[FOUNTAIN]Military service and citizenshipAn expert in the American presidency, Charles Parver, names Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) as one of the most respected presidents. The face of the 26th U.S. president is carved on Mount Rushmore, along with George Washington, the nation’s first president; Thomas Jefferson, one of the writers of the Declaration of Independence; and Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery. What has made Roosevelt one of the four so honored?
When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Roosevelt resigned his position as assistant secretary of the navy to participate in the war. He led a group of volunteers, and fought together with them, taking the lead in battle. As a result, Americans reacted with great enthusiam.
Then who is the most respected Korean? Is it not Yi Sun-shin, who fought voluntarily in a battle even without an official rank?
In his book “Song of the Sword,” Kim Hun describes the death of Yi’s third son Myeon thus: “Myeon’s shoulder was hit by the foe’s sword. The sword split Myeon’s body in half. On his death, Myeon was 21 years old. He was not married.”
Koreans say they bury their children in their heart when they die. Yi Sun-shin fought with his son buried in his heart, and died on the battlefield.
A revised bill allowing only those who have fulfilled their military service to be able to renounce their Korean citizenship passed the National Assembly on May 4 and went into effect on the 24th. During those 20 days, 1,820 renounced their citizenship, compared to the average of two a day previously. The primary reason was to avoid military service.
The government allowed people to withdraw their renunciation until the end of May. According to the Justice Ministry, 225 decided to maintain Korean citizenship.
How about telling those who have decided to leave this country the following: “When your life in the foreign country is tiresome, come back anytime. Even though you have abandoned your fatherland, the fatherland has never deserted you.”
Let’s be generous. Then we, who remain home to protect the country, may have a lighter heart. In June, the month of honoring veterans who fought for Korea, I ponder on what “living as a Korean” means.
by You Sang-cheol
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.