Friday, November 13, 2009

Private Moon: Birthdays in the SK Army

This is my friend James and I a few months ago, when he had a few days leave from the South Korean Army - in the few months since I'd seen him, he'd gained a new army hairdo and a new army stance. 

I can't remember if I have written about the army, I'm sure I have...but here is some information about the compulsory service at Ask a Korean.
James is a bit of a world traveller, spending most of his childhood in New Zealand but came back to Korea after University study in Germany and began his service in May. 
I think his view of the army is fascinating considering his western upbringing, and I am very lucky to have a friend who can explain it to me in English detail. He just sent me this letter, telling how the soldiers celebrate birthdays when the platoon are all holed up with no one to stare at, but each other. 

Korean military guys celebrate birthdays by stacking about 3 boxes worth of choco-pies in a rough pyramid formation to stand as a cake. The smokers among the group take out their lighters and flicker it with the light off, and of course they sing the song. Now, since I am still a Private, they decided not to further as they do with the guys higher up. Days before a corporal's birthday, for example, the platoon members talk about how sweet it's going to be on the day. When they sing the song, they sit him down in the middle with everyone standing around him, and they stamp their feet to the beat while laughing like mad men. As soon as the song's over. after the birthday boy blows out the lighter-flame, it's time for the rest of us to unload out all the anguish he might have caused straight back at him, all the times that he told you off (for what seems to you like nothing) and told you to know your place, you return it with a good low kick to the ribs (this is all carried out in a playful manner, just incase I exaggerated the whole thing.) (but as a Private, you do use the opportunity to give him a good thrashing.)

Pretty interesting huh?

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