As actor joins Marines, tears of thousands flow

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As actor joins Marines, tears of thousands flow


Hyun Bin

When a wildly popular actor showed up for Marine Corps training yesterday, he encountered an invasion. Not a military one, but a decidedly female one, and a very emotional one at that. Tears were shed. One sign read, “We can’t live without you.”

Thousands of fans and reporters gathered in front of the Marine Corps Training Camp in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, yesterday, as actor Hyun Bin, 28 - who became the heartthrob of millions of Asian women by playing a leading role in the popular SBS drama “Secret Garden” - entered the Marine Corps, along with 600 other would-be marines. Although other male celebrities have joined the country’s compulsory military service, and some like Hyun Bin volunteered for the marines, yesterday’s frenzy was unprecedented.

Beginning early in the day, areas around Pohang drew a flood of visitors desperate to see their idol in the flesh before he heads into the Marines for the next two years. A flight from Gimpo Airport to Pohang at 10 a.m. was packed and other morning flights were almost full. Japanese fans were especially zealous. They arranged chartered buses at Gimhae so they could get to Pohang as quickly as possible. Japanese media joined in the frenzy. According to the Marine Corps, seven broadcasting companies, including NHK, requested access inside the camp.

But Hyun Bin, whose real name is Kim Tae-pyung, was modest about all the attention. “I heard fans from not only Korea, but Japan and Hong Kong came as well, using up their precious time ... I will make sure to come out as a better man,” said Hyun Bin at a press conference, which was held in front of the training camp.


Japanese fans of actor Hyun Bin waiting for him to appear in front of the entrance of Marine Corps Training Camp in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, hold up their hands to show gloves with the actor’s initials on them. By Yang Gwang-sam

When the actor took off a baseball cap while at the podium, revealing his short-cut hair, the fans cheered, some bursting into tears. He, too, shed tears. “Ever since last year, I’ve received a vast amount of love and support that I can’t handle on my own. I don’t know how to repay it all back. I’ll make sure to spend my two years wisely to repay all the love that I am receiving right now,” said Hyun Bin in a quavering voice.

As he stepped down from the podium after making a deep bow, middle-aged female fans wept and waved signs that read: “Please come back healthy and safely to our arms because we cannot live without you.” Banners were hoisted everywhere and a crush of cars was restricted from parking near the entrance. Due to the large crowd, other would-be Marines entered through a different entrance.

Hyun Bin will receive basic training for seven weeks before beginning 21 months of service. His date of discharge has been set for Dec. 16, 2012.

The actor passed the physical exam with outstanding results. Out of 30 points, he earned a total of 29, 15 of which were for pushups and 14 for sit-ups. His score ranked in the top 5 percent among 200 applicants. Moreover, he is the oldest applicant since 2008. The competitiveness for the Marine Corps has increased dramatically following North Korea’s shelling last November of Yeongpyeong Island, which has a Marine Corps base.

According to the Military Manpower Administration, 4,553 hopefuls applied for 1,011 openings in January, pushing the competition to a record high. The competition rate soared to as high as 4.5 to 1, double the ratio of July 2008, when it was only 2.1 to 1. The Marine Corps is considered the toughest service branch. Hyun Bin’s decision to join the corps received tremendous support and gave him even more fame than ever.

Meanwhile, singer Lee Jeong, 30, who was discharged from the corps five months ago, has gained more popularity since joining the corps.

Why are these vigorous Korean men in their 20s so fanatical about the Marines?

Marine Corps members are known to have one of the strongest bonding spirits in Korea. Many universities have Marine Corps associations, where they get together regularly, remembering the “Marine spirit.”

“Marine Corps members have self-respect because it is the most elite troop. People who think they have a lack of confidence can come out full of confidence,” said Lee Seong-soo, 31, who is a member of the Marine Corps Comrades Association of Seoul National University. “I am the type of person who looks for challenges. My whole life was a challenge. I was a doctoral candidate [when I applied], and it wasn’t a good time to join the corps because the studying itself was a tough job. But I wanted to challenge myself and I think I have done it quite all right.

“ The fact that I survived the hard training at the corps gives me courage to do other things. I tell myself, ‘Hey, I survived the Marine Corps. What can’t I do?’ ” he said. Lee was discharged from the corps in 2003.

Kim Ho-ki, a sociology professor at Yonsei University, said the “Marine Corps is a symbol of strength and masculinity.”

