from the game at a point
where he should be entering his prime. He is hoping to get clearance
from the Indians to participate on the South Korean baseball team in
the 2010 Asian Games, which take place in November. If he does, and his
team wins a gold medal, Choo would receive an exemption from the South
Korean government . . . But what if Choo doesn’t get that clearance or the Korean team doesn’t win the gold?

I know that famous people are often exempted from compulsory military service, but having to serve (or not) based on winning the Asian Games seems even more arbitrary than the fame game itself. Of course, a rule that says “win a gold and you’re cool, win a silver and you’re cannon-fodder,” is certainly an effective motivator for winning those Asian games, so kudos to the guy who came up with that one.

According to the article, however, Choo has “a backup plan” for dealing with his military obligation. He won’t yet say what it is.  I can only assume the obvious until told otherwise.

  1. Joey B - Feb 23, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    “Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many counties can’t all be worth dying for:”
    It’s an interesting quote. An interesting concept. Germans and Russians fighting each other to keep Hitler and Stalin in power. Some guy’s farm was just collectivized, and his uncle shot for the crime of being a doctor, and now he has to face down a panzer division to keep the guy in power that took his farm and killed his uncle.

  2. Charles Gates - Feb 23, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    Craig, are you suggesting Choo should sit naked in a tree and lust after nurses?

  3. JasonC23 - Feb 23, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    Read Catch-22 for the first time last fall. Thumbs-up, Craig.

  4. Jonny5 - Feb 23, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    Can you see an imminent defection coming??? I do. You see, if he does go back home to play his best for his country, there could be a very good chance he isn’t allowed to get on the jet back to the states…

  5. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Feb 23, 2010 at 9:07 AM

    That book is driving me up the wall. I’ve never read anything that had me laughing my ass off on one page, and then want to strangle the author on the next.
    What were we talking about again?

  6. ditmars1929 - Feb 23, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    If the US Army can take Elvis, then the S.Koreans can take a relatively obscure baseball player.

  7. Chipmaker - Feb 23, 2010 at 9:31 AM

    Sounds like the same deal South Korea cut for Chan Ho Park.

  8. Grant - Feb 23, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    Better start practicing with that rubber boat and plastic paddle.

  9. Wouter - Feb 23, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    Maybe he should try putting his underpants on his head, stick two pencils up his nose, and say ‘Wooble’.

  10. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    No, I think he should sit in a tree, cut the soles out of his shoes, and learn to play the flute.
    .
    He could serve on the demilitarized zone, which I occupies the territory between the Quinnipiac and Connecticut rivers and has been disputed territory between the Borg Intergalactic Empire and the barbarians of Beanbag Nation. Wars have been fought over this area several times, but the Beanbaggers were forced to retreat back across the Connecticut when they discovered that beanbag guns were much less effective against the heavy duty Borg laser and pulse beam weapons than they are against their own fans.

  11. Luis - Feb 23, 2010 at 11:10 AM

    Thank you for reminding me this morning of what is likely the best book I have ever read.

  12. Ron - Feb 23, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    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 goverment decieded 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.

  13. ssgmike - Feb 23, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    How about since he makes his millions playing here in the United States of America he join our military serve 2 years. People who come here enjoy the finer things in life and never ever consider who died to make all this possible.

  14. Charles Gates - Feb 23, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    So you basically just made an argument about why it’s immoral for a government to force its will on its people. Don’t think you meant to, but kudos because you did.

  15. Will - Feb 23, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    Ron, you’re never going to get anywhere on the internet if you insist on talking sense.

  16. Jimsjam33 - Feb 23, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    Go do your duty or give up your citizenship . It’s that simple .

  17. Mike - Feb 23, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    Simple. There is no issue here. The South Korean government tells their citizen to follow the laws. They let the American government know that he must go to Korea to serve. If the Americans get the word from the Koreans he has to go, then the Americans cancel his work visa and away he goes – NO EXCEPTION.
    This is an issue for the Korean government and NOT the Indians or the Americans. He is Korean. He must follow their laws. If he wants to wear a Korean baseball uniform, then he must follow Korean law. Go serve your time just like all other citizens in your country – or, start applying for US Citizenship and kiss your chances to play for your previous country goodbye!
    Too many Americans out of work (including professional baseball players) to worry about one Korean “superstar” failing to follow the laws of his own country. HIRE AMERICAN!!!

