Noble actionsPrince Harry, third in line to the British throne, served with the army in the war zone in Afghanistan for 10 weeks, according to the international media.
This is not something new. Several members of the immediate British royalty have risked their lives on the front line.
Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, served in the Royal Navy during the Falklands War in 1982.
Prince Harry’s actions serve as a model example of noblesse oblige, when a person undertakes social responsibility commensurate with his social status.
Prince Harry said he only did what any soldier was expected to do.
Even so, many Britons are proud of his high-spirited attitude. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he wanted to thank Prince Harry and the other British soldiers for their sacrifice.
There is no draft in Britain, yet the royal family voluntarily serves in the military.
This is how it should be in a developed country. The realization of noblesse oblige within a country is fundamental to its state of health.
Social conflict would be minimized if the establishment realized its moral responsibility and contributed to society’s welfare.
This is especially true about serving in the military because those who serve in the military are protecting what those in power enjoy.
In this sense, the realization of noblesse oblige among South Korea’s elite is very low.
It seems that every time there are irregularities connected to military service, the upper class is involved.
The men who exploit the system to get out of military service are often the sons of politicians, high government officials, professors, or singers, comedians and other entertainers.
Consider this: Out of 14 ministers in the current administration, five did not serve in the military.
That’s fine, some say, if these people played by the rules and were exempted legally.
But the exemption rate among the ministers is close to 35 percent. That figure is eight times higher than the average rate in the last 10 years among ordinary citizens in Korea, which runs at 4.1 percent.
Let’s hope President Lee Myung-bak succeeds in realizing his promise to make military service in Korea something to be proud of.
Military duty should not be something to be slupped.