By Yim Seung-hye, Jeong Seon-eon []

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우는 건 현빈입니다…지금부턴 해병 김태평입니다

차도남(차가운 도시 남자) 현빈이 ‘귀신 잡는 해병’ 김태평이 됐다. ‘현빈앓이’ 열풍을 일으켰던 탤런트 현빈(30·본명 김태평)이 7일 포항 해병대 교육훈련단에 입소했다.

7일 오후 1시30분 경북 포항시 남구 오천읍 해병대 교육훈련단 강당인 김성은관 앞 광장. 현빈의 사진과 피켓을 든 팬과 취재진 1000여 명이 모였다.

일본·홍콩·중국 등에서 온 팬도 500여 명이나 돼 보였다. ‘배우 현빈은 아름다웠고 사람 김태평은 자랑스럽다’ ‘현빈씨 사랑해요’ 등 플래카드도 넘쳤다. 일본 도쿄에서 왔다는 미우라(35·여)는 “드라마 ‘내 이름은 김삼순’을 보고 현빈을 좋아하게 됐는데 군에 간다니 섭섭해 이곳까지 왔다”며 열심히 사진을 찍었다. 간간이 불어오는 영일만 바람이 매서웠지만 팬들은 자리를 뜨지 않았다.

모습을 드러낸 배우 ‘현빈’은 이미 훈련병 ‘김태평’이었다. 카키색 점퍼와 청바지에 운동화를 신고 모자를 눌러 썼다. 한 케이블 뉴스채널은 10분 남짓 진행된 팬미팅을 생중계했다.

팬들 앞에 선 현빈은 “감당하기 힘들 정도로 사랑받았다. 어떻게 보답해야 할지 모르겠다”고 감사를 표시했다. “2년 동안 시간을 잘 써서 2년 후에 보답하겠다”고 인사했다. 그가 모자를 벗자 짧은 머리가 드러났다. 입소 하루 전인 6일 머리카락을 잘랐다. 팬들은 힘찬 박수를 쳤다. 그의 잘생긴 모습에 환호한 게 아니다. 나라를 지키겠다는 그의 결단에 박수를 보낸 거다.

현빈의 해병대 입대는 새로운 청년 문화의 한 단면이다. 연평도 사태 이후 국가 안보에 젊은이들이 관심을 돌렸다. 이때 최정상급 스타가 연평도에서 북한의 포격에 맞서 싸우던 해병대에 자원 입대하면서 ‘노블레스 오블리주’를 실천했다. 현빈 신드롬이 폭발한 이유다.

그는 입대하면서 팬을 잊지 않았다. “들어가면 이 머리도 없어질 텐데….” 현빈은 팬들에게 인사하다 감정이 북받친 듯 말을 잇지 못했다. 맨바닥에 엎드려 큰절을 올린 뒤 “감사하다”며 눈물을 닦았다.

오후 2시30분 현빈이 입소를 위해 배낭을 멘 채 연병장으로 들어섰다. 맨 앞줄 가운데 자리다. 입소식이 시작됐다. “어머니 아버지, 사랑합니다!” “가장 강하고 멋진 해병이 되겠습니다.” “몸 건강히 열심히 군 생활 잘하겠습니다.” 지휘관의 선창에 따라 신병들이 가족들을 향해 구호를 외쳤다. 신병 현빈도 동기들과 손잡고 소리를 질렀다. 마지막으로 신병들은 ‘어머니의 은혜’를 합창한 뒤 연병장에서 큰절을 올렸다. 현빈은 6주간의 기초훈련에 이어 21개월여 군 복무를 하게 된다.

해병대 교육훈련단장 이해승 준장은 “해병대를 자원한 현빈의 의지를 높이 평가한다”며 “현빈을 확실한 해병으로 만들어 2년 뒤 건강한 모습으로 돌려보내겠다”고 말했다. 포항에서 학원 강사를 한다는 미국인 팬 루이스(28·여)는 “최정상급 배우가 힘들다는 해병대에 자원 입대해 국가에 봉사하겠다니 참 신선하다”고 말했다.

포항시는 이날 일본 NHK 등 국내외 주요 언론사의 열띤 취재에 맞춰 포항 알리기에 나섰다. 이날 부대 안에 200인치 LED 2대와 LED 차량을 동원했다.

부대 주변 5곳에서는 자원봉사자 30여 명이 커피를 나눠 주고 오천읍 내 등 주요 지점에 해병대 입소를 환영하는 플래카드를 내걸었다. 부대 근처 식당과 숙박업소 등은 현빈 덕분에 모처럼 활기를 찾았다. 현빈 때문에 포항은 이날 하루 들썩거렸다.

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