Athletes who quit disgrace their countryIt is a disgrace that athletes who have clinched their free ticket out of serving in the country’s military are not answering the call to represent Korea in international competitions.
The country’s baseball team is gearing up for the Asian Games in December, but some prominent players have already declined to play, citing health, money or injury concerns. If you have a broken leg it’s obvious that you can’t play. A blister for a pitcher should probably warrant an exemption, too, but worries about the risk of injury? I don’t buy that. Earlier this year, at the World Baseball Classic, players fought to play on the team. I want to believe that was purely for patriotic reasons.
The current ruling dictates that anyone who places in the top three at the Olympics or clinches a gold medal at the Asian Games, or goes beyond a certain stage in an internationally acknowledged competition, can be rid of army chow for good after serving just the basic six weeks of boot camp.
For a ballplayer who plays hard for about a month, he gets out of the following: Being subject to verbal abuse from seniors 24/7. No hot water in the winter in some units. Bathrooms full of mosquitoes waiting to attack a defenseless soldier. Barrack rooms in which a whole platoon sleeps neatly stacked together, literally cheek to cheek, in the scorching summer heat with no air conditioning. (Naturally, fans are provided.)
The Defense Ministry claims that hazing activities are a thing of the past. PLEEEASE. Ask any officer to bet his job on the notion that there is no hazing and you will find no takers, guaranteed. Have you ever tried to sleep with a gas mask on? How about crawling on the ground covered with snow wearing only your underwear? Need I go on?
Now, gifted ballplayers are going to miss all the fun that comes with military life. Is it too much to appeal to these ballplayers’ conscience?
I won’t be naming anyone, but the Korea Baseball Association needs to show that draft exemptions are not freebies. There should be rules established by the Defense Ministry that those who dodge the call to represent the country for other than REAL injuries will lose their draft exemption privilege. Period. Sound too harsh? It won’t sound too harsh to those soldiers standing at the inter-Korean border, facing North. In their off-time, those soldiers standing guard will enjoy a baseball team much more that has the country’s best players. They will cheer full-heartedly and gladly accept their duty to keep this country safe. I know I would.
by Brian Lee
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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