  18. Sheila - Feb 23, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    He knew his duty to his country, and chose to ignore it. Tough. Now you gotta do it. And, BTW, Americans are not just dying for America. They have died for Germans, Austrians, French, Polish, English (WWI and WWII)… they have died for Koreans and Vietnamese… they have died for Kuwaitis (Desert Storm, remember?)… they have died for Iraqis and Afghanis… Americans are serving overseas to protect ports that aren’t ours, airstrips that aren’t ours, cities that aren’t ours… Americans have served overseas to make sure other countries suffering disasters can get food and water despite corrupt leadership, and died (Somalia)… Yes, this helps our safety. Yes, it protects our needs, such as oil. But what would happen to all those other countries if we were to implode our military base buildings, destroy our airstrips, pull down our communications lines, cut off all other countries from accessing our satellites, fire everyone who works for, or because of, the military? How about if we just stopped spending our money to support other countries – even Israel? How about we just take our ball and glove, and go home?

  19. Joey B - Feb 23, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    “So you basically just made an argument about why it’s immoral for a government to force its will on its people.”
    Unless it’s a dictatorship, government does not possess its own will. If it is a democracy, the will of the government is a reflection of the will of its people.

  20. Joey B - Feb 23, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    “The South Korean government tells their citizen to follow the laws.”
    If I’m not mistaken, almost all countries have some form of mandatory service. I worked with a guy from Turkey who was required to return every ten years for training. Another guy from Switzerland where you had to own your own gun. You’d not only have your gun, you’d have whatever guns you inherited.

  21. OsandRoyals - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    Re: Joey B
    Turkey, Switzerland and Israel have mandatory services but not a ton of places do. Israel and S. Korea have mandatory service because they’re very likely to engage in war. Turkey because the military is the most stable arm of the government and has frequently stepped in when the government has been weak
    Although Germany has it too. I think it’s probably bigger in eastern Europe than in many other places.
    I think the issue is similar to whether American baseball players from West Point, Annapolis etc have to perform their service if they get drafted or not. Sometimes they have to go and sometimes they get light recruiter duty. I suspect that Sin-Soo Choo will get some exception or at least light duty so that he can bring glory to S. korea. He could quickly become a star in the US and among baseball fans is pretty well-known. I’d have to imagine that he’s famous in S. Korea too. If everyone loves watching somebody play it’s more likely that some accommodation will be made

  22. Joey B - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    “I think the issue is similar to whether American baseball players from West Point, Annapolis etc have to perform their service if they get drafted or not. Sometimes they have to go and sometimes they get light recruiter duty.”
    I’ve thought about this, though it is fairly infrequent these days. On one hand, Robinson and the guy from the Raiders should have to serve. OTOH, their presence in the military is virtually immaterial. While having these guys serve as ambassadors and recruiters for the military academies could be huge. They can be one of a million serving, or they could be the guy recruiting a student/athlete from 136th and Alexander.

  23. Jick - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    Indeed. Best book ever written.

  24. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    Stop being so anxious for Choo to give you an excuse to puff up with righteous indignation. So far, he hasn’t ignored anything. He’s asking his government to wait on the Olympic games, within which context there is a law that bears directly on his obligation. And for the love of Buddha, no one says he’s going to ignore it, except the third-rate hack who wrote the article. You don’t like the message? Shoot the messenger and get a life.

  25. Choo choo Fan - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    Actually he makes millions more in Korea where he is a major national star there rather than a minor Cleveland star in the US. Hence he never gave-up his Korean citizenship.
    Anyhow, would you root for a draft dodger? He should serve for his country just like every other Korean men to protect his homeland – the sons of power elites, famous actors and singers all serve. Heck, We have American men and women serving in Korea to protect Choo’s homeland. It’s the least he can do for Korea AND USA who gave him $ millions to play baseball.

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