[Viewpoint] Leave Pvt. Hyun Bin aloneMilitary might comes from victories, not from the handsome face of a star actor. The triumphs in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Dawn in the Gulf of Aden proved the bravery of our Armed Forces. The Marines are the core of Korea’s military, and the bravery of the Marines is shown in gallant fights.
Just as the alpinist climbs a mountain because it is there, young Koreans join the Marines because it is there. The ROK Marine Corps does not need glamorous faces to recruit soldiers. It is unworthy of the noble reputation of the Marines to use actor Hyun Bin as a recruiter, publicist or promoter.
Some countries need to aggressively recruit soldiers. For example, the United States Marine Corps operates an extensive recruiting operation. The United States has a good reason for such aggressive PR efforts. Since military service is not mandatory but voluntary, it is a challenge to fill the 170,000 spots of the Marine Corps.
But the situation is completely different in Korea. Since military service is mandatory, the pool of potential volunteers is much bigger. Moreover, the Marines are the most respected and celebrated branch of the Armed Forces.
After the sinking of the Cheonan and the bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island elevated tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the number of volunteers for the Marine Corps actually increased considerably.
Even if the Marine Corps needed a bit of a PR boost, it should select a technique more becoming of the Marines. Korean society may already be tarnished with insincerity and hypocrisy, but the Marine Corps has a very special image. It has a reputation as a society without preferential treatment, a community that shares blood, sweat and tears together. And for its former members, the Marine Corps becomes a lifelong identify. A Marine is a tough and reliable man.
The Marines need to pursue a more serious and sincere promotion campaign than releasing pictures of Hyun Bin bestowing his last smile before entering training camp, of Hyun Bin wearing a red name tag and leaving for his first vacation after six weeks of training and of Hyun Bin joining his assigned division. Many men in Korea receive the same training Hyun Bin has gone through, so why make a fuss by releasing such photos?
If he goes around colleges and universities and encourages young students to become a Marine like himself, he is working as an actor, not as a Marine. A Marine’s place is in his military division, not doing dog and pony shows at universities.
Worried it would be criticized for not sending Hyun Bin to the front lines, the Marine Corps made an unreasonable move. The Marine Corps has three specialized types of training: for airborne operations, guerilla operations and surprise landing operation. The Marine reconnaissance patrol unit, which is notorious for being the most challenging, requires two of the three trainings. The infantry unit receives one of the them, and non-infantry personnel don’t participate at all.
Marine Corps headquarters demanded Hyun Bin to receive all three trainings. They just can’t leave him alone.
When it comes to Hyun Bin, the Marines are strangely off kilter. Noise from the public and even the political arena also influenced the military. Two opposition lawmakers who are on the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee have demanded that the Marine Corps provide the actor’s training report. That’s how we all know the story of Hyun Bin being an expert marksman.
Hyun Bin, however, is just one of hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the Armed Forces. There are countless young men - who are not as handsome, well-educated or wealthy and secure as Hyun Bin - serving in the military, crawling through arduous training, shooting and living in barracks. Hyun Bin should be left alone to be among his fellow servicemen.
When there is too much publicity and promotion, some truth can get lost. When Prince Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles, participated in the Afghan War, the government and the media agreed to make his service public only after the six-month duty was over. The prime motivation was the prince’s safety, but the British military also understood how too much publicity can be a bad thing. Three months later, an Internet media site broke the embargo, and the people of England learned about the prince’s service in the Afghan War.
Pat Tillman was a famous NFL player. Right after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, he gave up a $3.6 million contract to join the U.S. Army Rangers. He was deployed to Afghanistan, and Americans only learned about Tillman’s story after he was killed there. The U.S. Army did not use his fame for their own promotion. The Marines need to make sure Hyun Bin remains off radar.
We didn’t need interviews with the UDT/SEALs after Operation Dawn in the Gulf of Aden. We knew well their bravery.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jin