Sunday, June 27, 2010

Back to civilian life for good

I finally got done with the army, which still feels unreal. People say you have nightmares that you get drafted again after you get discharged, but that hasn't happened to me yet. I came out almost every month this year, so the world doesn't feel so strange, but still, there are a few things that remind me that I was locked up in the army for the past two years, like some military vocabularies that randomly come out of my mouth. But it's all good, and I'm just so glad that it's all behind me now.

The army experience probably was the worst experience in my life. I guess the only thing that comes close to serving in the Korean army is...well, doing time in prison. Although I have to tell you things do seem to have improved a lot in the army, like you don't get physically abused any more, but losing all the freedoms you had taken for granted all your life is still pretty bad.

I was supposed to be a translator and interpreter because the Korean army does a lot of trainings and exercises with the U.S. army, but I did a lot of admin work as well. You'd think you'd be running around with guns all day in the army, but due to the Korean army's obsession with making everything look good, there are people like me, a lot of them actually, sitting all day in the office, cutting paper, decorating reports and wrestling with Powerpoint slides. Oh, and making coffee for the officers. Even if I served in the army against my will, it wasn't what I signed up for.

By joining the army, you become part of the cheapest labor force in the country regardless of your background, despite which, they expect you to do so much work. With the skills and dedication required of the work, you'd make whole lot more money than $90 a month you get in the army. When I saw bright young men in their early 20s, some of whom go to such elite schools as Harvard, exploited like slaves, I couldn't feel sorrier.

Well, the good news is I'm out of it now. I just hope Kim Jeong-Il doesn't do some crazy stuff.